Otis Douce headshot

For over seven years, Mr. Douce has fostered opportunities for Hun students to tap into communities and conversations that challenge their thinking. When asked about his approach to creating programs and educational opportunities at The Hun School, he credits his success to two things: intentionality and past experiences. 

Prior to joining The Hun School, Mr. Douce worked in a university setting for over ten years. While working at a university in upstate New York, he was introduced to students from all walks of life -- students from a Native American reservation to the urban streets of New York City. It was during these years that he learned just how important being intentional is:

“To create programming around groups of people that have never interacted with each other and have only ever had stereotypes about the other means that you have to be very intentional about creating a space for community and interaction to exist.”

And when he joined the School in 2015, these ideals remained at the top of his priority list. 

Mr. Douce has learned that the greatest gift he has on his side is the gift of time. “For the most part, we have these students for four years, which means it’s not a one shot deal. We have four years to have conversations and to grow and four years worth of programming to help students make connections and explore the world differently.” 

Promoted to the School’s Administrative Team this July, Mr. Douce has facilitated much of the School’s programming and conversations around diversity this summer, including the publication of the School’s new Strategic Plan for Cultural Competency. And, while he has a new title, broader reach, and the heightened expectations that accompany a national conversation around race upon him, he plans to approach his work with the same intentionality that he always has: using the gift of time to his advantage by focusing on more long-term planning for not only the current Hun students, but for future Hun students. 

In honor of his promotion, here are 10 questions for Mr. Douce. 

Q: What is the guiding principle of your work?

A: Before Hun, I was driven by the desire to provide  every student an equal opportunity and equal access to education. Since coming to Hun, it's shifted a bit. Our students have a tremendous opportunity to enter a world my old students could never imagine: Wall Street, owning and running firms, etc. They have an opportunity to enter systems and reshape them to become more equitable. Now, my  work is driven by the desire to help students realize the true nature of their abilities, to leave the world better than they received it.  

Q: If you could have a Harkness discussion with five celebrities, dead or alive, who would they be and what would you discuss?

A: James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, bell hooks, and Stokely Carmichael. The discussion would focus on access to the American Dream and being Black in America. All of these people have a remarkable way of turning emotions and feelings into words that can connect an audience to an experience even if it's not their own. They all also have a way of seeing the world that would make for a conversation that would challenge my world view in many ways. I wouldn't even participate, just listen.  

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and from whom?

A:  From an older friend, I don’t know where they heard it but, ‘life is a constant juggle.’ You're juggling work, family, friends, and other responsibilities. Some balls are made of rubber and will bounce back if they fall. Others, like family, are made of glass: If you drop it, there may be no repairing it. Keep your priorities in order. Another piece of advice was from a mentor in college. [He] told me to think about where I wanted to be and to find people who are already there. Ask them what steps they have taken to get to their positions. Ask for advice, ask questions. Expand your knowledge and possibilities, know that you don’t know everything and will need help. 

Q: If you could participate in one NextTerm class as a student, which one would you want to join and why? 

A: Hmmm I think as a student, I would have attended either the MLK course (Walking in MLK's Footsteps: From Ideas to Action) or the Ghana course (Castles Made of Sand: Exploring Ghana). Both align with my love of history and an understanding that we are all living history. Our stories are shaped by those who came before us and we have a responsibility to continue and expand on their legacies. 

Q: Out of all of the Centennial speakers or assemblies that Hun has hosted, which resonated the most with you?

A: John Lewis hands down. I grew up reading about John Lewis, Bloody Sunday, the march for voting rights, Freedom Summer, the sit-in and [Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee]. Meeting John Lewis and Angela Davis in person and having a chance to speak with them both are moments I will never forget. 

Q: Best dining hall item?

A: Fried Coconut shrimp :) 

Q: If you weren’t working at Hun and could have any job in the world, what would it be?

A: Creating national policy on education that would benefit as many students as possible. So if you know any think tanks working on national policies, let me know.

Q: In your time as an educator, what have your students taught you? 

A: There is always more to learn. Every student experience is so different, the slightest change can create a completely different experience: Moving, divorce, number of siblings, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, class, religion, etc. So many factors add up to make us who we are. There is never a point in which you will fully understand the experience of all students. It's a constant process of learning and relearning. 

Q: What is the most played song in your music library right now?

A: My daughter listens to music more than anyone else in the house. So, probably “Show yourself” or “First time in Forever” from the Frozen soundtrack. Those are on repeat in our house currently. 

Q: Favorite movie or documentary and why? 

A: My favorite Movie is The Matrix. I think we are all parts of systems we may not always realize we are a part of. Some of us know the systems exist around us but as long as they benefit us, we look the other way. The Matrix is pretty relatable to everything. 

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