With an emphasis on race inclusivity and environmental education in this episode, Dr. Olivia Aguilar is interviewed about her research and personal experiences in the field of environmental academia as a woman of color. Powerful insight is shared be...
With an emphasis on race inclusivity and environmental education in this episode, Dr. Olivia Aguilar is interviewed about her research and personal experiences in the field of environmental academia as a woman of color. Powerful insight is shared between these women as they tackle the topic of mentors, stereotypes, research, and advice.
Growing up with little guidance on navigating college, Aguilar had to carve her own path into the world of academia, where people of color often face a multitude of stereotypes and discrimination. For example, professors of color, specifically women, endure much harsher criticisms in academia than their cohorts, through things such as student evaluations.
Another stereotype often referenced is that people of color spend less time, and therefore have less enjoyment of nature and the outdoors, which Aguilar has a particular interest in dismantling. Through the importance of supportive peers and mentors, Aguilar persisted through the politics of academia and secured tenure at Denison University.
At Denison she was able to dive into the depths of the research she always wanted to conduct: critically examining the idea that people of color do not enjoy spending time in nature. Inspired by black feminist literature, such as the works of Carolyn Finney, and LatinX methodologies of pursuing research, Aguilar is obtaining oral histories of minority communities as a way of reframing how we define an environmentalist; Igniting the conversation that people of color do, in fact, enjoy spending time outdoors and care about the environment.
Incredibly insightful advice is shared within this powerful conversation, from the stresses of acquiring tenure and navigating the politics of academia, to the nature of student evaluations, to the financial sacrifice of committing to the cause of environmentalism. With the take home message of
“Stay true to yourself and your journey,”
it becomes apparent that the field of environmental science is making a transition into a more diverse, inclusive, and essential cornerstone career and life path.
About Dr. Olivia Aguilar:
Dr. Olivia Aguilar was recently announced as the new Leslie and Sarah Miller Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment and an associate professor of environmental studies. completed her B.S. and M.S. in horticulture science at Texas A&M University where she studied children’s gardens and their effect on youth environmental attitudes. After teaching in public schools, she received her doctorate in natural resources at Cornell University, studying environmental education. She received a Consortium for Faculty Diversity fellowship to teach at Denison University in its McPhail Center for Environmental Studies. There, she taught the core courses for environmental studies, including courses in sustainable agriculture and environmental education.