by Scott Hudson
It’s been a lovely spring. Starting my fourth year as a master naturalist, I’m enjoying seeing the rhythm of old friends leafing out, coming into bloom, migrating through. Going through the training often felt like drinking from a firehose. Integrating that learning into what we see in the ecosystems around us is a fine reward.
As we move through spring and into summer it’s exciting to see so many steps in the return to more normal life. I’m particularly looking forward to our July 7th Summer Social, our first chance to gather as a chapter in well over a year. Eager as we are, we’ll do it right. Just as we put safety first going into the pandemic, we want to stay safe and increase activity in a way that protects you, our members and the public. While group size is no longer limited, we still encourage wearing masks and social distancing.
Texas Master Naturalist 2021 Annual Meeting – One more sign of reopening is in our fall conference. Please mark your calendars for Thursday, October 21 – Sunday, October 24 at the DFW Airport Marriott. Registration is set to open August 1st. Learning from last year’s record attendance, this will be a hybrid meeting. Sessions will be offered in person and available online. There will be area field trips and plenty of opportunities to spend time with fellow master naturalists.
What’s going on with Diversity and Inclusion at NTMN?
“When everyone is included, everyone wins.” – Jesse Jackson
You’ve likely noticed increasing emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion around our chapter over the last several months. Ranging from brief chapter meeting D&I spotlights and website postings to having TPWD’s Diversity & Inclusion Director David Buggs as our featured speaker at the May program, these are elements of an effort to raise our awareness and position us to take further action.
At the January 2020 NTMN leadership retreat we set enhancing diversity and inclusion as a chapter priority. In the time following the murder of George Floyd, the chapter published a statement on diversity. We later published a series on chapter mission statements, updated to reflect a D&I perspective.
Taking advantage of COVID – While many of our activities have been paused during the pandemic we’ve taken the opportunity to look inward a bit and reflect on how NTMN compares with our community, and what our best steps should be. If COVID prevented pursuing some of our goals over the last year – some prospective partners haven’t been available – your D&I Task Force has taken advantage of the time, considering how we can better engage with the whole community. Rather than being out “doing” as much as we’d wish, this has also been a good time to bring in resources.
So why are we giving D&I this much attention? While heavily positive, I’ve heard a range of reactions, typically “glad we’re starting to catch up!” Clearly our group doesn’t reflect the community we serve, yet we want it to. And need it to. As our region continues to change, we will either become more inclusive, equitable, and diverse or lose relevance. I am confident that as we increase our service in diverse communities, our chapter will change for the better.
We’re all learning together as we consider where we are and how to proceed. This is long-term work. As David Buggs pointed out, we’ll make mistakes along the way and may well have some awkward moments. Better that discomfort than not moving forward.
It’s clear across Texas – Our work parallels the Be The Change initiative at the state level. That series of third Tuesdays webinars is intended to provide D&I resources to master naturalists in all 48 chapters. It does so in two ways: directly through the webinar content and by assembling a playbook of tools and approaches to help chapters grow. Part of an ongoing effort, the series will run through September. It builds toward a capstone workshop, tentatively set for Spring 2022.
I hope you’ve been able to participate in these sessions. Like TMN Tuesdays, you can watch these anytime and still get one hour of Advanced Training (an exception to the “must have live interaction” rule for online classes).
Together We Dine – Another opportunity I’m especially excited about is our Together We Dine evening coming up on June 10th. Sometimes conversations about diversity and race can be awkward or uncomfortable. Together We Dine provides for safe, courageous conversations about race in a virtual setting. After an introduction, we’ll go into breakout rooms with fellow master naturalists and a trained facilitator. This will give us a chance to share questions and perspectives on race relations, our community, and our service as master naturalists. Please join us!
Making D&I a natural part of NTMN’s perspective is ongoing work. To maintain momentum, we will soon have a D&I director serving on the chapter board. Near-term questions include how we engage and develop partnerships with other organizations, especially in areas we’ve not usually served. If you have questions or if working on this interests you, please contact the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force.
Thanks for all you do.