Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Audubon Vermont

Field notes from Harper Simpson, Audubon Vermont’s first Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) intern.

Harper Simpson is Audubon Vermont’s first Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) intern. She graduated from UVM this May with a degree in Environmental Studies and a Food Systems minor. This spring, she worked with the Education Team as a Teaching Intern and EDI Data Analyst. Throughout the semester, she participated in EDI-related work through our monthly Pride Hikes and an education program with the Sustainability Academy in the Old North End of Burlington.

These articles are part of a series of “field notes” pieces, highlighting the different voices and perspectives of Audubon.

With a personal passion for greater inclusion in the environmental and outdoor fields, I was excited when Debbie Archer, Audubon Vermont’s Education Program Coordinator, was open to discussing an internship focused specifically on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). She was transparent that we would be paving new territory since Audubon Vermont had never facilitated such an internship, but she was equally as passionate as I was about EDI at Audubon.

The National Audubon Society has outlined its own EDI goals centered around the idea that a diversity of voices and perspectives will help fortify conservation efforts.

“Just as biodiversity strengthens natural systems, the diversity of human experience strengthens our conservation efforts for the benefit of nature and all human beings. Audubon must represent and reflect that human diversity, embracing it in all the communities where we work, in order to achieve our conservation goals.” -- an excerpt from Audubon's Statement on EDI

My supervisors and I sat down to design my work based on the needs of the organization. I set out to analyze the demographics of the public schools that the Education Team has worked with in the last three years and who may be missing. With aid from the National Center for Education Statics website, I was able to gather demographic information, focusing on the racial breakdown and number of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.

I collected the data for the schools we have worked with, as well as for all other schools in the same districts. Collecting this information allowed me to create a baseline for where Audubon’s educational reach is thus far. My overarching goal was to find out who Audubon is currently serving and who they should work to create partnerships with.

In order to serve a greater community of people, it is important for Audubon to know their current reality. I was able to highlight the schools with greater racial and economic diversity, providing the Audubon with information they can use to be strategic with their outreach and scholarships. It is evident that Burlington and Winooski School Districts are where Audubon should focus its efforts. By being active in reaching out to these schools, we can reach a more diverse set of students.

As we face the reality of the current environmental crisis, it is imperative that everyone, especially marginalized communities who are most impacted by climate destruction, have a seat at the problem-solving table. Audubon has the power to transform how kids relate to the natural world around them. If they can work to empower kids of all backgrounds to take conservation action in their own community, our future will already look a little more hopeful.

In reflecting on this process, I am proud of the working-document I have been able to create. Although possibly low-level data analytics, what I’ve been able to do for Audubon is really exciting -- and it’s work that wasn’t feasibly possible for a staff member, due to their many other responsibilities.

With the EDI field being fairly new for most organizations, it’s really interesting for me to think about how I can apply myself in a variety of ways to continue to push the outdoor and environmental industries towards greater equity and inclusion. I’m realizing that this passion for diversifying these community will involve continuing to pave my own path.

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