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Plenary Sessions & Presenters
The theme of the 2021 Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference will be “Fostering Diversity”. In addition to the work natural resource professionals do to encourage species diversity in the habitats they manage, it is critical that we also foster diversity in participation in the outdoors among the people we serve and who work in our professional ranks.
PLENARY SESSION I: Monday, February 1, 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM
The Plenary Session on Monday will feature Carolyn Finney, author of Black Faces, White Spaces, a seminal work on the roots of gaps in outdoor participation between white people and other ethnicities.

Carolyn Finney, PhD is a storyteller, author and a cultural geographer. She is deeply interested in issues related to identity, difference, creativity, and resilience. Carolyn is grounded in both artistic and intellectual ways of knowing - she pursued an acting career for eleven years, but five years of backpacking trips through Africa and Asia, and living in Nepal changed the course of her life. Motivated by these experiences, Carolyn returned to school after a 15-year absence to complete a B.A., M.A. (gender and environmental issues in Kenya and Nepal) and a Ph.D. Along with public speaking, writing, media engagements, consulting & teaching (Wellesley, UC Berkeley and the University of Kentucky), she served on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board for eight years which assists the National Park Service in building relationships of reciprocity with diverse communities. Carolyn is presently doing a two-year residency in the Franklin Environmental Center at Middlebury College. Her first book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors was released in 2014 (UNC Press).
PLENARY SESSION II: Tuesday, February 2, 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM
The Plenary Session on Tuesday will feature programs being used to close some of those gaps both among different ethnicities and genders.
  • Michael J. Isham, Jr. Executive Director of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
  • Alora Jones, Co-Founder of the Outdoor Afro Minnesota chapter
  • Dr. Christine Thomas, Founder of Becoming an Outdoors Woman and Linda Bylander, Director of Minnesota’s Becoming and Outdoors Woman program
  • Ray Ruiz, Fish and Hunting Skills Liaison for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
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