UW Conservation Scholars: Conservation ConversationThe Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Washington welcomed its 2016 cohort to campus last week — 20 students from across the country, all passionate about creating a more inclusive, diverse conservation movement in the U.S. and beyond.

During the two-summer immersive program, undergraduates from Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, the University of California in Los Angeles and everywhere between will look at the intersection of society and the environment. Scholars will travel across Washington state to explore conservation efforts in urban, managed and protected environments, as well as learn how conservation, cultural heritage and environmental justice are connected through things like food, water, biodiversity and climate.

Representing many cultures, backgrounds and perspectives, each Doris Duke Conservation Scholar brings their own rich insights into the conservation conversation. As a group, both the newest participants and returning scholars from 2015, will take a deep dive into their experience and reasons for being interested in conservation.

Defining one’s relationship with environment is difficult, yet important to understanding how heritage and history shape our view of the natural world and our role in its preservation.  As part of self-discovery, the scholars will share their narratives around nature and conservation through on-stage performances.

“Storytelling is what makes the program so impactful, both for the scholars themselves and for the audience, full of partnering conservation organizations and potential employers,” Kirsten Rowell, the head of UW’s Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program said. “The program promotes storytelling as an important way to communicate across differences and build identity within the conservation movement’s historically homogenous community.”

In July, Kirsten Rowell, who is also a researcher in the Department of Biology, and Chenjerai Kumanyika, a communications professor at Clemson University, will challenge conservationists at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology conference to consider storytelling as a way to broadcast narratives that more fully represent America’s voices of the future. Using UW’s Doris Duke program as an example, they will speak to storytelling as a way to inspire and engage a new generation of conservation professionals, an approach they hope will be more widely adopted and championed within the field. There work will be featured as part of a larger symposium on increasing conservation’s reach and effectiveness through greater inclusivity.

Follow along with all of the stories coming out of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at UW via the group’s Vimeo, Facebook and Twitter pages.