La Salle has hired Kiah Johnson Mounsey '99 as the school's first Director of Equity and Inclusion.
In her new role, the La Salle graduate will advance diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at the school, help teachers diversify curriculum, incorporate inclusive practices, and support students and staff as they explore and celebrate the cultures, identities, and backgrounds of everyone at La Salle.
“I want to work with faculty, staff, students, families, and alumni to foster a culture where everyone in the community feels seen, valued, and included,” she said. “I’m here to listen, advocate, and find ways to move La Salle forward in the realm of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”
A graduate of the University of Oregon, where she earned a master's degree in education, Mounsey comes to La Salle after working for 13 years at Oregon Episcopal, a private school for preschoolers through 12th-graders in Southwest Portland. While there, she taught grades 3, 8, and 9-12, coached cross country and track, and worked in the Office of Inclusion and Community Engagement.
A natural fit
Mounsey’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work started when she began training with Dr. Janet Bennett of the Intercultural Communication Institute. In time, she was invited to be part of the Intercultural Competency Cohort at OES. From there, Mounsey studied race, equity, and inclusion with organizations such as the National Diversity Practitioners Institute and the Center for Equity & Inclusion, and individuals such as diversity trainer Lee Mun Wah.
The lessons resonated with Mounsey as an educator, a person of color, and the mother of two multiracial children. She applied what she learned by supporting the development of affinity group programming for OES middle and high schoolers, an affinity group for parents and guardians of students of color, and a city-wide affinity space for students of color. She also collaborated with OES’ Intercultural Student Association to create a student diversity and social justice conference called “Culture Shock.”
Mounsey’s extensive experience in the classroom and the DEI realm made her a natural fit for La Salle’s new diversity role, an example of one of many steps the school has taken in recent years to become more just and equitable, said principal Alanna O’Brien.
“Our hiring committee was so impressed by how Kiah positions herself as a learner, one who is curious about others, and is willing to learn through asking questions and listening,” said O’Brien. “She has engaged in extensive professional development and reading around equity and inclusion, and she expressed a strong commitment to helping young people feel connected to this community.”
Enter with humility, 'desire to understand'
Mounsey landed at La Salle in time for the new school year. One of her first goals is to get to know students, families, alumni, teachers, and staffers through "authentic and open conversations." She wants to talk to as many people as she can - particularly those of color - about their experiences in the La Salle community.
"I would like to enter this conversation with humility, with a desire to understand," she said.“ I know and completely understand what it’s like to be a person of color in white majority spaces.”
Mounsey said that, along with diversity, equity, and inclusion support staffer Andrew Yoshihara, she plans to design and implement community events and experiences that consider the impact of racism, and focus on “fostering self-awareness and creating spaces that utilize conversation tools and empathy.”
From there, she hopes to lead La Salle on its journey toward becoming more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
“It is my desire to work with school leaders, the board of trustees, teachers, staff, stakeholders, parents, and students to build a diverse and healthy school climate where all have a sense of belonging and feel they can thrive,” she said. “It takes everyone’s commitment, courage, and conviction. The core Lasallian principles of “Inclusive Community” and “Respect for all Persons,” will guide us in this work."