It’s no secret that our mission is to connect people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to each other and the natural world through shared outdoor adventures, which is why we are thrilled to introduce a new program, the Wilderness Inquiry Fellowship, that does exactly that. This paid fellowship program is specifically designed for people whose identities are underrepresented in the outdoor industry – BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ young adults, and individuals with disabilities who have a strong interest in careers in the outdoor recreation/education or nonprofit sector. We believe that everyone belongs, however we must be intentional as we strive to increase representation in our field and reflect the communities we serve.
“We have a responsibility to take ownership of removing historical barriers and one way we hope to achieve this is to create accessible pathways much earlier on in people’s career progression, especially in a community where members may feel more isolated because they have a different identity from the majority of the people they’re initially working with,” says Wilderness Inquiryʼs Business Operations Senior Manager Cyri Tjaden. “We wanted to make sure we provided more support and coaching for fellows, alongside meaningful organization-wide DEIA changes with the idea that these fellows could move into an outdoor leadership position with us, or anywhere else in the outdoor industry.”
The fellowship program is structured around professional skills and development – such as STEM and outdoor education, first-aid, resume and cover letter training, and networking skills alongside wilderness travel and risk management skills, and operations and logistics training. Weeks are divided into A and B schedules, alternating between four days on, three days off, and six days on, one day off. Week A focuses locally in the Twin Cities and Week B includes opportunities to work extended trips.
Fellows are eligible to live in Wilderness Inquiryʼs staff house based in the Twin Cities, free of charge. “Transportation support is in the works,” said Tjaden. “We want to find an option that is equitable, which we know with transportation means different things for different people. We want to make this program as accessible as possible for everyone.”
The fellowship provides the opportunity to go on trips to locations such as the St. Croix River, Namekagon River, Apostle Islands, Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Voyageurs National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and more. Fellows may borrow gear and equipment necessary, as well as take advantage of the opportunity for discounts on new gear, clothing, and equipment from select major brands.
“Our hope is that at the end of the program we will have people, even if it’s just one fellow, who feel like they are ready to join the outdoor community professionally, with a sense that they belong,” says Tjaden. “We know as an organization, ultimately our role is to lead broader changes in making the outdoor sphere a more welcoming space for everyone. This is one step of many in utilizing our resources to take responsibility on behalf of a predominantly white outdoor profession, and really work to break down generations of barriers to access and inclusion. We want to foster a broad outdoor community where our fellows are valued as leaders.”
Applications for the Wilderness Inquiry Fellowship are open now and will close on May 13, 2022! To qualify, applicants must be willing to work with individuals who have different backgrounds, ages, identities, and abilities than their own, including people with disabilities, and pass a basic background check. Contact Cyri at [email protected] or visit our careers page to apply!