University of Vermont

Diversity Task Force Update May 2013

Diversity Task Force 2013 multicultural dinner
Diversity Task Force 2013 multicultural dinner

This May brings the work of the 2012-2013 Diversity Task Force to a close. It has been a great honor this year to co-lead the task force with Assistant Dean for Student Services and Staff Development Marie Vea-Fagnant. We had a busy year and added new activities, such as using our monthly time for community conversations. Some of our activities and successes this past year include:

  • Welcoming 5 new USDA Multicultural Scholars in Fall 2012;
  • Organizing a bus trip to see Environmental Justice activist Majora Carter speak at SUNY Plattsburgh, hosted by a RSENR alum;
  • Hosting a well-attended screening of One Day on Earth , a film shot by the global citizenry on 10/10/10 in every country on the planet;
  • Preparing breakfast at the ALANA Student Center in partnership with Shelburne Farms (bacon!)
  • Coordinating visits to the RACE exhibit at ECHO and following up with a community conversation facilitated by RSENR graduate students, Eliese Dykstra and Christine Peterson;
  • Anna Smiles-Becker and Kirsten Brewer representing the Rubenstein School at the ALANA Coalition Multicultural Symposium; and  
  • Hosting 18 students and 3 teachers from the High School for Environmental Studies in New York City.

A highlight for me last fall was attending the Vermont Natural Resources Council’s 50th anniversary celebration to hear local, state, and national luminaries speak, including a keynote address from Van Jones. RSENR sponsored a bus for our multicultural scholars to attend this event, and there were many others in attendance from our extended Rubenstein community. One of our own students Flore Costume (ENSC '16), asked Van a question about what young people can do to be involved with the environmental movement. Hear his inspirational response.

This spring, we dedicated two of our monthly meetings to community conversations on diversity. In March, we were joined by Dot Brauer the Director of UVM's LGBTQA Center. We discussed some of the resources available on campus for community members as well as some of the unique challenges and opportunities in the field of natural resources for LGBTQ identified people. We were inspired by outgoing EPA Director Lisa Jackson's contribution to the “It Gets Better” campaign.

Just this past April the Rubenstein Stewards helped to organize our annual multicultural dinner. The evening was a great success, we shared a delicious meal with various dishes representing the cultural heritage of community members and host countries where many of us have lived or studied. It was a great chance to share stories with one another and learn a little bit more about people's backgrounds and experiences.

In addition to community events, DTF is also working behind the scenes to promote the diversity of perspectives and ideas in our school and disciplines. Every year members of DTF meet with various candidates for Rubenstein School positions and provide feedback for the search committees as well as discussing strategic changes to the curriculum or student services.

We have a lot to look forward to in 2013-2014. The incoming class is shaping up to include 5 USDA Multicultural Scholars, 3 High School for Environmental Studies alumni, and 22 ALANA students over all (14% of the incoming class). The DTF is planning to be engaged with the RSENR Dean search, conduct assessments of our diversity curriculum, and implement new professional development and support for all members of our community. More information about the diversity plan.

All of this work is only possible through the incredible collaboration and engagement demonstrated by students, staff, and faculty.  I am particularly proud this year of the hard work put in by dedicated DTF members and the initiatives of many of our co-collaborators within our school and outside. We couldn't have successfully organized these events without the support of many, many different people. So thank you all for your continued support!

-Kirsten Brewer