07 June 2022

National Wilderness Skills Institute (NWSI)

Written by: Daniela Kenny

This past week was the National Wilderness Skills Institute (NWSI) which took place online through various webinars, interactive sessions, and virtual social gatherings. When I first heard about these events, I was interested and looking forward to the different wilderness sessions. Then, all the resource assistants (RAs) received a message that someone who was leading a session for NWSI needed some RAs to volunteer. The title of the session was “From knowledge to impact: A conversation about unpacking barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion in wilderness.” I was immediately intrigued and volunteered to help out.

Lauren Redmore, a Research Social Scientist from the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute and Kimm Fox-Middleton, a Wilderness Interpretation & Outreach Specialist from the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center were in charge for this session and training all us RAs to help. For the session, it was broken up into 5 different focus groups. For each focus group, there were 2 RAs: one assigned to moderate the focus group and ask questions, and the other was assigned to transcribe everything that was said in the focus group and also give a summary of key points.

The purpose of the focus groups was to obtain perspective, data, and input from wilderness managers for the future creation of a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) toolbox. DEI needs in wilderness are vast and Wilderness Connect toolboxes are a great resource for many things but it may not be quite right for DEI-related topics. Each focus group was assigned a sphere of influence (A field or area in which an individual or organization has power to affect events and developments). The different spheres of influence were individuals, organizations (federal), organizations (NGO), visitors and prospective visitors, and wilderness-adjacent communities.

Powerpoint slide

I was assigned to the wilderness-adjacent communities focus group as a transcriber. The focus group was very interesting to be a part of and I had the chance to listen to new perspectives. I got to learn how to transcribe and how a focus group should run. I interacted with wilderness managers and other RAs from all over the U.S. I loved having the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, and push myself out of my comfort zone. Also, the data collected from these focus groups will help create a DEI toolbox and I’m happy to have had a small impact on that work. This was another wonderful, enriching experience that I got to have because of the RA program and I am very grateful for all these experiences.

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Tonto National Forest

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