In 1980, Gillian Bowser traveled 78 hours on a Greyhound bus from New York City to an internship at Yellowstone National Park. She could count the number of minorities who she worked with on one hand.
â€œWhen I was walking on the trails, I would see another black person, and I would have to say â€˜Hiâ€™,â€ Bowser said. â€œIt was kind of like â€˜what are you doing out here?â€
She had come to Yellowstone as part of an inner-city outreach program, spending one summer working at a hotel, and the next surveying the 388 backcountry campsites in the park.
In Montana, her presence was considered out of the ordinary.
â€œSome days, I was more afraid of seeing a white person than a grizzly bear,â€ Bowser said. â€œBut despite moments of racism, the absolute beauty that others displayed made all of it go away, and it made everything worthwhile.â€
Bowser described an incident when she was coaching a local volleyball team and a man came up and introduced her to a young, interracial child.
â€œHe said that he wanted this child to meet someone who was like him, and realize that heâ€™s not alone in this world,â€ Bowser said. â€œItâ€™s moments like that which are really restorative, and really give me faith.â€
Since then, Bowser, the assistant dean at the Warner College of Natural Resources, has made it part of her lifeâ€™s work to increase minority involvement in outdoor oriented career fields.
â€œIt matters because land and national parks are all of our concerns,â€ Bowser said. â€œIf thereâ€™s a segment of the population that isnâ€™t exposed to the outdoors, then thatâ€™s a huge problem. National Parks can go away.â€
In the 30 years since her internship in Yellowstone, Bowser says that minorities still are underrepresented in natural resource professions. She has been involved in a CSU outreach and networking program where minorities have the opportunity to spend summers working as â€œcitizen scientistsâ€ by taking and entering data on natural landscapes.
But according to Bowser, the work to make natural resources a racially inclusive profession is far from over.
â€œOnly 7 percent of natural resources employees are minorities,â€ Bowser said. â€œItâ€™s a problem that needs to be addressed, and there is no easy solution.â€
Assistant News Editor Allison Sylte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.****
6-8 p.m. Thursday: A showing of â€œThe Hidden Story of Hurricane Katrina: A Community Stands Up for Changeâ€ in the Grey Rock Room of the Lory Student Center.
2-3:30 p.m. Friday: â€œThe End of Racismâ€ workshop with Preacher Moss in room 230 of the LSC
9 p.m. Friday: â€œThe End of Racismâ€ Comedy Tour by Preacher Moss in the Main Ballroom of the LSC