By Terry McCafferty ‘22
In addition to welcoming the new freshmen, the Welsh Academy students and teachers, and other new faculty to Saint Ignatius, the school is also welcoming Dr. Richardson-Phillips to her new role as the school’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Her primary role will be to help build a community that provides a sense of belonging to all students. In an interview, we talked about her background, family, goals, and her vision for the school.
Dr. Richardson-Phillips recounted that before coming to Saint Ignatius, she earned her doctorate from the University of Delaware and then began her career at Messiah College outside of Harrisburg, PA, working first in Human Development and then as the Dean of Multicultural Affairs. Since then, she has held positions at Case Western Reserve University, Cuyahoga Community College, and most recently at FirstEnergy as their diversity and inclusion consultant for three and a half years. “And now I have been here for ten days!” she finishes. Dr. Richardson-Phillips says that she was drawn to Saint Ignatius High School by “the rich history, mission, community service, and certainly athletics” to which she adds “I love great sports.”
At Saint Ignatius, Dr. Richardson-Phillips hopes to ensure that “all students have a phenomenal experience” which she believes is done “through creating an inclusive environment, one that’s equitable so all students feel like they are treated fairly.” When speaking of creating a more inclusive environment, she articulates that she hopes people “understand that diversity is so much more than just race and ethnicity;” and it is also creating an environment where students from all different socio-economic backgrounds, areas, and schools feel comfortable. She sees “all of that is part of creating this inclusive environment.” She also said that “in this space, what I will be doing is aligning our behaviors, our traditions, our norms to our mission and preparing us for cultural transformation.”
When asked about whom she would call her biggest hero, she chose her parents. Dr. Richardson-Phillips stated that her mother works as an Epidemiologist doing community work and educating students about diseases and abstinence. Her father was a football player for the Buffalo Bills and then a Division I football coach. She spoke of how they gave her a strong faith foundation growing up in a Baptist Church and instilled in her a lifelong love of learning.
“Education was also important to my parents. Just being a good person and giving back to your community and just being genuine and transparent.” Her hope is that her children, an 18-year-old daughter attending Ohio University in Athens and a 22-year-old son living in Los Angeles, would say the same thing about her.
She ended the interview by concluding: “What I really want the community to know is that this is doing God’s work and the work that I am charged to do here is so much a part of our mission. I am excited to be in an environment where what we do is tied to who we are. I think that is fantastic. I am here to be a resource and make sure that we have an inclusive environment so that all students feel welcome.”
A special thanks to Dr. Richardson-Phillips and Ms. Watowicz, the Executive Assistant to the President and Vice President, for their contributions to this article.