In July 2022, 365体育彩票 will welcome Camille Seals as our new Head of School. As a graduate of Hathaway Brown School and Spelman College, Mrs. Seals knows firsthand the value of an education uniquely shaped for girls. As an administrator at her alma mater and later, at the Agnes Irwin School, she has tirelessly worked to ensure her students were empowered with the tools necessary to thrive in the classroom and beyond.
She now stands poised to steer 365体育彩票 into a new era of leadership, with the commitment to growth and change that has been a staple of our legacy. We sat down with Mrs. Seals to discuss her move to 365体育彩票, the importance of an all-girl education, and how education should evolve to continue serving new generations of students.
What inspired you to come to 365体育彩票?
Camille: When I was preparing for my first interview with the hiring committee, I found 365体育彩票’s brand anthem video that describes being a girl as a position of honor. The video ends with an inspiring image of a smiling girl and talks about her knowing her power. I showed the video to my friends and family when I saw it, because for me, it was a wonderful example of how girls’ schools should tell the story of the work that we do. It’s about helping girls understand who they are as leaders, and learners, and scholars, and advocates. It’s about really making sure that they leave our doors feeling that sense of efficacy, and that sense of agency, and the ability to be agents of change in the world. For the school to say that in such a powerful way was really compelling.
I also found the school’s mission statement very energizing, as well as its legacy and reputation as a transformative institution. Being a part of a community that is vibrant and has been thriving for almost 125 years, with much to celebrate, is exciting. During the interview process, I learned more about the school’s commitment to academic excellence as well as its approach to girl-centered teaching and learning. Being on campus, I saw that the school is fertile ground for much to bloom. It is exciting to have the opportunity to join a community that is poised to start its next chapter and to be the leader that has been charged with guiding the school through the process of writing what comes next.
Throughout the course of your career, what achievements have filled you with pride?
Camille: I’m really very proud of the work that I did for almost 10 years at Hathaway Brown as the Director of the Aspire Program, a college access and leadership development program for promising young women from under-resourced schools and communities across greater Cleveland. I am proud of my stewardship of the program, which included increasing student enrollment through the development of strategic partnerships with school leaders across greater Cleveland; overseeing all of the functions necessary to execute the program including admissions, recruiting, hiring and training of faculty, fundraising, and more; and partnering with the community to write a strategic plan for the program. I am proud of my leadership, and the way in which we carried out our mission to impact educational outcomes for students in greater Cleveland. Our program sent first-generation college students to top colleges and universities across the country, and our alumnae are professionals and leaders in industries including medicine, law, entertainment, education, and more. I take tremendous pride in knowing that we did life-altering work for our students and changed the trajectory of their lives.
Having the opportunity to serve as the first Assistant Head of School for Academics & Inclusive Excellence at the Agnes Irwin School (AIS) is another accomplishment of which I am proud. This role, which was re-designed in 2019, offered me the opportunity to marry two of my passions: academic excellence and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. In this role, I envisioned and implemented the Summit on Racial Justice—a three-day virtual conference experience for the entire AIS community focused on healing and reconciliation during the summer of 2020—and have focused on the alignment of the school’s curriculum and teaching practice across the PreK-12 program through the implementation of a faculty evaluation process, as well as a hiring process, with a focus on equity and consistency. I am proud of the work I did during the pandemic to build community, bring back the joy, and remind the team why we do the work that we do. I am proud of my ability to rebuild communities, rebuild trust, bring people back together, and focus on what’s important.
I also had the wonderful opportunity to moderate the Making Her-story panel discussion featuring Billie Jean King & Tory Burch, an event that was a part of the school’s sesquicentennial celebration. How lucky I was to learn from these women, who were joined by an AIS alumna, in a discussion about how women can come together to create inclusive communities. This event was a great way to celebrate the school’s anniversary, and I’m excited to think about how we will honor the 125th anniversary of 365体育彩票!
In addition to working at Hathaway Brown, you attended school there. What do you believe an all-girl education has given you?
Camille: In girls’ schools everybody is a leader in her own way, and everybody gets a chance to shine and have her voice heard. Being in a girls’ school, I was offered so many chances to be a leader, and I also had many chances to fail. I remember vividly losing the seventh grade student council election and crying in the bathroom stall. Through these failures and successes, I was learning and growing and trying new things in a space that was specifically designed with me in mind.
Learning in girls’ schools allowed me to develop confidence and the ability to use my voice without fear. Maybe not entirely without fear—but certainly not allowing the fear to override the importance of what I feel my contribution to be. That is a very concrete gift that you get from an all-girl education. I think the relationships you build with teachers in an environment that’s cultivated for you, and where teachers really understand how girls want to be heard—how they want to be understood, how they want to be engaged—is a really powerful experience for students.
Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreamed of going to Spelman College. What I gained in my experience at Hathaway Brown all those years ago, as one of four Black students in my class, was for me an incomplete picture of my story. I had learned that girls could do anything, but I felt what I hadn’t gotten was this deep-dive understanding of the ways my layers of identity would define my unique womanhood. Going to Spelman College allowed me to gain a more complex understanding of the foundational lessons I had learned by being in a girls’ school. The combination of these experiences has empowered me to be able to navigate any professional space I enter with confidence and self-assuredness.
I also really believe in the power of sisterhood. Girls’ schools provide the opportunity to shift away from the narrative that women only tear each other down. I love the saying ‘empowered women empower women’ because I really believe that to be true. If we commit to building a community that cultivates a belief in the power of sisterhood—the power of women helping women and women supporting women—our students will graduate with a network of intellectual, empathetic, and empowered women who will work together to help each other rise. For me, this is a really incredible gift to give students before they go out into the world.
What are the elements of an academic program that will prepare girls for college while also giving them tools that will still be relevant once they join the workforce?
Camille: One of the things I asked my department chairs to do last summer was to reach out to college professors and ask them what they are actually seeing from freshmen who are arriving on their campuses as well as what they are trying to teach them. The pandemic has changed the landscape of college admission, the workforce, and the ways in which people think about life and career. As we move into a post-pandemic era in schools, it will be important to evolve our program to respond to the needs of today’s students and the ever-changing world into which they will graduate.
A strong academic program empowers students to read the world around them. It is one in which students are gaining the knowledge, skills, literacy, and the fluency necessary to navigate life’s changes. I became a teacher because I had a fantastic Shakespeare class my senior year of high school. I believe that there is importance to all of the classics, and I want our girls to read Jane Austen and Maya Angelou, and learn physics, and geometry, and embrace all the things that are part of what we might call a more traditional course of study. It will also be important for us to explore new writers, theorists, academics, ideas, topics, and stories that will give our students the skills they need to engage with and thrive in a diverse, evolving, and multicultural world. We want to provide them with experiential learning opportunities that allow them to apply their knowledge in real-world contexts so that they are prepared for whatever life may present them.
Our academic program must honor that our children are living in a time when history is being written. They have unique experiences and perspectives as young people who are coming of age when so much is happening around them. The world they will inherit will be one that none of us have quite seen, and that will require them to be able to be nimble and adapt, think critically, solve problems, work together, understand each other, and appreciate the value of their divergent perspectives within a global community. A rich academic program should provide students with the tools they need to be successful in careers that have not yet been developed, and it is our job as educators to provide a distinguished academic program that offers that preparation.
With two years of pandemic life nearly behind us, what opportunities do you see to reconnect the 365体育彩票 community?
Camille: I am very much looking forward to connecting with the community and focusing on rebuilding after the years of separation that the pandemic has required. I see the opportunity to bring back beloved traditions that we perhaps have had to cancel or re-imagine virtually, and I am also enthusiastic for the chance to create some new points of connection across the school.
We will certainly be having gatherings and events on campus that bring our community back together. Form and divisional events, as well as all-school activities, will allow us to get to know each other again and re-engage around the values that are important to us and the love that we have for 365体育彩票. I also want to get out into the greater Columbus community and get to know people. I would love to see us going into different neighborhoods and communities and hosting events where people live and play. It is important to me that we create and sustain a community where all of us feel like we have a seat at the table. I am looking forward to gathering as a community in ways that feel meaningful for all at 365体育彩票.
I also want to consider the ways that we’re already celebrating and engaging with our community and examine how they can be improved upon. How might we come together to learn as a community? How can we make sure that the theater is packed when there is a student show or concert? How can we make sure our athletic teams have their supporters on the sidelines and in the bleachers? I want to really examine the things that are authentic to 365体育彩票, so we can really feel that vibrancy and joy about the community that we all love.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was #BreaktheBias. What are some of the ways we can empower girls to combat bias?
Camille: I always make a point to celebrate International Women’s Day and wear purple on March 8. I loved this year’s theme, especially as an educator at a girls’ school because frankly, the existence of girls schools is a form of resistance that breaks the bias. Girls’ schools are powerful places where girls have the opportunities that prepare them to be bias breakers in the world around them. In order to empower them to do this important work, we have to make sure to educate them about the biases that they’ll encounter. So often, we want to protect our girls from the things that feel hard and scary, but this can be a disservice to them. If we do not teach them about bias when they are in a space where it is safe to take risks and ask questions, how will they be ready to push back when they experience bias in their lives?
I believe it is also important to really help our girls understand the intersection of identities and the ways in which women of different backgrounds and experiences encounter bias. I want to challenge our girls to feel a responsibility to be an ally to other women who might experience bias in a different way and to play a role in helping women around the world break the bias. Helping girls combat bias is a matter of supplying them with knowledge and education, as well as tools that can be utilized in different scenarios so they can actually walk in the door and break down those walls.
Two of the tools that I think are really important are the ability to ‘do it afraid’ and the use of affirmations. I was a part of a panel discussion during which a student asked, “how do you get yourself ready to go into your first meeting in your career when you are nervous and not sure what to do?” and the panelist responded and said, “you just do it.” This is an important tool that I believe we should teach our girls: Sometimes you have to do it afraid. It means that we teach them that you don’t shy away from the hard things—you prepare the best you can, and then you walk in there and you do it anyway.
I also really believe in the power of affirmations and the importance of saying positive words to yourself over and over again until they become a part of you. I am committed to making sure that my two daughters have what they need to break the bias. Each morning, before we go to school, we say these affirmations together: I am strong—I am powerful—I am beautiful—I am important—My voice matters—I can do hard things. It is my hope that they will take these words and in times of discomfort or hardship, they will pull them out and remember who they are and what they can do. This is a gift I hope to give to every girl at 365体育彩票.