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The Open Space Institute Announces 2023 Conservation Diversity Fellowship Award Winners

New York, NY (August 10, 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced that two young leaders have been selected for its Conservation Diversity Fellowship program: Toluwalase (Ennie) Akinwunmi and Michio Agresta.

For the first time since the program’s launch in 2016, OSI is offering a two-year fellowship, thanks to a partnership with the Environmental Leadership Program. Akinwunmi—the recipient of the two-year fellowship—will join OSI in 2023 and stay through 2025. Agresta will join OSI in 2023 and stay through 2024.

Working alongside OSI staff, Akinwunmi and Agresta will spend the year immersed in the conservation field, exploring areas including land acquisition, grant administration, accessibility and equity in the outdoors, science and research, and nonprofit administration.

Woman with shaved head has a large smile while standing outdoors.
Akinwunmi—the recipient of the two-year fellowship—will join OSI in 2023 and stay through 2025.

The Conservation Diversity Fellowships are full-time, paid positions for college or post-graduate candidates from diverse backgrounds, providing professional experience and the opportunity to accomplish meaningful work in the field of conservation. Beyond invaluable experience, the program also provides fellows with mentorship, networking, and career placement support.

Through the fellowships, OSI is working to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive conservation movement by building a pipeline of future environmental leaders.

“Our work at OSI benefits from the new ideas, energy, and fresh perspectives our fellows bring to our organization. In turn, we feel privileged to help our fellows develop the skills they need to be change-makers in their communities and the world,” Jessica Watson, OSI’s Conservation Communities Director, who manages the program. “We look forward to mentoring and collaborating with Ennie and Michio, two talented young conservationists.”

Man with short brown hair standing in front of a sand dune.
Agresta will join OSI in 2023 and stay through 2024.

Toluwalase (Ennie) Akinwunmi is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in urban studies and a minor in environmental studies. Passionate about environmental justice and city planning, Akinwunmi aspires to create safe, accessible outdoor spaces for urban communities of color. Akinwunmi looks forward to getting involved in OSI’s park advocacy initiatives and learning more about diversity, equity, and inclusion within land transactions and conservation easements.

Michio Agresta is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut with a degree in natural resources and minors in Spanish and human rights. Committed to environmental justice, Agresta hopes to research and implement environmental programs for communities that have traditionally been neglected within the environmental movement. Agresta is interested in OSI’s park advocacy, grassroots efforts, and park improvement initiatives.

At the end of the Fellowship, participants create projects that delves into a singular aspect of conservation and creates a tangible community resource. Examples of past projects include a literature review and survey about minority participation in outdoor recreation, and a guide to make grant-making more equitable.

Several previous fellows have continued working in the conservation field, securing full-time positions including as a: communications associate at the Fort Green Park Conservancy; park ranger for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation; program specialist at The Nature Conservancy; event organizer for Partnership for Parks; and as a research associate improving biodiversity through land use planning.

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