The college and sponsoring partners hosted a national conference in June to explore the future of diversity in natural resources disciplines and careers. “One of the critical issues we face,” explained Dean Paul Winistorfer, “is the development of our future workforce and leaders with diverse backgrounds so they can prepare our diverse population to deal with pressing environmental problems that touch all of our lives.”

“We brought in some top national leaders in their academic disciplines to engage us in conversation on this topic,” he continued.“And while it may continue to be a struggle to attract more diverse people, a group of dedicated leaders in natural resources is committed to positive change.”

Winistorfer emphasized that the world is indeed changing, and the general demographics of our nation are changing quickly. “If we as a nation do not pay attention to these changes, we will have even greater challenges in the future,” he pointed out. “The conference was rich in content and breadth of coverage. We learned a lot about other university programs as well as what federal and state agencies are doing to encourage diversity.”

Mamie Parker, recently retired assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shared her heartwarming story how she, the youngest of 11 children of a sharecropper in the Louisiana Delta, rose through the ranks in her career. “My mother taught me to fish, and a white man mentored me when he saw my love and expertise with fish,” she related.

James H. Johnson Jr., director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explained the six disruptive demographic trends in the 2010 census and how they will change the landscape of diversity. Matt Thornhill, founder and president of The Boomer Project marketing firm in Richmond, Va., gave a lively multimedia presentation about what organizations need to do to get ready for the year 2020.

Conference organizers are developing a list of worthwhile ideas to pursue as feedback from the participants continues to come in. For a full list of speakers and partners, visit