Diversifying the National Park Service with Exciting Initiatives
Diversity may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the National Park Service, but there is a long history of few minorities visiting national parks or working in the conservation and environmental fields. The Student Conservation Association (SCA) and its diversity coordinator Alvi Seda are working to change that.
SCA web 2Founded in 1957, the SCA is a national organization whose goal is to create the next generation of environmental leaders. The SCA provides high school and college students with opportunities to serve in all 50 states. The organization is also working to bring more diversity to the national parks by running a number of diversity initiatives. Alvi Seda, the SCA’s recruiting coordinator for diversity Initiatives, plays a key role in recruiting the talent needed to run these programs.
A genuine love of the outdoors and open spaces led Seda, who is originally from Puerto Rico, to pursue a career working in nature. His first project with the SCA and the US Forest Service progressed to more seasonal opportunities, a full-time recruiting position, and his current role as diversity coordinator. He travels in the US (typically the southeast) and Puerto Rico and visits colleges, career fairs, conferences, and expos, many with black and Hispanic populations, to recruit students for SCA programs. “I make sure we have candidates and representatives from all different walks of life in the United States,” Seda says.
The SCA currently operates five diversity initiative programs designed to diversify the workforce within the national parks.
National Parks Service (NPS) Academy
NPS Academy is a partnership between the SCA and the National Park Service that trains minority college students for careers in conservation fields through internships. Since the program began in 2011, almost 300 students have participated. Students participate in a week-long orientation in the spring and then in summer internships in various locations, such as the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Career Discovery Intern Program (CDIP)
The CDIP is a partnership between the SCA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Founded in 2009, the program works with minority college students to place them in SCA internships and on an eventual career path. “This program is focused on diversity and bringing in students from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds,” Seda says. After an orientation, students do a summer internship with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 2012, the CDIP received The Wildlife Society’s Diversity Award. The CDIP has a high rate of transitioning students from interns to full-time employees with various agencies within the National Park Service. “Every time one of those students gets hired, it’s another step forward and that’s as good as diversifying that work force,” Seda says.