Diversity at HMI: A Snapshot

May 2, 2018

HMI’s Diversity and Inclusion Statement

The High Mountain Institute believes that both diversity and inclusion are essential to growth and learning. We all achieve our potential when each person in the community feels a true sense of belonging, and has the confidence to express their full self.

At HMI, inclusiveness starts with an intentional and affirming community. Creating such a community is our priority. We connect deeply to each other through classes, wilderness expeditions, and shared responsibilities. We prioritize open communication and honest conflict resolution. These efforts inspire us to build trust, to value diverging perspectives, and to build communities greater than ourselves.

Historically, however, outdoor programs like HMI have attracted largely white and privileged populations. At times, this has made it challenging for all at our school to feel fully part of our community. We seek to address these challenges at HMI by increasing the diversity of our students, faculty, staff, trustees, and advisors; by creating classes and activities that explore and reflect students’ identities; by expanding the cultural competence of faculty and staff; and by continually challenging the assumptions we hold.

We engage with this challenging work because we are committed to building an exceptional learning environment rooted in community—not just for some, but for all who seek to be inspired by the natural world.

We’d like to offer a snapshot of what we’re currently doing to live out the values of our diversity statement. Our efforts fall into three broad categories: recruitment of students and staff, offering financial aid, and building a more inclusive school community.

Recruitment

We are currently pursuing a variety of avenues to increase the number of students and staff from diverse racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. This includes:

  • Promoting at over 90 high schools (public and private) and 20 gap fairs across the US.
  • Partnering with several programs and schools to enable access to our programs for students of color and from a range of socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Recruiting more diverse staff through posting open positions on nationally distributed job lists, implementing a master plan to build on-campus housing, and revising our job posting guidelines to attract applicants from a wider range of backgrounds.

Financial Aid

HMI strives to make our programs financially accessible to diverse families through offering need and merit-based financial aid. Across all our programs, 32% of students receive some kind of financial aid.

HMI awards need-based financial aid through a 3rd party system (SSS, offered by the National Association of Independent Schools), which evaluates self-reported information and tax documents submitted by the student and family to generate the family’s “Ability to Pay.” We base our financial aid award on this number. For elective (i.e. non-transcript-bearing) programs, we generally do not offer 100% of demonstrated need while also striving to make the program affordable to the family.

HMI offers multiple merit-based scholarships: the Lake County High School Merit Scholarship and the Civic Adventure Scholarship.

Inclusion

We have also looked inward to understand how we can continue developing our programs so that all students have an equal opportunity to learn and grow during their time at HMI. We currently have two initiatives specifically aimed at inclusion:

Equity and Educators is a reading and discussion group of HMI staff that meets every 1-2 months to discuss pertinent diversity and social justice issues and apply insights and best practices to the programming, curricula, and culture of the school.

The Identity Series is a curriculum of community meetings designed to help students reflect on identity, equity, and inclusion. These 1-hour meetings bring together students and staff and happen every 1-2 weeks during HMI programs. These meetings address various topics, including:

  • Self-identity and the various dimensions of identity (race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and privilege, among others) and vocabulary to discuss the dimensions of identity
  • Aggression and power, including overt violence, microaggressions, power dynamics, and their connections to identity
  • Positive learning environment and community, including community norms, debriefs, communication, and conflict resolution
  • Ethics and action, including development of a personal mission statement, core values, goals, and an action plan