GCC summit participants look to increase diversity, inclusion in outdoor industry

  • Greenfield Community College’s main campus. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/22/2021 6:32:52 PM

GREENFIELD — Furthering their efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion was the topic on the minds of about 40 people from across the outdoor industry during a Monday morning discussion organized by Greenfield Community College.

The event, called the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Outdoors Virtual Summit, comes in advance of a proposed six- to eight-week certification course on the same topic slated to run this fall through GCC’s Center for Workforce Development and Community Education. Focused on the intersection of outdoor leadership and social justice, this course is designed to address the needs of leaders and organizations looking to further their efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Rachel Hailey, founder of Rachel Hailey and Associates Consulting, led the discussion Monday with members of GCC, including Social Sciences and Professional Studies Dean Chet Jordan. Speaking just hours after the virtual summit, Hailey said she had already received positive feedback from participating residents and professionals in the outdoor industry.

“My overall read is, this is sort of a first-of-its-kind thing,” she said. “Certification like this, through GCC, is not done anywhere in the (outdoor) industry. People were hungry for the conversations we had, and even more hungry and excited for the actions that will be taken next.”

Monday’s discussion saw a foreword from Hailey and other facilitators, and then separated into four “breakout rooms” where smaller groups of participants answered questions posed by the facilitators.

By catalyzing deeper conversations around the relationship between DEI, leadership and the outdoors, Hailey and her associates are aiming to provide individuals and organizations with concrete action steps they can take to better serve underserved and underrepresented communities.

Hailey said Monday’s discussion was a “revealing event” that allowed for strong conversation around the nascent certification program. Mere hours after the summit ended, she had already spoken with multiple people and organizations interested in participating as hosts. Additionally, she said the second cohort of DEI participants will be eligible for the start of an internship program. For example, she said Zoar Outdoor and Berkshire East are interested in hosting internship opportunities.

Jordan said the idea for the DEI certification program “came at the perfect time.”

“Rachel (Hailey) called us just as we were preparing to reorganize our workforce development program, which (Interim Associate Director of Workforce Development & Community Education) Kristin (Cole) has been taking the lead on,” Jordan said. “One of the biggest things we’re trying to do in this new version of workforce development is to create more brands that are directly linked to industry needs.”

With the summit completed, GCC and Hailey will look at the comments collected Monday, and use this as the framework by which to finish designing the program to ensure that common trends are addressed. Tentative dates may see enrollment for the fall DEI certification open late this summer.

One of the biggest issues that came to the forefront in Monday’s summit was shared by many different people and voiced in different ways. The question, Hailey said, was how to make diversity and inclusion something that is long-lasting. The DEI certification program will aim to be an avenue for those who interested in gaining the tools to create a diverse, welcoming environment among various individuals and organizations in the outdoor domain.

“For folks looking to engage in the outdoors ... whether they know it or not, people have defined cultural beliefs,” Hailey said. “For me, as a Black, cis-gender woman in Massachusetts, I had this narrative that it just wasn’t something black people do.”

She said that she learned what was truly possible for her through personal and professional experiences, and the goal of the DEI certification program is to help other people follow their desires, too.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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