Equity & Inclusion Update: New Committee Members + Town Hall April 12, 2022

The Equity & Inclusion Committee supports our vision to make The Mountaineers a place where all people feel belonging, and in February we welcomed five new committee members. We invite you to get to say hello, and save April 12 for our next Town Hall.
Serene Chen Serene Chen
E&I Committee Chair
March 01, 2022
Equity & Inclusion Update: New Committee Members + Town Hall April 12, 2022

Nearly five years ago, The Mountaineers announced our new equity and inclusion programs, including our Equity & Inclusion committee. This work stems from our core 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 introduce you to our new  committee members.

In November 2021, we opened nominations for members interested in directing our equity and inclusion efforts. While evaluating applications, we sought to create a committee representative of the broad diversity of the communities we wish to serve. Cultivating diverse leadership is one of the many ways we can begin to build relationships with individuals who have been historically excluded from the outdoors.

After reviewing applications, five individuals were invited to join the steering committee. 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 new leadership team members.

Meet the New Committee Members

dave.jpgDave Foong

Dave is a scrambler, snowshoer, hiker, backpacker, and all around lover of the outdoors. He joined The Mountaineers in 2019 where he took his first course in Basic Snowshoeing. He has since graduated from a number of other courses and is a current Basic Climbing student with the Everett Branch. Dave moved to the US from Singapore in 2004 and has previously lived in Texas and Indiana.  

“While I've always felt that The Mountaineers is an inclusive organization, we still have room to grow in this space and many activities can have more diverse participation. Shortly after moving to the United States for college, I was able to participate in a sport that I loved because of an outreach effort from the Latino and Black Cultural Centers at my school who were working together to run a cycling program. Because they helped create an opportunity to invite me in and participate, I got to be part of a collegiate cycling team. Through these organizations, I was connected with a mentor and given access to cycling gear, and made new friends, which made the sport so much easier to get into. Having benefited from programs like this, I would like to continue to pay it forward.”

Molly.jpgMolly FitzMorris

Molly is a hiker, runner, skier, snowshoer, occasional cyclist and kayaker, and novice photographer. She joined The Mountaineers in October 2020 and has completed Beginner Snowshoe, Wilderness First Aid, Navigation, and AIARE I. She was also a student in Basic Scrambling, a big accomplishment for someone with a severe fear of heights. Because of her scrambling field trip to Foss Peak, an experience she says was one of the most difficult, terrifying, and memorable things she’s done, she’s passionate about being involved in discussions about how we can support individuals with all kinds of challenges to get out into the natural world. Professionally, Molly is a sociolinguist, examining how language use correlates with social structures. She works on Responsible Innovation at Google, striving to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI) products work equally well for all users, no matter their race, gender, or where they're from. 

“I've been researching and working on these issues for a few years now, and I'm realizing over time that social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just things I care about at work, but are actually deeply held core values for me, ones that constantly color the way I experience the world. At work, I feel most fulfilled when I'm working to address issues of inequity and exclusion, and so I've been seeking this same kind of fulfillment outside of work as well."    

Esa.jpegEsa Tilija

Esa is a hiker, backpacker, camper, skier, and community builder. She’s been involved with The Mountaineers since childhood, when she began spending time at Baker and Meany Lodges with her family and neighbor Judy (a lifelong member). Esa is a first generation American, and The Mountaineers was the first organization her parents joined when they immigrated to the PNW from the Himalayas. Esa credits The Mountaineers with helping to foster her love for the outdoors, a relationship she continued when she left Seattle to attend Wellesley College. Her senior thesis at Wellesley unpacked the college's mission, ‘Not to be ministered unto, but to minister’, and uncovered its unspoken past with indigenous peoples. Esa has led BIPOC youth on trips to Baker with the Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development program and continues to stay involved with the Girls on Ice program as a strategist and alum volunteer. She spent a few years after college working in Capital Markets and Banking in the Midwest, and now works for Capital One's Strategy team. 

“I envision a Mountaineers and a PNW outdoors that is inclusive for all. I will work with the team to advance that by boldly and compassionately bringing my perspective to the table and uplifting and highlighting the needs of those that are not in the room.”

kari.jpgKarina Vanderbilt

Kari is a rock climber, mountaineer and ski mountaineer, ice climber, trail runner, scuba diver and novice surfer. She joined The Mountaineers in 2017 and has graduated from and become a leader for a number of courses, including Backcountry Skiing and Basic and Intermediate Climbing. Some of her favorite volunteer work is with the awesome students in the Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC). In 2021 she earned the Key Leader and Super Volunteer badges. Professionally, Kari is an educator, and she currently works for Puget Sound Educational Service District supporting school districts in improving their systems to better serve multilingual students (also known as English learners). 

“My vision is for The Mountaineers to be a place where everyone who wants to join feels like they belong. I believe that this will take courage, listening and collaborative partnership with all of our community. Creating a truly inclusive environment takes more than shifts in language (though this is a good start), but examination of the impact of policies through listening to the lived experiences of The Mountaineers community, making tangible changes, and doing hearts and minds work. I am passionate about this work because I think supporting people from all backgrounds in recreating in and connecting with the outdoors is critical to the future of our planet.”

Anita.jpgAnita Wilkins

Anita is an ice climber, mountaineer, backcountry skier, and hiker. She joined The Mountaineers in 2006, and has served as a leader at all levels. She supported the Basic Climbing Committee years ago in its shift in instructional approach from large group field trips and lectures to Single Instruction Groups (SIG). She also volunteered as Ice Climbing Committee Chair, Ice Climbing Instructor, and Climb Leader. Anita was a contributing author to Freedom 8 and Freedom 9, and recently wrapped up service on the Advisory Council after being elected to the Board of Directors. Professionally, Anita leads communications work in human services nonprofits centered around marginalized populations, especially women and children, experiencing poverty and homelessness.

“As a new Board director it is more important than ever to be fluent in the language and actions of equity and inclusion, especially as the organization refines and implements a new strategic plan. I have a particular passion for any work that enables folks of all backgrounds to safely and joyfully engage in our outdoor spaces. This begins with recognizing the needs of the whole person and showing up for them with empathy and openness. I believe the equity and inclusion committee offers an opportunity for me to continue to develop personally and directly apply this learning professionally as I work to more clearly see and effectively ease the way for all who make up The Mountaineers community.”

Existing Committee Members

We’re excited to welcome David, Molly, Esa, Karina, and Anita as our newest current committee members. Chaired by Serene Chen, a board member from the Seattle Branch, the committee also includes:

  • Lisa Katzman, 3-year Olympia Branch Member and Super Volunteer
  • Natalia Martinez-Paz, 8-year Tacoma Branch member, Tacoma Basic Climbing Chair, and Tacoma Branch VP
  • Ashley McLoud, 5-year Everett Branch member
  • Beth O’Connor, 7-year Seattle Branch member and youth activities coordinator
  • Robert White, 6-year Everett Branch member
  • Siana Wong, 8-year Olympia Branch member, Board Member, immediate past Chair

Mountaineers CEO Tom Vogl also sits on the committee, and it is supported by Kristina Ciari, Communications & Membership Director, and Sara Ramsay, Associate Director of Leadership & Operations.

To learn more about our work to date, watch the strategy update from our April 2021 Town Hall and read a recap of additional 2021 actions.

Save the date - Town Hall April 12

The Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee built The Mountaineers first organization-wide Equity & Inclusion (E&I) strategy in the latter half of 2020, and we shared an update in a  Town Hall on April 21, 2021.

We're hosting another Town Hall this year on Tuesday, April 13. Please RSVP and join us to hear more about the strategy and to share your feedback and ideas - all are welcome to attend and participate.  



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 about 150 people who have opted in to provide feedback and resources and participate in conversations as it relates to this 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

Main image: New Equity & Inclusion Committee members, from left to right: Molly FitzMorris, Karina Vanderbilt, Dave Foong, Esa Tilija, and Anita Wilkins. Photos courtesy of individuals pictured.

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