Anif McDonald, a 2012 graduate of Xaverian Brothers High School, has recently been appointed the school’s new Director of Community, Culture, and Equity. Mr. McDonald has served as Xaverian’s Assistant Director for Admissions since 2017 and has also been instrumental in the work of the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. In 2020, he was recognized by the Association of Catholic Admissions and Advancement Professionals of New England with the 2020 Sister Ann Moynihan “Rising Star” Award for his early success, innovation, professionalism, and leadership qualities. This spring, he began a fellowship in Boston College’s Lynch Leadership Academy, a competitive program for rising school leaders.
“Mr. McDonald’s appointment to this position is a great step for Xaverian, one that has been a long time in the making,” says Dr. Jacob Conca ’94, Head of School. “He is extremely well respected by our students and their families, his colleagues, and the broader Xaverian community. In many ways, he is perfectly suited to lead this effort and the time is right. The work to grow with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion has been happening quietly at Xaverian for several years, resulting in year-over-year increases in the diversity of our student population. However, in our Mission Effectiveness (2018) and Re-Accreditation (2019) studies, in conjunction with the work of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (2020), the Xaverian community identified the need for an expansion of this important work.”
To facilitate the process, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, composed of 30 faculty and staff members, researched, learned, and shared their findings with their colleagues and the Board of Trustees. One immediate outcome is the creation of this new director’s role as well as a Community, Culture, and Equity Advisory Council.
“Our school diversity levels are at an all time high, and we’re incredibly proud of that,” says Mr. McDonald. “However, there’s certainly room for growth in admissions, faculty and staff development, and student experience. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about this new position. I’ll still be involved in the enrollment process, getting to know students and families as they first begin their Xaverian journey, but now I’m also empowered to help ensure student success and an equitable experience once they enroll. I want every student to have the same positive experience at Xaverian that I did. I want them to feel seen, appreciated, and understood, and I want all of us as a community to learn from each other’s lived experiences and to celebrate our differences. There’s so much opportunity here and I’m excited for what’s ahead.”
This work is not new for Mr. McDonald, who blazed trails to improve the Black student experience even when he was a student himself. He was the senior class president at Xaverian and then went to Fairfield University where he became the first-ever Black student-body president. He also served in the Black student union and was a member of the Diversity Office and the “Distinguished Gentlemen,” a group committed to justice and the betterment of the community. Additionally, he collaborated with fellow students and professors to implement an enhanced African American studies program at Fairfield.
In his new capacity, Mr. McDonald will collaborate with the admissions team and administration to ensure that Xaverian is able to continue attracting and supporting an equitable experience for a student population that is representative of our surrounding communities. This includes Black students, persons of color, and students from various religious traditions, single-parent households, low income families, inner city families, and other historically underrepresented populations at Xaverian. This new office and initiative are made possible by a generous $1 million anonymous gift, which will support both necessary financial assistance for families in need as well as help to fund the work of the Director of Community, Culture, and Equity.
“Our vision of this important initiative is firmly rooted in the Gospel message, the social and spiritual teaching of the Catholic Church, and the long-standing tradition of the Fundamental Principles of the Brothers of St. Francis Xavier,” says Dr. Michael Nicholson, Principal. “The Fundamental Principles states, ‘We are a band of brothers and sisters in which all are known, needed, and empowered.’ We have always believed that every single person is created in the image and likeness of God. The work of the Community, Culture, and Equity Office will help to ensure that all students experience this reality every day at Xaverian.”
“Xaverian has always been such a strong community, one rooted in respect,” says Mr. McDonald. “I look forward to working with Xaverian’s faculty, staff, students, and parents to build on this long-standing tradition.”
Mr. McDonald will begin his new role as the Director of Community, Culture, and Equity on July 1, 2021.