Formative Interests and Pathways to Natural Resources Careers among Historically Underrepresented People

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Department of Social Sciences; College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


The field of natural resources struggles to attract diverse talent despite efforts to increase racial/ethnic diversity. We explored factors influencing career choices among racially/ethnically underrepresented students and professionals in natural resources fields. The Social Cognitive Career Choice theory was used as a framework for analyzing data collected during semi-structured interviews of 15 students and career professionals. Results indicate that natural resource career interest generally stemmed from positive affections with nature, while career goals were strongly influenced by desires to positively impact individuals and communities. A number of barriers and supports were identified, including various social, experiential, familial, and systemic factors. The influence of these factors on career choice depended oncareer stage. Overall, participants expressed having little to no awareness or exposure to natural resources careers until later life stages, generally after matriculation in college. A number of suggestions were offered by participants to improve recruitment efforts of minoritized people.

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Society and Natural Resources