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NYSAIS Justice, Equity, & Diversity Institute

JEDI Cohort 5 Group Photo

JEDI Cohort 5 Group Photo

About the Institute

The Justice, Equity, and Diversity Institute aims to equip its participants to advance the work of justice, equity, and diversity in schools. It is designed to provide a comprehensive mid-level entry point into all aspects of equity work in independent schools, including specific topics related to identity and oppression, practices in the field, and strategic approaches to the work. The Institute harnesses the synergy of a cohort that explores these topics over a whole academic year, and provides access to participants to the networks available through past cohorts, the NYSAIS community, and the collective of diversity practitioners in the country.

The Institute is for NYSAIS schools who currently have a Director of Diversity who would benefit from this experience, and NYSAIS schools without a Director of Diversity who wish to strengthen their efforts by seeking this training for a faculty or staff member who may or may not fill this formal role. JEDI  has particular appeal to classroom teachers looking to apply a firmer equity lens to curriculum and pedagogy, and to faculty and staff members interested in part- or full-time director of diversity roles (whether or not they are given the title of Director of Diversity.)

Over the course of one year, cohort members participate in:

  • Opening retreat – August 7-9, 2023 (required)

  • One residential conference for Diversity Practitioners at Mohonk Mountain House, May 2024

  • Closing retreat – May 2024

  • One NYSAIS Governance Workshop

  • One full-day Diversity Symposium in New York City – April 2024

  • A series of webinars over Zoom as well as some in-person gatherings

  • A mentor partnership

  • An online Slack community to extend the work asynchronously

Topics include:

  • Common Challenges and Trends in Justice, Equity, and Diversity

  • Leading Change: Developing a Personal Vision for Institutional Justice, Equity, and Diversity

  • Best Practices for Engaging School Leadership and Varied Constituent Groups

  • Justice, Equity, and Diversity in the Curriculum, and Various Identity-Based Topics

  • Crisis Management and Conflict Resolution

  • Data Gathering, Conducting Research and Evidence-Based Decision-Making

Specific Dates for 2023-24:

  • March 1, 2023 – Application Deadline

  • March 10, 2023 – Letter of Recommendation Deadline
  • April 1, 2023 – Cohort announced

  • Opening Retreat – August 7-9, 2023

  • Trustee Governance Workshop – September 2023

  • NYSAIS Diversity Symposium – April 2024

  • NYSAIS Diversity Practitioners Conference  – Mohonk, May 2024

  • Closing Retreat – May 2024

  • Monthly seminar dates announced in Spring 2023


The sixth Justice, Equity, and Diversity Institute cohort, consisting of 20 members, will begin in summer 2023. The application process will open in January 2023. The deadline for completed applications is March 1, 2023. The 2023-2024 cohort will be announced in April 2023.

Candidates must:

    1. Complete the online application form

    2. Attach a current résumé to the online form

    3. Ask your Head of School, Assistant / Associate Head, Division Head, or Department Chair to upload a letter of recommendation using this separate, secure form

 Cost: $3,500 – all inclusive, for the 1-year program; fee will be adjusted/partially refunded should residential components be unavailable.


The principal leaders of Justice, Equity, and Diversity Institute are John Gentile and Semeka Smith-Williams. Additional facilitators contribute to the program in various ways.

John Gentile currently serves as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Calhoun School. He is a founding faculty member of the National Diversity Practitioners Institute (NDPI) and serves as a principal consultant for The Glasgow Group. He is a co-founder of the conference, (Re)defining Power: White Male Voices in Diversity Work, a space for 6th to 12th grade white male students wanting to explore their role in equity and justice work. He has been a faculty member for the National Association of Independent Schools’ Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) since 2009. He received his master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He serves as the Co-Chair of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Diversity Committee. Originally from Washington D.C., he now calls Long Island home.

Semeka Smith-Williams Headshot

Semeka Smith-Williams currently serves as the Upper School Dean of Students at The Calhoun School, and was previously a Kindergarten teacher and LS Diversity Coach. Semeka also worked at the Community Partnership Charter School in Brooklyn, Manhattan Country School, and River East Elementary School. For ten years, Semeka has been a member of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Diversity Committee and is currently a Co-Chair. She is an Associate with the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning (IFSEL) conducting sessions with educators from around the world. Semeka received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University in African American and American Studies and a M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College of Education. She is also a proud member of the third cohort of the NYSAIS Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI).

Please contact Matt Suzuki for additional information.