During my PhD, I began reflecting on how my privilege affected my experience growing up in the Southeast and the career I was able to pursue. While I hold some marginalized identities (woman, queer), I grew up very privileged (white, able-bodied, upper-middle class, third generation college student) and confident that I would be a biologist. In working with my graduate student labor union at Oregon State University, I have seen how radically different, and more negative, the experiences of graduate students with marginalized identities (i.e., racial, ability, gender, immigration status) are in graduate school compared to my own. As a feminist leader, labor activist and graduate student, I have fought for protections and benefits for graduate employees, such as paid parental leave and reimbursement of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals renewal fees. As I near the end of my PhD and start the job search, I am looking for a conservation agency for which I can do meaningful scientific research while also working for social justice. We need a fundamental paradigm shift towards addressing—in all that we do—the inequity woven into the United States and science.
I was drawn to the Directorate Fellowship Program of the US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) because of its mission to get folks with marginalized identities hired into this federal agency. The USFWS is changing its practices (i.e., hiring) and putting substantial funding towards enacting intensions expressed in diversity statements; this impressed me. The USFWS is partnering with agencies, such as the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), to ensure that fellows have positive and meaningful experiences. While this is only my first week on the job, I can already see differences between how academic and these two agencies approach diversity and inclusion. Last night over email, a USFWS employee expressed to their co-workers (which now includes me!) their joy over the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold LGBTQ+ protections in the workplace. They made themselves vulnerable on a public platform, which tells me that they trust their colleagues in a way that I do not often see in academia. Additionally, HAF has hosted discussions among fellows to discuss systems of oppression and Black liberation. I look forward to continuing these conversations over the next 11-weeks of this fellowship and using these experiences to inform my research. My fellowship research project is to update a report on the USFWS Pacific Region’s approach to invasive species management. Look for my next post in which I will start to unpack the language used in invasion biology!
Photo caption: Emalydia Flenory (left) and I (right) were the co-lead negotiators for graduate employee labor union bargaining this year! Our platform (shown in the background) was “Give us an E.D. R.A.I.S.E.” inspired by the university president Ed Ray getting a 6% raise, bringing his salary to $800,000/year while many graduate employees are paid less than $12,000/year.