Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Forestry (MS)

Administrative Home Department

College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Advisor 1

Matthew Kelly

Committee Member 1

Chelsea Schelly

Committee Member 2

Tara Bal

Committee Member 3

Susan Stout


Land use, values, and ethics vary across cultures; however, those making natural resource (NR) management decisions are often not representative of the diversity of people who live on the land. Diversifying the workforce is a step towards ensuring management decisions and policies are inclusive of all peoples; however, few people from minority groups are pursuing degrees related to NR management. The purpose of this study is to assess factors affecting the decisions to pursue careers in NR fields among historically underrepresented groups of people, with an emphasis on the role that youth environmental education (EE) programs play in creating career pathways. A two-pronged methodological approach was used. The first method uses the Social Cognitive Career Theory as a theoretical framework to explore the career motives of minority professionals and students in NR programs through in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Second, quantitative data were collected through an online survey of EE program directors to understand the priorities, methods, and challenges related to increasing diversity and inclusion within their organization, as well as any explicit efforts to promote NR career opportunities or continuing interest in the outdoors. Qualitative findings reveal that nearly all participants learned of NR careers late in the career decision-making process. Quantitative data from EE program directors revealed that 66% of organizations have a high priority for increasing diversity, though roughly 40% have no explicit efforts to promote careers in the field. These data are evidence of the lack of awareness about career opportunities in NR and a need to better promote career opportunities among people from underrepresented groups.