Ursuline Academy’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Task Force: Continuing a Legacy


NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA–The historic Ursuline Academy has a rich history that began with the Ursuline nuns. Three centuries ago, twelve Ursuline sisters from France began one of the earliest depictions of inclusion in the New World. Part of their charge was to bring education to New Orleans.

Deborah Augustine Elam is a graduate of Ursuline Academy and also the CEO Corporate Playbook Consultant of a new task force of inclusion and diversity that began this summer and says, “If you read the writings of Saint Angela, our founder, she says that when times of change are warranted, make that change.  One of the things I am most proud of, is that when this school started, at it’s inception it educated free black girls, enslaved black girls and Native American girls in this city.  No other school can say that.”

The new task force is called the: Ursuline Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Task Force. The Interim President of Ursuline Academy is Margarita O’byrne Curtis and she remembers when the idea struck saying, “well literally as I was driving down from Boston which is where I use to live.  I had already accepted the position here as president.  With the Black Lives Matter movement and the most recent incident of systemic racism of George Floyd, is was time for someone to send a message to the community of Ursuline to see how they would respond.  We all have work to do, not just Ursuline Academy, the entire country.”

The task force will tackle an array of topics including academics and admissions. Parents, graduates and experts will join 25 students to help craft a strategic plan for inclusion and belonging, all the while creating a dialogue of change.

Elam says, “the goal of this school, the goal of any school, is to ensure that we are educating the next generation of leaders and in this case it’s female leaders.  We want to make sure they are culturally competent so that can take their place when they leave the halls of Ursuline and join society.”

Curtis says, “when I see the girls walking down the hallway, I know that we are doing serious work. We are shaping the leaders of the future and the agents of hope and optimism. This is a conflicted and untidy world that needs our girls more than every before.”


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