Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment, with sponsoring partners, is hosting a national conference June 19-21 on the Blacksburg campus to explore the future of diversity in the discipline of and careers for natural resources and the environment.

“One of the critical issues we face,” explained Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment, “is the development of our future workforce and leaders with diverse backgrounds so they can prepare our diverse population to deal with pressing environmental problems that touch all of our lives.”

“We are bringing in some top national leaders in their academic disciplines to engage us in conversation about this matter,” he continued.

Presentations and workshops will highlight best practices currently in play around the country. Federal, tribal, state, university, and private sector organizations are all coming to the table.

Mamie Parker, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will discuss the five shades of gray in the conservation community and how they are a game changer in the diversity arena.

James H. Johnson Jr., the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will delve into the six disruptive demographic trends shown in the 2010 census.

Angela Coleman, associate deputy chief for business for the U.S. Forest Service, will outline the diversity initiatives and the progress the agency has made.

Terry Sharik, dean of the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University, will share trends in the U.S. natural resources workforce and undergraduate population.

Topics investigating diversity will include attitudes towards natural resource careers and perceptions of career barriers; how the National Wildlife Fund uses its Earth Tomorrow Summer Institute to chart its diversity course; the gender gap in the U.S. Forest Service’s research division; assessing diversity of thought among undergraduate natural resource students; career path barriers, job satisfaction, and retention of diverse young adults; increasing multicultural competence for natural resource professionals; and a strategy to fill the pipeline of diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

Five universities and the U.S. Forest Service will give mini-sessions on their efforts to develop programming to encourage more diverse students to pursue the field of natural resources.

Among that lineup is Colorado State University, which will talk about how its MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences) Chapter supports diverse students in its environmental programs. Oregon State University will delineate how it strengthens education and employment for its diverse students.

During the wrap-up sessions on Friday, Alabama A&M University will highlight the expansion into natural resources using the interdisciplinary nature of ecology at the historically black college and university.

Matt Thornhill, founder and president of The Boomer Project marketing firm in Richmond, Va., will give a lively multimedia presentation at Thursday’s dinner about what organizations need to do to get ready for the year 2020. The conference will end Friday with a workshop establishing some ways and means to recruit ethnic minorities into natural resources.

Partnering with Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment to host the conference are the university’s Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

External conference partners in Virginia include the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Department of Forestry, and the Virginia Forestry Association. Other external supporters are the U.S. Forest Service; Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences; Michigan Technological University’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science; the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Northern Arizona University’s School of Forestry; and Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

For more information, email Bob Smith, associate dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment, or call 540-231-5481.

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