On Jan. 20, Durham Academy Head of School Michael Ulku-Steiner announced the appointment of Jason Mundy as the school’s next Director of Diversity, Equity and Engagement, beginning July 1. Mundy follows Kemi Nonez, who spearheaded the school's DEE efforts from 2011 to 2021 and now serves as Director of Enrollment Management. The selection of Mundy — who has served in leadership and teaching roles in independent schools for more than 25 years — comes after a five-month national search. Learn more about Mundy and the search via Ulku-Steiner’s announcement.
By Jason Mundy, Incoming Director of Diversity, Equity and Engagement
To be honest, I have kept an eye on the Durham Academy careers webpage for several years in hopes this opportunity would arise. Durham Academy has a national reputation for supremely talented graduates. I have also been impressed with every DA faculty and staff member who I have met at national conferences and workshops. They are leaders in their respective fields of study and always improve the level of academic debate. And, on top of all that, the school’s mission includes the thought that we as professional educators can help prepare students to be happy. I am so lucky to have been chosen to join that effort as part of such an amazing team.
I was born and raised in Asheville, and I look forward to moving back to North Carolina to be closer to my family. I have also lived in Durham, although it has been a while. Back then, I was an eager Duke student working hard to compete academically with the well-trained independent school students in my classes. By senior year, I was living in a community service-themed dorm, coaching little league soccer at the Boys and Girls Club with my roommate, and earning my North Carolina teaching license. Those four years were challenging and engendered in me a love of learning and equipped me with professional skills that I often lean on.
I started my teaching career at Kent Denver School right out of college as a teaching fellow. I fell in love with education and the busy life of a school. Over the course of the 11 years I spent at Kent Denver at the start of my career, I got to try my hand at almost every aspect of independent school education. I taught English and history and served as a dean of students, college counselor, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) coordinator. I also coached field hockey, a sport that I had never seen before, and basketball because as a Duke graduate they hoped (incorrectly) that I knew something about the game.
I left Kent Denver following a year as the interim head of the upper school. For the next nine years, I continued in senior administrative roles at both Norfolk Collegiate School and back in Colorado at Dawson School. I honed my skills as an educational leader and had the training I needed to say yes when I was asked to return to Kent Denver to be the first Director of Equity and Community Engagement in 2016.
Those years as a division head prepared me for critical conversations, armed me with the patience to coax the very best out of people, and to work right through the challenges of diversity work in independent schools. My background also had a role. I grew up in a community where I was one of the only students to pay for their breakfast and lunch with a blue state-issued token. I was also the only student of color for all of my elementary school years. I understand the changing nature of privilege, which leads me to my own volunteer work around issues of poverty as an adult. I am also dedicated to doing everything I can to help schools build communities where people feel like they belong and that everything about them is celebrated.
In my current role, I lead immersive faculty and staff training throughout the year while expanding outreach around the city to make the case for independent schools in communities of color. Increasing the number of talented faculty of color leading classroom instruction has also been a priority, along with an audit of every academic and non-academic department in the school. Most importantly, we have operationalized a comprehensive DEI plan after a process that included listening sessions with every constituency, the creation of a DEI committee of the board of trustees and growing the DEI department. The plan will focus the school’s work moving forward right into a new strategic plan.
In the two days that I spent on DA’s campus in December, meeting people and talking about the school’s vision for diversity, equity and engagement, I soon realized that DA is serious about the work to prepare students for college and their lives afterward. Diversity and inclusion are pervasive in a culturally relevant curriculum and in structures of support for students and adults where everyone is celebrated and welcomed for what they bring to the community.
I look forward to getting to work right away on several initiatives:
Setting the focus and direction for diversity, equity and engagement (DEE) work moving forward, knowing that action plans need clearly defined metrics.
Ensuring the success of the strategic vision for which equity and inclusion are fundamental foundations.
Implementing faculty and staff training to enhance cultural understanding and competency.
Developing a Pre-K through grade 12 DEE program with a research-based progression of skills and measurable outcomes.
A few fun facts about me: I'm a huge fan of foreign and independent films. I don't like marshmallows! And, the perfect weekend day has me in my pajamas for as long as lazily possible working on a 1,000-piece puzzle (no bigger, no smaller). I look forward to getting to know each of you in the months ahead!