Audubon and the Walton Family Foundation Invest in Next Generation of Conservation Leaders
NEW YORK – Today, the National Audubon Society announced a $250,000 investment from the Walton Family Foundation to build on the success of the Audubon on Campus Chapter Program by expanding engagement with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).
“We’ve heard from students and faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions that they want to partner with organizations like Audubon to tackle climate change and environmental issues in their communities and to enjoy birds and other wildlife,” said Heather Starck, vice president of chapter and grassroots capacity building for the National Audubon Society. “This investment will help us partner with these institutions to co-create programs, summer fellowships, grants, and other opportunities. All of this will promote conservation and climate solutions, advance scientific objectives, strengthen academic institutions, create career pathways for students, and continue building a diverse coalition of grassroots environmental leaders for decades to come.”
“Growing the environmental movement means we need to meet future leaders where they are, and support them as they learn and grow,” said Moira Mcdonald, interim director of the Walton Family Foundation’s Environment Program. “The leadership of the environmental movement does not currently reflect the diversity of our country. We are proud to support leaders who are doing something about that, and we are thrilled to support the young people at colleges and universities who will be the future of this movement.”
Audubon aims to start campus chapters at HBCU and MSI campuses in 13 states (listed below) and Washington, D.C. and will award five grants to support their work. The organization plans to hire three summer interns or fellows to increase access to conservation career paths and provide mentorship in the environmental conservation workforce.
"We are finding that students want to learn how to photograph birds, recognize their songs, and simply be in love with watching them soar. They want sanctuary, just like what Audubon offers our feathered friends,” said Dr. Anna B. Scott, faculty adviser for Birds of a Feather Audubon campus chapter at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi. "As a chapter initiative, we are developing a series of games, competitive in nature, that will help us train students which birds they should expect to see in the Mississippi Flyway, without making it a lesson about the Flyway. Our hope is once people start to recognize the birds, they'll become 'indispensable neighbors.' Without biodiversity, there is no cultural diversity and vice versa. Our work with Audubon and Mitch Robinson, from our local Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, has been invaluable in jump starting this endeavor. He has created the opportunity and support to investigate what birds mean to our students and campus culture."
On-campus programs will include developing partnerships that advance scientific objectives, address climate change, build advocacy skills and support local conservation.
“The Walton grant allows Audubon on Campus to collaborate with students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as Minority-Serving Institutions, on a greater scale,” said Diana Braithwaite, program manager of the Audubon on Campus Chapter Program at Audubon. “We want to ensure that we are fulfilling students’ requests for tools needed to become effective leaders and change-makers on campus and in environmental spaces.”
Since September 2018, the Audubon on Campus Chapter Program has grown from 10 pilot programs to being active on more than 100 college campuses across the country, showing a strong, rapid growth of interest in bird conservation.
Campus Chapter Focus States: Arizona, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.
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The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2018, the foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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