February 2021 Newsletter

White perspectives have long dominated the telling of U.S. history, and the country's stories of conservation and relationships with outdoor environments are no exception. This month, we'd like to highlight the legacies of Black leaders who contributed to the development of the West's most prominent symbols of conservation: our national parks.

The stories of Sequoia and Yosemite National Parksparks central to the development of the national park systemare often annexed to the biographies of white icons such as Galen Clark and John Muir. A lesser-told story is that of the parks' first caretakers: the regiment of Buffalo Soldiers, led by Captain Charles Young, who fought wildfires, built infrastructure, and served as the nation's first park rangers, essentially paving the way for park management systems we see today. Young was later named the acting superintendent of Sequoia National Park and was the first African American to hold the position. Learn more about the Buffalo Soldiers through the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Photo credit: National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center for Media Service, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

In last month's newsletter, we highlighted details from WRFI's Conservation Across Boundaries course. This month, we'd like to share a bit more about our Environmental Ethics course, a unique Philosophy field course that explores the Crown of the Continent region of Northwest Montana. Over 3 weeks from late July to mid-August, Environmental Ethics: Climate Change & Visions of a Sustainable Future offers students an opportunity to earn 3 upper-division Philosophy credits while exploring the stunning landscapes in and around Glacier National Park.

While backpacking and meeting stakeholders in various parts of the Crown of the Continent, our Environmental Ethics students delve into contemporary approaches to environmental ethics while examining climate change impacts in the landscapes and communities they visit. This course asks students to assess and ethically justify the social, political, economic, and cultural shifts required to effectively address current and future climate change issues.

"The Environmental Ethics course was the perfect blend of philosophy and outdoor education that I needed to conceptualize everything I’ve learned so far in Environmental Studies." -Alexis Comeau, Environmental Ethics '19

"If you are looking for a new experience and are bored of sitting in a classroom, a WRFI course is a great way to rejuvenate your education and spend time outside." -Ben Kohout, Environmental Ethics '15

WRFI is currently accepting applications for a Native American Studies Instructor to teach on our Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Cultures spring semester course, an interdisciplinary course that offers students a total of 15 upper division credits for their time exploring the cultures and landscapes of the Colorado Plateau. The Native American Studies Instructor will co-instruct the course with a team of four other instructors.

This course takes place in the Colorado Plateau region of the American Southwest on successive explorations of Horseshoe Canyon, Dirty Devil Canyon, Diné (Navajo) and Hopi Nations, Dark Canyon, and the Green River. Throughout the course, students and instructors visit the ancestral homelands of more than a dozen Indigenous tribes, meet with guest speakers, and tour sites relevant to the course curriculum.  
Candidates for this position must have a Master's or PhD degree in Native American or Indigenous Studies, or a related field such as Cultural Anthropology or Ethnic Studies; prior college-level teaching experience; a background in outdoor leadership; and Wilderness First Aid or First Responder certification. At minimum, candidates must be available to teach in the field from April 23-April 30, 2021.

This position will also remain open for WRFI's Conservation Across Boundaries, Montana Afoot & Afloat, and fall Colorado Plateau courses, all of which offer upper division credits in Native American Studies from the University of Montana. To view a more detailed job description, visit the job posting on WRFI's website. To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and three references to Executive Director Keri McWilliams at keri@wrfi.net.
Our spring schedule of virtual information sessions is underway! These information sessions are open to anyone interested in learning more about WRFI and the courses we offerand are a great place to connect with staff, instructors, and alumni to ask questions and hear about the WRFI experience from people who have lived it. We will be hosting two information sessions in the next month:

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18 from 1:00-2:00 Mountain Time: REGISTER HERE

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3 from 11:00-12:00 Mountain Time: REGISTER HERE

View the remainder of our spring info session schedule on our website, and don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. We hope to meet you soon!

Visit our online shop for WRFI mugs, apparel, and gift boxesor a 2021 WRFI calendar for anyone late to the calendar game this year!
Meet Britney Gitch
Britney Gitch began hunting with her dad at a very young age, which helped her form an early connection with the natural world and inspired a great deal of curiosity about the land, its history, and its inhabitants. When she first moved to Montana as a student at Montana State University, she found herself spending more time exploring outside than in a classroom. When she failed classes for the first time in her life, she knew that she needed to take a different approach to her education. When she learned about WRFI, she immediately applied for Montana Afoot & Afloat and her life hasn't been the same since.

According to Britney, WRFI inspired a love for learning that she had previously been missing. She found the topics that interested her, which allowed her to begin succeeding academically. She forged connections with guest speakers on her course, allowing her to feel closer to her Montana community. She developed a backcountry skillset that helped her feel at home in the backcountry, which has allowed her to go on personal trips she never would have gone on before. Perhaps most importantly, she experienced significant personal growth that was made possible by the close-knit community of peers and instructors on her course: Britney credits WRFI with helping her become a better communicator, and giving her the tools to navigate friendships and other relationships in her life in a healthy and confident way.

After her WRFI experience, Britney embarked on a trajectory she continues to this day. Her grades improved once she began taking courses that she cared about, and she was able to graduate from MSU's Honors College thanks to the credits earned on her WRFI course. In the fall of 2020, she completed her Master's Degree in History at MSU, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Click here to read her master's thesis, which explores ways in which identity, conservation, and land use narratives in Montana have changed over time.

When she initially returned to MSU after her WRFI course, Britney came across a poster for the Montana Outdoor Science School (MOSS), which she likely wouldn't have paid attention to prior to her WRFI experience. However, with a newfound interest in outdoor, environmental education, she decided to reach out to MOSS to see if they needed any volunteers. After volunteering for some time, she eventually became an instructor, and now serves as MOSS's Program Director.

To all future WRFI students, Britney says: keep a journal (even if you're tired)! She loves being able to look back at her WRFI journal and identify the key moments that ended up being life-changing experiences for her. Britney currently serves as WRFI's MSU Campus Ambassador, and is happy to connect with any students who are interested in learning more about the WRFI experience. Find Britney's contact info, along with info for our other WRFI Ambassadors, on WRFI's Campus Ambassador webpage.
Wild Rockies Field Institute is a 501(c)3 organization. Your gift is fully tax deductible. Our Federal Identification Number is 81-0487425.