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Meet Karen Dye, Director of Equity and Inclusion

A native of Minneapolis, Minn., Karen had been a distant admirer of Wildwood School for years, thanks to its national reputation in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) work. However, it was a brief encounter at an educational conference in spring of 2019 that convinced her to make the leap to Los Angeles and lead Wildwood’s DEIB initiatives.

“It was clear when speaking with [Head of School] Landis Green that Wildwood was a school where DEIB goes beyond lesson plans and workshops,” says Karen. “It’s an inherent part of what Wildwood is. At every step, the values of DEIB permeate campus life, from classroom discussions to student/faculty relationships, the arts and athletics programs, and more.”

That fall, Karen became Wildwood’s newest Director of Equity and Inclusion, a role that was established as part of Wildwood’s leadership more than 20 years ago. In this position, Karen calls upon her 30+ years of experience as a DEIB practitioner in both independent schools and the collegiate level, including admission and college counseling, to guide Wildwood’s DEIB initiatives and serve the needs of all students and faculty K-12.

By engaging students in DEIB work throughout K-12, we’re preparing them for those moments ahead, on college campuses and the world beyond, where they’ll be called upon to contribute thoughtfully to difficult conversations, recognize injustice, and work toward building communities where everyone feels recognized, heard, and valued.- Karen Dye

“The progression of students through elementary, middle, and upper school is part of the joy of working in a K-12 environment,” Karen says, “particularly as they grow from learning self-awareness to being able to discuss their identities, think critically about DEIB topics, and eventually, lead and champion DEIB work here at Wildwood.”

It is this outcome which, Karen says, occurs when students feel seen, heard, and welcome that inspires her work on a daily basis. Karen also draws upon her own experience growing up in a predominantly white suburb of Minneapolis in the 1970’s, and her increasingly growing awareness of racial issues throughout her adolescence and early adulthood, for guidance. 

“It wasn’t until I was 16 that I had my first overt encounter with racism, during a track practice in high school,” Karen says. “It was eye-opening, and while that experience served as a bit of a culture shock for me, it also set into motion my own journey to learn about, explore, and address these issues.”

Decades later, Karen is regarded as one of the voices at the forefront of DEIB work in K-12 education, regularly presenting on DEIB topics at national forums such as the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) and other education workshops, as well as Wildwood’s own Outreach Center programming, including the Multicultural Leadership Institute, which draws attendees from across the United States.