Genieve Lumsby Rankel ’86 has been the Director of Financial Aid at Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols (BB&N), a Pre-K through 12 independent school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, since 2011. Though she works out of the admissions office at the school, her role does not end when a student is admitted and the financial aid application completed. “The beauty of my job is that I get to be with a family their entire time at the school,” she says. “I get to share special parts of their lives, the births and deaths, crises and celebrations. My job is not just about crunching numbers.”
Genieve ended up working in independent schools by chance. She was living in New York after graduating from Yale, pursuing her passion for dance and performance, when James Dawson, her science teacher at Spence, offered her a job teaching mathematics. Dawson left Spence in 1995 to become Head of the Professional Children’s School (PCS), a position he still holds. Genieve was not at all certain she wanted to be a teacher, but Dawson, whom she describes as a lifelong mentor, was convincing. “I had to go buy non-dance shoes and clothes. I had to put on a whole other role, but I fell madly in love with teaching. It was a dream for me.”
At PCS, Genieve taught math to students pursuing professional careers in the arts, among them Broadway performers, and several current and former members of New York City Ballet, including Tony nominee and former NYCB principal dancer Robert Fairchild. “I love performing, but it’s about you,” Genieve says of the nine years she spent at PCS. “Teaching can’t be about you. It’s about the kids. Upper school students are such a great age to teach, and math is so alive.”
In 2006, Genieve moved to Boston after she and her husband were married (her reception was at the beautiful 93rd Street Spence building). She taught math at BB&N while attending graduate school at Harvard, then took an extended leave for the births of her two daughters before returning to assume her current position. A major focus of her job since has been working to diversity the school’s student body, in particular the lower school enrollment. “Coming from New York, I was used to seeing all colors and hearing all languages. At Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols, I saw few Black and Brown students. It was 2011. Why are we still doing this, I asked.”
The Head of School and her former boss, the Director of Enrollment Management at BB&N gave Genieve an amazing degree of latitude to come up with new admissions strategies. With colleagues from other schools, Genieve formed the Lower School Diversity Consortium, which has now expanded to 14 member schools in the Boston area charged with helping to boost enrollment among families of color. “We were trying to forge a path and change the ways we were thinking about independent school admissions. This made it exciting,” she says. “We were committed to socio-economic diversity, and were intentional about working to not perpetuate stereotypes.”
With the consortium, Genieve has hosted annual dinners that attract an amazing array of prospective families who may not be familiar with what independent schools have to offer. She has learned a lot about Boston’s history of racism and exclusion. Creating a more hospitable environment and a more diverse independent school community has been an experience she describes as “incredible.” “We still have so much work to do, but we have made inroads. There’s a cost if you send your Black child to a white majority school, but it is worth the cost. It’s wonderful to see the ally work that is happening.”
Genieve is grateful to her Spence teachers who had such an influence on her, particularly James Dawson, with whom she is still in regular contact. “James Dawson was formidable in shaping my life,” she says. She is excited to see her daughters, who attend BB&N, have similar relationships with their teachers and friends as she did at Spence, and to be part of a community not just while they attend school, but throughout their lives.