E&I Update: 2020 Actions + New Steering Committee Members

For nearly two years, the Equity & Inclusion Committee has supported our vision to make the outdoors a place that is welcoming to all people. Learn more about what the committee has been working on in 2020, and meet our new committee members.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
October 13, 2020

More than two years ago The Mountaineers announced our intention to engage in equity & inclusion (E&I) work. This commitment stems from our belief that a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love. We're grateful to all in our community who have been engaging and supportive, and we're excited to share the work we’ve done so far in 2020 and introduce you to our new steering committee members.

First, we want to acknowledge that many efforts were midstream in early 2020, and were paused along with all of our operations to focus on a pandemic response. In every COVID-19 conversation we centered equity as we developed strategies for how to weather this storm. We continued to hold committee meetings and share organizational updates on our response. And while our progress in E&I slowed, as it did in every one of our other program areas, we continued to support our vision of an outdoors where everyone feels belonging. 

Equitable Climate Change Statement

In May, we issued our statement on climate change and the climate crisis, incorporating messaging about environmental justice. “Our Mountaineers community is actively experiencing the impacts of the global climate crisis. From melting glaciers to intensifying wildfires, the places we hold most dear are changing, resulting in more perilous access, loss of biodiversity, and degradation of wilderness. We believe that the climate crisis is fundamentally one of equity, which impacts not just wild places, but also human health and communities, and that future generations of Mountaineers deserve an equal opportunity to be inspired by wilderness and outdoor spaces. We commit to do our part by educating the outdoor community, advocating for public lands protections, reducing our organizational carbon footprint, and publishing books and other content that focus on and promote climate solutions, sustainability, and stewardship.”

Fighting Racism in the Outdoors

In June, we shared our belief that Black Lives Matter, and doubled down on our commitment to fighting racism in the outdoors

Later in June, we led efforts to work with our partners on the Olympic Peninsula to support local condemnation of a terrifying and disturbing incident in Forks. 

In August, in partnership with the American Alpine Club, Appalachian Mountain club, Colorado Mountain Club, and Mazamas, we joined those speaking out and taking action against racist, sexist, and otherwise derogatory climbing route names to shift this culture moving forward.

Recruiting New E&I Steering Committee Members

In late June, we opened nominations for people interested in directing our equity and inclusion efforts to realize our vision of the outdoors as a place that is welcoming to all people. To help cultivate a diverse candidate pool, we called for open nominations from our community to welcome new voices. We received nearly 20 applications for the new positions, and we were blown away by your response, both in quantity and quality. Thank you!

While evaluating applications, we sought to create a committee representative of the broad diversity of the communities we wish to serve. We were intentional about who we would invite to join to further our commitment to Equity & Inclusion. The outdoors should be accessible to everyone, and cultivating diverse leadership is one of the many ways we can begin to build relationships with communities that have historically been kept at the margins of outdoor recreation. It will take relationship building at all levels of our organization to drive meaningful change and to reframe the narrative about who belongs in the outdoors.

After reviewing applications, four individuals were invited to join the steering committee. They attended their first meeting in September, and have already brought a wealth of knowledge and new energy to the committee. 

Supporting Climbers of Color

And in October we publicly celebrated our partnership with Climbers of Color. Established in 2017, Climbers of Color is a Washington State nonprofit that aims to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the climbing and mountaineering community by developing leaders of color. Last year, The Mountaineers signed on as fiscal sponsor for Climbers of Color in support of their mission to create more leaders of color in mountaineering. This allows CoC supporters to make tax-designated contributions through The Mountaineers. 

Meet the New Committee Members

We are lucky to have an extremely strong group of volunteers willing to share their time, skills, and resources to help us move our organization forward. We’re grateful to everyone who took time to participate in this process, and we’re excited to introduce you to our four new steering committee members:

Serene Chen.jpgSerene Chen

Serene moved to Seattle at the end of 2019, and was quickly introduced to The Mountaineers by colleagues. While new to The Mountaineers, she attended a few events and enrolled in our Intensive Basic Climbing Course before it was shut down by the pandemic. She also just completed a hybrid remote/in person Wilderness First Aid course. Serene has extensive experience leading change in organizations of varying sizes, both within a JEDI context and more broadly. She knows first hand the challenges of engaging people across multiple locations and all walks of life and understands how to lead change at scale in response to the social science mechanisms that underpin individual and organizational level change. 

“Joining the E&I Committee feels like the perfect intersection of my lived experience and work experience, with the opportunity to positively impact an organization I've quickly grown to love. As a petite woman of color who grew up in south Georgia and worked for many years in the predominantly white and male-dominated world of banking in the UK, I know firsthand what it's like to be the 'other'. I know what it's like to feel insecure about my skills, to be underestimated because of my size, to shatter people's expectations of what's possible for someone who looks like me. It's my reality and I've always tried to use that to open doors for others. Growing up the daughter of Chinese immigrants, I wasn't exposed to the great outdoors in my childhood. In fact, I didn't spend significant time in the outdoors until my mid-late 20's. Once I started to foster it, my connection with nature started to transform my life. From these experiences, I'm truly passionate about ensuring that access to, and appreciation for, the outdoors is welcoming and inclusive.”

Jocelyn Huang.jpgJocelyn Huang

Jocelyn has been a member of The Mountaineers since 2017, and is a graduate of the Basic Alpine Climbing course and the rock climbing Intermediate Climbing modules. She has been a member of the E&I Working Group since 2019 and helped launch and moderate the BIPOC E&I Working Group. She also supports the work of the BIPOC climbing community outside of The Mountaineers, participating in events like Color the Crag and closely following the efforts of groups like Climbers of Color and individual changemakers.

“I grew up in a predominantly white community where being BIPOC correlated with exclusion from many circles. Only after I left did I fully appreciate how important a sense of belonging is to fulfilling your potential. My vision for The Mountaineers is one that fully integrates our concern with the outdoors with a concern for people, where honoring and respecting our lands is inseparable from honoring and respecting those we share them with. I want to see BIPOC and other historically marginalized groups represented at all levels of The Mountaineers, and for JEDI principles to be integrated into all decision making to create an environment where everyone can flourish.”

Ashley McCloud.jpgAshley McLoud

Ashley joined The Mountaineers in 2017, and is a graduate of Everett Scrambling, Basic Alpine Climbing, AIARE 1, and Cross-Country Skiing with the Everett Branch. Ashley was excited to be helping instruct with Basic Alpine Climbing classes this year before they were cancelled, and looks forward to helping with the class next year. Ashley’s also been involved with the MountainQueers affinity group, and is working with other climbing graduates on creating an E&I sub-committee for Everett Climbing.

“I think that high risk/commitment activities like climbing have unique challenges in relation to JEDI work, and I am committed to learning and being part of change-making. I would like future students to walk into a different climbing community than I did, where they feel supported and understood. I feel strongly that the message "all are welcome" is not enough, that we need to actively create spaces that are by and for people of marginalized backgrounds. (I credit this last statement to thoughts by Forrest Ubuntu Zola Mbali during the AMGA webinar “DEI in the Outdoors”.) I’ve built incredible friendships and had amazing experiences through the Mountaineers classes I’ve taken and I want these opportunities to be accessible to all communities.”

Robert White.jpgRobert A. White

Robert has been a member of The Mountaineers since 2016, and is a graduate of our avalanche awareness, Mountaineers Leadership, Safe Travel at High Altitude, and Protecting Public Lands 101 courses. He’s attended a leadership conference and has participated in multiple conversations as part of our E&I Working group. Robert has also partnered with The Mountaineers to provide outdoor programming to veteran's children that attended Minority Veterans of America's outdoor events, and supported our relationship with the Tulalip Tribe. 

“As a multi-racial person, this work is more than important to me, it is a part of my everyday life. I volunteer my time and experience with multiple black and indigenous nonprofits and community organizations in King County and South Seattle to provide capacity building and build racial and process equity for them. I work with local nonprofits and community-based organizations around racial equity in the sectors of environment, education, and veteran initiatives as a philanthropist and nonprofit board members. I’ve received professional development in equity and inclusion principles and have provided keynotes and led panel discussions. I am also a Qualified Administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and believe this assessment would benefit The Mountaineers and each branch.”

Existing Committee Members

We’re excited to welcome Serene, Jocelyn, Ashley, and Robert to join our current committee members. Chaired by Siana Wong, former Olympia Branch Chair and board member, the committee also includes:

  • Gabe Aseschliman, 8-year Seattle Branch member and VP of our Board of Directors
  • Natalia Martinez-Paz, 8-year Tacoma Branch member, Tacoma Basic Climbing Chair, and Tacoma Branch VP
  • Lisa Katzman, 3-year Olympia Branch Member and Super Volunteer
  • Beth O’Connor, 7-year Seattle Branch Member and youth activities coordinator
  • Alicia Pierce, 3-year Seattle Branch member, and graduate of Basic Kayaking and Snowshoeing
  • John Porter, 9-year Seattle Branch member and Intermediate graduate

Mountaineers CEO Tom Vogl also sits on the committee, and it is supported by Mountaineers Communication & Membership Director Kristina Ciari.

To learn more about our work to date, visit our highlights from 2019, which include 55 intentional steps to shift toward a more equitable culture and structure at The Mountaineers. You can find more updates, along with resources to learn more about equity and racial justice, on our Equity & Inclusion Committee page

Get Involved! E&I WORKING GROUP

You can join the conversations and be a part of improving The Mountaineers by joining our Equity & Inclusion Working Group. The Working Group was established in September 2018 to offer a forum for our members interested in contributing to The Mountaineers work to increase equity in the outdoors. This work is based on our belief that a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love. This is a reflection of our core values, which were written by our community. 

The Working Group consists of ~135 individuals who have opted in to provide feedback and resources and participate in conversations as it relates to JEDI work. People in this group agree to receive messages from staff on The Mountaineers a few times or more a month, and to participate thoughtfully and respectfully with other members of this working group. Members participate in good faith, and continued participation is predicated on respectful communications and aligning with the norms of the Working Group.

If you're interested in joining the Working Group Basecamp, please send an email outlining your interest and any relevant experience to kristinac@mountaineers.org


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Tess Wendel
Tess Wendel says:
Oct 14, 2020 09:41 AM

Thanks for your work and excited to see 4 new faces on board!

Jan Fitzpatrick
Jan Fitzpatrick says:
Oct 16, 2020 06:45 AM

Thank you Kristina and others for this excellent work. Keep it up! Welcome new Steering Committee Members. It is great to see the work this committee is doing. Each item listed represents The Mountaineers evolving with the times in a positive way, providing a good model for other organizations to follow.