Recognizing that the environmental movement is strengthened by different perspectives and voices, the Open Space Institute launched its Conservation Diversity Fellowship in 2016.
The year-long, competitive fellowship provides a professional opportunity for recent college graduates or postgraduates from diverse backgrounds to explore various facets of land conservation and environmental protection. As OSI’s first Conservation Diversity Fellow, Dyaami D’Orazio reflects on her year spent“ in the trenches” with OSI.
What drew you to the OSI Diversity Fellowship?
The Conservation Diversity Fellowship was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the field, and about nonprofits. As a first-generation college student and woman of color from a low-income background, having the support of an established, respected organization like OSI has leveled the playing field for me in terms of opportunity.
Do you have any thoughts on the value of expanding the cultural diversity of the conservation community?
Diversity in conservation is crucial to the movement’s success. Low-income and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by climate change, pollution, and the lack of access to open space. We all have an equal stake in the well-being of our planet and natural resources. Diversity brings the needs of a multiplicity of communities to the attention of decision-makers, adds creativity, and a more nuanced problem-solving that is not possible without the voices of many people.
Can you tell us about one of the highlights?
Meeting up with Jen Melville [OSI’s Vice President of Conservation Grants and Loans] in Maine made the work come to life. I learned about community forests and I got a better sense of their potential for strengthening surrounding communities.
I got to see how the conservation community could support community forests, provide resources to land trusts, and advance fundraising for more of these amazing forests.
What are you planning to do next?
I am ecstatic because I just got a new job! I will be a catalyst organizer at Partnerships for Parks. During the interview, I talked a lot about the opportunities and experiences I had at OSI. The Conservation Diversity Fellowship allowed me to establish myself as an independent professional in New York City, and that’s been absolutely amazing. There wasn’t one time this past year when someone said, “We can’t help you achieve that.” I will always be grateful to and involved with OSI.