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Whose National Park Service? An examination of relevancy, diversity, and inclusion programs from

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Whose National Park Service? An examination of relevancy, diversity, and inclusion programs from

Abstract

As the U.S. population becomes more diverse, there has been a growing concern about the ability of the National Park Service (NPS) to remain relevant to individuals from different backgrounds, establish deeper connections with future generations, and to address the underrepresentation of diverse groups among national park visitors and in the NPS workforce. Implementing successful diversity and inclusion programs to foster relevancy, diversity and inclusion (RDI) is critical for the agency’s future. As the NPS implements RDI programs system wide, an assessment of current programs and initiatives is timely, providing information on the extent of follow-through, given policy directives and calls for increased focus on diversity in management. Thus, the purpose of this study was to catalogue NPS RDI programs targeting the areas of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, age, economic status, gender, non-English speakers, tribal communities, urban populations, and veteran status, as well as examine some of the key characteristics related to the management and administration of these programs. In fall 2016, NPS employees were invited to participate in a comprehensive online inventory of RDI programs implemented between 2005 and 2016. A total of 161 park units participated, yielding a park unit response rate of 39%. A total of 1,359 RDI programs were reported, resulting in an average of 2.68 diversity aspects per program. Age (n=662; 17.7%), ethnicity (n=456; 12.2%), race (n=434; 11.6%), economic status (n=391; 10.4%) and urban population (n=361; 9.6%) were the dominant aspects of diversity reported across the RDI programs and initiates. The majority of the reported RDI programs (61.6%) were located in three regions: Northeast (n = 364; 26.8%), Midwest (n = 247; 18.2%), and Intermountain (n = 225; 16.6%) and concentrated in one of two emphasis areas: Co-creation and Community Engagement (n=563; 41.4%) and Connecting Youth with Our Mission (n=251; 18.4%). Nearly half of the identified programs (n=645; 47.5%) focused on an external audience such as visitors and 497 (36.6%) programs focused on both an external and internal audience. The number of new RDI programs has steadily increased from 16 new programs in 2006 to 256 new programs in 2016. Of the 1,359 RDI programs, 17.7% (n=240) of reported RDI programs are conducted annually. Internal funding supported 61.7% (n=838) of the reported RDI programs. For the collaboration structure, 42.8% (n=581) of programs collaborated internally and 53.9% (n=733) relied upon external collaborations. These findings were discussed based upon previous NPS management scholarship as well as Stanfield McCown’s (2011, 2012) conceptual model comprised of six connected themes critical to the success of NPS diversity efforts. The discussion also presented several managerial recommendations for the NPS such as refocusing efforts to broaden the amount of diversity aspects represented in RDI programming, creating more repeat programs to ensure youth and community members establish long-term relationships, initiating more RDI programs specifically for internal audiences, increasing external funding sources, and cultivating external partnerships to improve program sustainability.
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Journal of Park
and Recreation
Administration
The Journal of
PARK AND
RECREATION
ADMINISTRATION
Journal of Park and Recreation Administration • ISSN 0735-1968
A publication of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration
Sagamore–Venture Publishing
1807 N. Federal Drive
Urbana, IL 61801
Volume 36 Number 4 Winter 2018
Print ISSN: 2327-0179, Online ISSN: 2327-0187
Journal homepage: https://js.sagamorepub.com/jpra
Whose National Park Service? An Examination of Relevancy,
Diversity, and Inclusion Programs from 2005–2016
Courtney L. Schultz, Jason N. Bocarro, KangJae Jerry Lee,
Aby Sene-Harper, Mickey Fearn, and Myron F. Floyd
To cite this article: Schultz, C. L., Bocarro, J. N., Lee, K. J., Sene-Harper, A., Fearn, M.,
& Floyd, M. (2019). Whose National Park Service? An examination of relevancy,
diversity, and inclusion programs from 2005–2016. Journal of Park and Recreation
Administration. doi: 10.18666/JPRA-2019-9052
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2019-9052
Published online: June 19, 2019
2
Courtney L. Schultz is the Executive Director of Health and Technology Partners, LLC.
Jason N. Bocarro is a professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Man-
agement at NC State University.
KangJae Jerry Lee is an assistant professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and
Tourism Management at NC State University.
Aby Sene-Harper is a Pathway Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Parks, Recreation
and Tourism Management at Clemson University.
Mickey Fearn is a professor of practice in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tour-
ism Management at NC State University.
Myron F. Floyd is a professor and head of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tour-
ism Management at NC State University.
is work was supported by the National Park Service’s Oce of Relevancy, Diversity, and
Inclusion and Oce of Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers.
Please send correspondence to Courtney L. Schultz, courtney@healthandtechnologypart-
ners.com
Regular Paper
Journal of Park and Recreation Administration https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2019-9052
Whose National Park Service? An
Examination of Relevancy, Diversity,
and Inclusion Programs from 2005–
2016
Courtney L. Schultz
Jason N. Bocarro
KangJae Jerry Lee
Aby Sene-Harper
Mickey Fearn
Myron F. Floyd
Executive Summary
As the U.S. population becomes more diverse, there has been a growing concern about
the ability of the National Park Service (NPS) to remain relevant to individuals from
dierent backgrounds, establish deeper connections with future generations, and to
address the underrepresentation of diverse groups among national park visitors and
in the NPS workforce. Implementing successful diversity and inclusion programs to
foster relevancy, diversity and inclusion (RDI) is critical for the agency’s future. As
the NPS implements RDI programs system wide, an assessment of current programs
and initiatives is timely, providing information on the extent of follow-through, given
Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion in the National Park Service
3
policy directives and calls for increased focus on diversity in management. us, the
purpose of this study was to catalogue NPS RDI programs targeting the areas of race,
ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, age, economic status, gender, non-English
speakers, tribal communities, urban populations, and veteran status, as well as examine
some of the key characteristics related to the management and administration of these
programs. In fall 2016, NPS employees were invited to participate in a comprehensive
online inventory of RDI programs implemented between 2005 and 2016. A total of 161
park units participated, yielding a park unit response rate of 39%. A total of 1,359 RDI
programs were reported, resulting in an average of 2.68 diversity aspects per program.
Age (n=662; 17.7%), ethnicity (n=456; 12.2%), race (n=434; 11.6%), economic status
(n=391; 10.4%), and urban population (n=361; 9.6%) were the dominant aspects of
diversity reported across the RDI programs and initiates. e majority of the report-
ed RDI programs (61.6%) were located in three regions: Northeast (n = 364; 26.8%),
Midwest (n = 247; 18.2%), and Intermountain (n = 225; 16.6%) and concentrated in
one of two emphasis areas: Co-creation and Community Engagement (n=563; 41.4%)
and Connecting Youth with Our Mission (n=251; 18.4%). Nearly half of the identied
programs (n=645; 47.5%) focused on an external audience such as visitors and 497
(36.6%) programs focused on both an external and internal audience. e number
of new RDI programs has steadily increased from 16 new programs in 2006 to 256
new programs in 2016. Of the 1,359 RDI programs, 17.7% (n=240) of reported RDI
programs are conducted annually. Internal funding supported 61.7% (n=838) of the
reported RDI programs. For the collaboration structure, 42.8% (n=581) of programs
collaborated internally and 53.9% (n=733) relied upon external collaborations.
ese ndings were discussed based upon previous NPS management scholarship
as well as Staneld McCown’s (2011, 2012) conceptual model comprised of six
connected themes critical to the success of NPS diversity eorts. e discussion also
presented several managerial recommendations for the NPS such as refocusing eorts
to broaden the amount of diversity aspects represented in RDI programming, creating
more repeat programs to ensure youth and community members establish long-
term relationships, initiating more RDI programs specically for internal audiences,
increasing external funding sources, and cultivating external partnerships to improve
program sustainability.
Keywords
Diversity, inclusion, National Park Service, organizational culture, relevancy
Introduction
Current demographic forecasts project that Whites are expected to fall below 50%
of the U.S. population by 2044 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018). However, in 2011, a signi-
cant tipping point quietly passed that signaled a new era in the United States. For the
rst time in American history, more minority babies than White babies were born in
a year. In 2021, the age group population under 20 will become minority White (U.S.
Census Bureau, 2018). ese milestones signal the arrival of an era where the U.S. is to
Schultz et al.
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become more globalized and multiracial, transforming culture away from the mostly
White baby boomer culture that has dominated the nation since the 1950s (Frey, 2018).
A “diversity explosion” (Frey, 2018) is being experienced across the nation, bringing
renewed focus, discourse, and change in individuals, institutions, politics, and social
culture. It is clear that the younger population will lead this diversity surge and the
subsequent transformation of the U.S. in fundamental ways. Recently, this discourse
has been evident even in the eld of outdoor recreation.
Organizations focused on increasing diversity in outdoor recreation have become
nearly ubiquitous. For example, Outdoor Afro, an organization that would become the
nation’s leading network to celebrate and encourage African American connections
and leadership in nature, was launched in 2009 using Facebook and a blog (Meraji,
2015). Social media has been central in amplifying the voices of the younger genera-
tion in their advocacy of diversity in the outdoors. Digital platform advocacy has given
rise to collective partnerships such as Diversify Outdoors, a coalition of social media
inuencers: “leaders in social media advocacy of promoting diversity and equity in the
outdoors” (Diversify Outdoors, n.d.). ese social groups are helping to redene who
nature is for and what those outdoor spaces mean to dierent communities.
Scholarly critic of media representation has also been an impetus for change in
terms of how the outdoor industry represents diversity. In an evaluation of 44 issues
over a 10-year period of Outside magazine, Finney (2014) found that out of 4,602 im-
ages of people, only 103 were of African-Americans, and those images were mostly of
well-known male sports gures in urban settings. is revelation led Outside magazine
to make a 2018 published commitment to address their “severe blind spot when it came
to people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with disability,
among others” (Keyes, 2018). e outdoor retail industry has insisted for decades that
increased diversity was necessary to thrive, but it has only been in the last few years
that the industry has nally seen progress and change at unprecedented levels (Cloos,
2018). For example, in 2017, REI released their “Force of Nature” campaign showcas-
ing women of all abilities, colors, orientations, and sizes, which became the outdoor
industry’s largest eort in history highlighting people who had previously never been
reected in the advertising.
While the outdoor retail industry is demonstrating an ability to adapt to an
increasingly diverse America, there remains concern and criticism of the National
Park Service’s (NPS) ability to become more relevant to individuals from dierent
backgrounds and establish deeper connections with future generations. Leading up
to the agency’s Centennial celebration in 2016, a number of popular media articles
highlighted an aging population and the lack of ethnic diversity within the National
Park system among both visitors and its workforce (Alvarez, 2016; Nelson, 2016;
Rott, 2016). ese workforce and visitation trends persist despite national reports
showing that overall outdoor recreation participation among younger generations
and Hispanic and Black participants as a whole has increased over the past ve years
(e Outdoor Foundation, 2017). Yet, visitor groups at many National Park units have
overwhelmingly been White, non-Hispanics (i.e., 90% or greater). is trend holds for
visitor surveys conducted before 2000 (Floyd, 1999) and for studies conducted between
2000 and 2009 (Weber & Sultana, 2013a). A congressional letter to then-Director Jon
Jarvis in April 2016 implored the NPS to make the system more inclusive and reective
of the diversity of American history and experience (House Committee for Natural
Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion in the National Park Service
5
Resources, 2016). e letter, signed by 36 members of the natural resources committee,
emphasized that if public parks are to thrive for an additional 100 years, they need to
be accessible to all Americans.
Other federal agencies have developed initiatives to respond to changing demo-
graphics and increased calls to be more culturally diverse. For example, the U.S. Forest
Service has launched the Urban Connections program to build connections with urban
and diverse audiences. (Dwyer, 2003).1 e U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS),
also within the Department of the Interior, has developed an initiative to respond to
opportunities and challenges stemming from the country’s changing demographics.
e USFWS launched the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative, a national-level program
that aims to increase the agency’s relevancy to urban citizens and contribute to the goal
of diversifying and expanding conservation constituency over the next decade (https://
www.fws.gov/urban/about.php).
us, similar to other federal agencies, the NPS has made various eorts to bet-
ter serve diverse groups. For instance, the NPS has implemented several institutional
changes in recent years. Key actions included the 2011 Call to Action, which presented
the NPS’s strategic vision for its second century (NPS, 2011). It states that the NPS “will
fully represent our nations ethnically and culturally diverse communities. To achieve
the promise of democracy, we will create and deliver activities, programs, and services
that honor, examine, and interpret America’s complex heritage” (p. 5). is was fol-
lowed by the issuing of Director’s Order 16B (NPS, 2012) which articulated policies to
guide the NPS toward achieving increased diversity and inclusion within its workforce
and in the services and programs provided to an increasingly diverse society. e NPS
also created an Oce of Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion in 2012 to champion rel-
evancy, diversity, and inclusion (RDI) within the agency and to support the deliberate
and systematic inclusion of diverse and contrasting perspectives and viewpoints. In re-
sponse to these policy directives and demographic trends, NPS units have implement-
ed programs and initiatives focused on aspects of RDI to engage new audiences and tell
stories that reect the experience and background of dierent ages, races, ethnicities,
sexual orientations, economic statuses, religions, veteran statuses, and abilities. Despite
these eorts, there remain questions of the pervasiveness of RDI programs across the
agency and the extent to which those RDI eorts adequately reect the faces of a new
American society.
Conceptual Approach
Commonly used conceptual approaches related to diversity in park studies focus
on visitation or activity participation and provide limited perspective on organization-
al change (Floyd & Stodolska, 2014). To address issues of engaging new and diverse
National Park participants, Staneld McCown, Laven, Manning, and Mitchell (2012)
conducted a qualitative study by interviewing NPS sta and allied organizations and
presented a conceptual model comprised of six connected themes (see Figure 1). e
rst theme, program sustainability, emphasizes the importance of programs to have
consistent leadership” (p. 274), consistent messaging across various management ac-
1Two examples: https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/u-s-forest-service-reaches-urban-audience-
with-urban-connections and https://hispanicaccess.org/news/us-forest-service-urban-connections/
oct-2018.
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tivities, and importance of meaningful long-term relationships with community mem-
bers. For example, “single event” programs without long-term follow-up or programs
that fail because of the departure of a “key leader” undermine long-term sustainability.
An example of inconsistent messaging was the translation of visitor information to
Spanish, but not oering facilities and amenities to support extended families in parks.
e second theme, inclusive histories and interpretation, relates to how experiences of
diverse groups are reected in interpretation. is theme reected the importance of
working closely with target communities to understand “the values, perspectives, and
experiences” (p. 276), ensuring diverse groups are part of decision-making or directly
as interpreters, and linking themes across “sites and times.” As an example of linking
sites and times, participants in Stanseld McCown et al.s study described how inter-
pretation in Civil War park units could be linked to stories at civil rights NPS sites.
e third theme, media and communications, challenges managers to use more non-
traditional media outlets and technology to reach younger and more diverse popula-
tions. In addition to incorporating new media and technology, program success can
also depend on recognizing dierent media preferences and the dierent ways diverse
groups access information. e fourth theme, creating a supportive climate, related to
how visitors and NPS constituent groups perceive the “climate or organizational cul-
ture” (p. 278) within the agency. In particular, the interviews data challenged the ability
of the NPS to recruit and retain a diverse workforce in a highly competitive job market.
e data also highlighted the challenge of projecting a “supportive NPS climate” when
dierent cultural groups are not highly visible in the NPS workforce. Related to this,
the h theme, addressing issues of workforce diversity, emphasizes the importance of
working toward an NPS that reects the demographic composition of the U.S. popu-
lation. It called attention to the need to increase awareness of NPS careers at earlier
ages, hire from local communities when possible, build support systems (e.g., peer
mentoring programs), and provide pathways to employment for interns from diverse
groups. e nal theme, community involvement, stresses the importance of strategi-
cally partnering with other organizations to advance diversity goals and to interact and
engage with communities who have not traditionally been involved in NPS programs
and initiatives. A key aspect of this theme was going outside of park boundaries to en-
gage community members and using nontraditional strategic partners already working
to address issues of diversity (e.g., housing authorities).
us, the proposed model describes participants’ knowledge of cultural diversity
programs, factors related to the success or failure, NPS goals as related to cultural rel-
evancy, and participant explanations for “under-representation” among communities
of color in National Parks. Staneld McCown et al. (2012) argued that programs that
aim to engage diverse audiences must be comprehensive in order to be successful. Un-
derstanding how the individual themes interrelate is critical for the NPS to become
more relevant to diverse audiences. eir model is particularly useful for understand-
ing organizational eort to promote diversity because of its comprehensive focus on
park management and interrelationships among management activities rather than
singular programs.
Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion in the National Park Service
7
Study Purpose
By applying this model to the rst comprehensive inventory of NPS RDI programs
and initiatives, we were able to provide a measure of the NPS’s eorts to address the
cultural shi propelled by the diversity explosion. Further, a baseline inventory of NPS
RDI programs and initiatives can be used to assess the success of the NPS’s eorts
to date to address critics’ admonitions for failing to diversify the agency for a chang-
ing American society. ere has been no previous comprehensive catalog of NPS RDI
programs and initiatives. To the best of our knowledge, no study has documented a
baseline scope and characteristics of RDI programs within the NPS. Establishing a uni-
form database cataloging and identifying dierent RDI programs and initiatives will
provide not only a foundation for further RDI eorts but may also have managerial
implications for other park and recreation agencies in the process of evolving to ac-
commodate the emergent cultural shi. Research shows that if users feel connected to
a resource, then they will be more likely to support it (Staneld McCown, 2011). us,
understanding how to connect diverse groups of visitors to a resource through RDI
programs can apply to managers of other public recreation facilities who are similarly
challenged to manage resources that serve an increasingly diverse public. Document-
ing the extent of RDI programs is also important because it provides a critical baseline
RELEVANCY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION IN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 58
Figure 1. Relevancy Model (Stanfield-McCown et al., 2012).
Program
Sustainability
Inclusive
Interpretation
Med ia&
Communication
SupportiveNPS
Climate
Workforce
Diversity
Community
Involvement
Figure 1. Relevancy Model (Stanfield-McCown et al., 2012)
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for future evaluation. erefore, the purpose of this study is to catalog RDI programs
within the NPS established between 2005 and 2016 and classify their characteristics.
Methods
Pilot Test
An online inventory was initially developed by the researchers in collaboration
with the NPS Oce of Relevancy, Inclusion, and Diversity and the Oce of Interpre-
tation, Education, and Volunteers. e purpose of the inventory was to catalog in-
formation about RDI programs and initiatives in the NPS over a 10-year period. e
research team worked with the two oces to identify 15 participants, all full-time NPS
employees, who agreed to complete a pilot test of the inventory and provide feedback
to the research team through either (1) participation in a focus group via conference
call, (2) private phone interview with a research team member, or (3) an email re-
sponse. In total, nine individuals completed the pilot inventory, six of whom provided
in-depth feedback to the inventory. e ndings of the pilot test were used to rene
the inventory through three iterative cycles of feedback from pilot test participants and
the research team. e primary changes made to the original inventory through the
feedback consisted of modifying some terms (e.g., changing the term “partnership to
collaboration,” clarifying the language around funding) so that they would be better
understood by park services employees and providing agency examples for each of the
seven emphasis areas for greater clarication.
Participants
Selected NPS employees accessed a web-based data platform (Qualtrics) to self-
report RDI programs and initiatives for the park at which they were currently sta-
tioned. Participants were recruited using three approaches. First, participants were
included based on employee occupational series classication (NPS Federal Job Clas-
sication Series 0025). is classication of employees was selected due to its wide
representation of general park rangers and superintendents, general cultural resources
and natural resources, education and training professionals, maintenance supervisors,
and RDI employees across the NPS. Second, a snowball recruitment was used in which
Series 0025 employees were instructed to contact a research team member to request
personalized links to the inventory for fellow NPS colleagues who were not included
in the original series classication sample, but who could contribute to the inventory
based on their extensive knowledge of their park’s programs and initiatives. ird, Park
Unit Superintendents were contacted and invited to participate in the study. Security
protocols within the NPS system delimit the total number of invitations that can be
distributed via email. To avoid triggering NPS email spam lters, we were limited to
including fewer than 5,000 participant emails.
Using the Dillman (2011) protocol for online studies, an email invitation describ-
ing the inventory was sent to potential participants between November 2016 and Feb-
ruary 2017. Prior to launching the inventory, an electronic memorandum was released
by the NPS Deputy Director of Operations to introduce the inventory to all NPS em-
ployees. An article describing the inventory project was written and released in “Inside
NPS” for employees to read coinciding with the initial contact email release to Series
0025 employees. e initial contact email was distributed to Series 0025 employees in
November 2016. Four follow-up emails were sent to Series 0025 non-respondents in
Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion in the National Park Service
9
subsequent weeks. Separately, an electronic memorandum was sent by the Program
Manager for the Oce of Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion prior to the initial contact
email being distributed to the Park Unit Superintendents. ree follow-up emails were
sent to Park Unit Superintendent non-respondents in subsequent weeks.
Each identied employee received an invitation to participate in the online inven-
tory conducted using Qualtrics; however, all responses were collected anonymously by
park unit. Potential participants were provided with a personalized link to the inven-
tory that allowed the research team to capture responses by park unit. In total, 3,120
personalized links were sent to selected NPS employees; of that, 1,809 personalized
links accessed the inventory. A total of 1,730 links completed the inventory, resulting in
a personalized link response rate of 55%. e park unit response rate was 39% (n=161).
1,864 programs that included at least one emphasis area of RDI were identied. e
Washington Oce and all seven NPS regions were represented in the inventory. While
respondents were instructed to only complete the inventory using their personalized
link, several park units submitted multiple employee responses using one link. ere-
fore, the response rate reects the number of links used to fully complete the inventory
and does not reect an individual respondent response rate. Cases without a program
name and goal were considered incomplete data and were removed from the dataset. A
total of 1,359 RDI programs were included in the nal dataset.
Data Instrument
e RDI inventory was comprised of seven sections that reected NPS emphasis
areas that consisted of the same 10 questions. ose 10 questions were about program
name, target audience (internal, external, or both), geographic location (Alaska, Inter-
mountain, Midwest, National Capital, Northeast, Pacic West, or Southeast), program
goals (goals of the action or eort), aspects of RDI (ability, age, economic status, eth-
nicity, gender, non-English speaker, race, religion, sexual orientation, tribal communi-
ties, urban populations, veteran status, other, and not applicable), duration (start and
end date), frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally, annually, one-time event, pe-
riodically or as needed, other, and don’t know), primary funding source (internal base
funds, internal project funds, NPS mission focused partner, external partner funds,
and don’t know), and the existence of internal and external collaborations (yes, no, and
don’t know). Participants were asked to report RDI programs and initiatives by self-
cataloging each program in one of the seven sections and completing the ten questions
for each program they were reporting.
RDI programs were self-reported under one of seven sections that reected NPS
emphasis areas developed as part of the NPS Centennial Vision for the Second Cen-
tury (National Park Service, 2016). ose seven sections included (1) Co-Creation and
Community Engagement, (2) Connecting Youth with Our Mission, (3) Cultural and
Natural Resource Stewardship, (4) Workforce-Centered Systems and Processes, (5)
Visitor Services, (6) Interpretive Programs, and (7) Other Actions and Eorts.
Co-creation and Community Engagement involves partnering with communities
to create meaningful experiences with the NPS. Examples of this section include, but
are not limited to, partnering with communities to develop park events, instituting
community feedback into the creation of programs, and seeking and establishing new
relationships with communities, organizations, and individuals that traditionally have
not been engaged with the NPS.
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Connecting Youth with Our Mission includes connecting youth to national parks
as a means to develop the next generation of conservation stewards, thus ensuring a
highly skilled, diverse workforce pipeline. Examples of this section include, but are
not limited to, partnering with diverse youth-serving organizations for experiential
and employment purposes, working with schools and educational programs targeting
minority students, and engaging youth in the development of programs and products.
Cultural and Natural Resource Stewardship includes research, preservation, and
conservation activities of the nation’s cultural and natural heritage. Examples of this
section include, but are not limited to, amending the National Historical Landmarks
and National Register of Historic Places nominations to include more diverse histories,
exploring opportunities to integrate natural heritage and cultural stories in shaping
interpretive programming, and employing diverse scholars to help nd and elevate a
more inclusive American story.
Workforce-Centered Systems and Processes includes eorts focused on employee
morale and empowering the workforce by improving NPS web presence, boosting in-
ternal communications, streamlining processes, connecting resources to opportuni-
ties, and creating eective talent management systems that are necessary for building
an inclusive environment. Examples of this section include, but are not limited to, de-
veloping a recruitment strategy to attract diverse candidates, ensuring that all print and
digital materials are accessible, actively using contracting authorities that reach diverse
and disadvantaged contractors and federal nancial aid recipients, building customer
service driven administrative and business services, and integrating relevancy, diver-
sity, and inclusion into developmental opportunities for employees.
Visitor Services includes eorts to ensure the protection of resources and enhance
visitors’ experience and safety. Examples of this section include, but are not limited to,
incorporating accessibility into maintenance, design, and programming; training sta
on inclusive customer service practices; providing information and materials in mul-
tiple formats and languages; and creating positive visitor experience through proactive,
positive, and educational encounters with park rangers/park police.
Interpretive Programs includes eorts related to traditional and non-traditional
interpretive programs. Examples of interpretive programs include, but are not limited
to, expanding interpretive themes to include broader and more diverse stories, pro-
viding multiple delivery techniques to be more inclusive in connecting to audiences,
non-personal and personal services geared to reach non-traditional communities and
audiences, and ensuring that internal park programming and external eorts to engage
communities are aligned and strategically implemented.
Other Actions and Eorts includes any Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion ac-
tions and eorts related to NPS operations that do not t under the previous section
categories. Data were analyzed using SPSS version 24 (Armonk, NY). Descriptive and
frequency statistics were used to assess reported RDI programs.
Results
Aspects of RDI
Table 1 provides the ranking of aspects of diversity. In total, 3,653 aspects of diver-
sity were reported for the 1,359 total programs, resulting in an average of 2.68 diver-
sity aspects per program. Age (n=662; 17.7%), ethnicity (n=456; 12.2%), race (n=434;
Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion in the National Park Service
11
11.6%), economic status (n=391; 10.4%), and urban population (n=361; 9.6%) were
the dominant aspects of diversity reported across the RDI programs and initiatives.
ese top 5 aspects of diversity were present in programs nearly 10 times more oen
than veteran status (n=70; 1.9%) and nearly 7 times more than religion (n=121; 3.2%)
or sexual orientation (n=98; 2.6%).
Most RDI programs reported incorporating multiple aspects of diversity; 58% of
the total programs included two or more aspects of diversity. Two hundred twenty
(16%) programs reported six or more diversity aspects. One hundred fourteen (8.4%)
programs reported four diversity aspects, 183 (13.5%) programs reported three diver-
sity aspects, and nearly 17% (n=226) of programs reported two diversity aspects. ree
hundred thirty-six (24.7%) programs incorporated only one aspect of diversity. ere
were 73 programs that indicated an “other” aspect but did not specify the diversity
aspect, and 207 programs did not select any of the listed diversity aspects categories
on the inventory.
RELEVANCY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION IN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 61
Table 1
Ranking of Aspects of Diversity (reported yes)
Rank
Diversity Aspect
Percentage
1
Age
17.7%
2
Ethnicity
12.2%
3
Race
11.6%
4
Economic Status
10.4%
5
Urban Populations
9.6%
6
Tribal Communities
6.9%
7
Ability
6.8%
8
Gender
6.6%
9
Non-English Speaker
5.9%
10
Religion
3.2%
11
Sexual Orientation
2.6%
12
Not Applicable
2.6%
13
Other
1.9%
14
Veteran Status
1.9%
Table 1
Ranking of Aspects of Diversity (reported yes)
Geographic Location
e majority of the reported RDI programs (61.6%) were located in three regions:
Northeast (n = 364; 26.8%), Midwest (n = 247; 18.2%), and Intermountain (n = 225;
16.6%). ese three regions also account for the most park units reported. e remain-
ing RDI programs (38.4%) were located across the Southeast (n = 185; 13.6%), Pacic
West (n = 161; 11.8%), Alaska (n = 87; 6.4%), National Capital (n = 85; 6.3%), and
Washington Oce (n = 5; 0.4%). e response rate of the park units within the regions
ranges from 25% to 47.6%.
RDI Emphasis Areas
Across the NPS, nearly 60% of all reported RDI programs were concentrated in
one of two emphasis areas: Co-creation and Community Engagement (n=563; 41.4%)
and Connecting Youth with Our Mission (n=251; 18.4%). Visitor Services (n=158) ac-
counted for 11.6% of programs. Cultural and Natural Resource Stewardship (n=122;
8.9%), Interpretive Programs (n=122; 8.9%), and Workforce-Centered Systems and
Processes (n=121; 8.9%) were almost equally reported.
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Program Audience
Most of the reported RDI programs were externally focused: 645 (47.5%) pro-
grams focused on an external (visitor) audience, and 497 (36.6%) programs focused on
both an external and internal audience. External programs oen focus on highlighting
a specic theme such as the Girl Power! Female Engineers in Lowell Exhibit and Pro-
gram. Programs focused on an internal and external audience oen center on acces-
sibility projects, but also include dynamic programs, such as one collaboration with a
local middle school as part of the Director’s Call to Action program that followed the
same class through ve years, giving an in-depth look at the park’s divisions with the
hope of becoming more relevant to youth and educating them about future jobs op-
portunities with the agency.
Only 212 (15.6%) RDI programs were designated for NPS sta. Such internal pro-
grams ranged from the use of the Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment to hire a diverse
workforce in a Southeastern park unit to establishing gender-neutral sta bathrooms.
Program Longevity
According to respondents, 209 programs were begun in 2005. is number may
also capture programs started prior to 2005, but that were running in 2005 and there-
fore were included by respondents. e number of introduced RDI programs has
steadily increased annually from 16 new programs in 2006 to 256 new programs in
2016 (Figure 2). Nearly 70% of the reported RDI programs (n=930) are still ongoing.
However, beginning in 2009 (n=9) and continuing through 2016 (n=140), the number
of discontinued programs increases sharply. is in part could be explained by a num-
ber of one-o RDI initiatives (e.g., some of the NPS Centennial celebratory events) as
opposed to ongoing, continuous RDI initiatives.
RELEVANCY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION IN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 59
Figure 2. Number of RDI programs initiated by year.
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
Number of Programs
Newly Initiated Programs
Figure 2. Number of RDI programs initiated by year.
Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion in the National Park Service
13
Frequency of the Program
Of the 1,359 RDI programs, 17.7% (n=240) of reported RDI programs are con-
ducted annually. Programs run periodically, as determined by the park, represented
16.5% (n=224) of the reported RDI programs, while 16.3% (n=222) are seasonal pro-
grams. 13.2% (n=180) of the RDI programs run daily, compared to 11.9% (162) of RDI
programs oered as one-time events. Respectively, 4% of RDI programs are held either
weekly (n=61) or monthly (n=65). Programs reporting other non-specied frequency
represented 12.1% (n=164) of the total, and 3.0% (n=41) of RDI programs did not
report frequency.
Primary Funding Source
Internal funding (either base or project funding) supported 61.7% (n=838) of the
reported RDI programs (Figure 3). External partner funds were the primary funding
for 11.3% (n=154) of programs, while NPS mission focused external partners were the
primary funding for 9.2% (n=125) of RDI programs. 17.5% (n=231) of programs were
reported as either unsure or as a non-response.
Table 2 outlines how each RDI aspect was supported. Many RDI initiatives were
primarily funded by internal funding. Across the aspects of diversity, the reliance on
internal funding uctuates. For example, 67% of funding for veteran status and ability
programs (see Figure 3), 68% of funding for tribal community programming, and 69%
of funding for religion-focused programs is provided by internal NPS sources, high-
lighting a less diversied funding base than other aspects of diversity such as economic
status (54%) or urban populations (54%).
RELEVANCY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION IN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 59
Figure 2. Number of RDI programs initiated by year.
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
Number of Programs
Newly Initiated Programs
RELEVANCY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION IN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 60
Figure 3. Primary funding sources for RDI programs.
618
45%
220
16%
129
10%
154
11%
238
18%
Primary Funding Sources
Internal Base Funds
Internal Project Funds
NPS Missi on Focused Partner
External Partner Funds
Don't Know
Figure 3. Primary funding sources for RDI programs.
Partnership Collaborations
ere were no clear trends when examining the presence of internal collabora-
tions with other NPS units/programs; 42.8% (n=581) of programs collaborated inter-
nally, while 46.7% (n=635) of programs did not engage in internal collaboration.
However, a strong trend did emerge when examining external collaborations. Of
the reported RDI programs, 53.9% (n=733) relied upon external collaborations while
30.6% (n=416) did not engage in external collaborations. ere were no reported ex-
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ternal collaborations for 15.3% (n=209) of RDI programs. ese external partnerships
ranged from corporate partners (e.g., Amtrak Railroad Corporation of America), aca-
demic partners (e.g., colleges and universities), and local and state agencies (e.g., police
departments), to other federal agencies (e.g., National Aeronautics and Space Admin-
istration).
Discussion and Implications
To the best of our knowledge, this study provides the rst comprehensive catalogue
of RDI programs across the NPS and serves as a foundation for further eorts in this
area. is catalogue provides a baseline assessment of RDI eorts, giving agency deci-
sion makers an overview of where RDI programs exist, what areas of diversity are cur-
rently represented, and can guide continued discourse around the NPS eorts to evolve
symbiotically with the rapidly expanding diversity in America. Results presented in
this study should be interpreted for what they are: an initial self-reported catalogue of
RDI eorts that quantitatively documents the NPS’s RDI eorts over a 10-year period.
Four themes from Staneld McCowns model are used as a framework to explore nd-
ings from the study and their managerial implications are worth further elaboration.
Inclusive Histories and Interpretation
Agency gains toward inclusive programming have not been equal. While studies
have concluded that more management attention is needed to address racial and ethnic
diversity (e.g., Floyd, 1999; Krymkowski, Manning, & Valliere, 2014 ; Le, 2012; Taylor,
Grandjean, & Gramann, 2011; Weber & Sultana, 2013a, 2013b; Xiao et al., 2017), an
assessment of the aspects of diversity reported in this study reveal that age, ethnicity,
and race were the most frequently reported RDI programs at a rate of between 7 and
10 times more than religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. e Department of
Veterans Aairs estimates that 7.3% of living Americans have served in the military at
one point, and the percentage of non-White veterans is expected to increase through
2037 (U.S. Department of Veterans Aairs, 2017), yet in the RDI catalogue veteran
status was only present in 1.9% of the reported programs. While there have been eorts
within the agency to expand its repertoire of inclusive histories, as shown by the 2016
RELEVANCY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION IN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 62
Table 2
Primary funding for programs by aspect of RDI (reported yes)
Aspect of RDI
Internal Funds
NPS Mission Focused Partner
External Funds
Don't Know
n
%
n
%
n
%
n
%
Ability
170
67.5
16
6.3
31
12.3
35
13.9
Age
392
59.8
79
12.1
99
15.1
85
13.0
Economic Status
209
53.6
54
13.8
72
18.5
55
14.1
Ethnicity
285
62.9
48
10.6
59
13.0
61
13.5
Gender
160
64.8
18
7.3
35
14.2
34
13.8
Non-English Speaker
121
54.5
31
14.0
34
15.3
36
16.2
Race
257
59.9
53
12.4
58
13.5
61
14.2
Religion
83
68.6
8
6.6
15
12.4
15
12.4
Sexual Orientation
63
65.5
6
6.3
10
10.4
17
17.7
Tribal Communities
176
68.0
22
8.5
33
12.7
28
10.8
Urban Populations
194
54.2
38
10.6
56
15.6
70
19.6
Veteran Status
47
67.1
2
2.9
12
17.1
9
12.9
Other
47
64.4
6
8.2
14
19.2
6
8.2
Not Applicable
58
61.1
129
9.6
6
6.3
23
24.2
Table 2
Primary Funding for Programs by Aspect of RDI (reported yes)
Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion in the National Park Service
15
LGBTQ Heritage eme Study that comprehensively explored the legacy of the gay,
lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community and examined how it can be recognized
and interpreted moving forward (Springate, 2016), there is a clear disparity across the
agency in equitably representing certain aspects of diversity. Studies have shown that
diverse groups still do not see themselves represented at many NPS sites nor in the
sta serving visitors at those sites (Bowman & Bu, 2017; Jones, Shipley, & Ul-Hasan,
2017). Park stories and interpretations are oen presented from a Eurocentric view-
point, leaving the history of people of color and other marginalized groups ignored, or
worse, distorted (Lockhart, 2006; Taylor, 2000).
Community Involvement
e inventory of RDI programs revealed that approximately 60% of reported ef-
forts encouraged community members and youth to experience the NPS. Furthermore,
almost 54% of reported RDI programs collaborated with external partners, signifying
an opportunity for the agency to expand their partnerships and cultivate greater di-
versity in community relationships. Staneld McCown et al. (2012) highlighted the
importance of ensuring target audiences gain in-depth experiences and establish a
long-term relationship with National Park sites. Strengthening the depth of these re-
lationships will enable managers to provide diverse audiences and communities with
an opportunity to understand the NPS, its mission, and available careers in the agency.
For example, the agency can target youths and continue the relationship from grade
school to college via dierent program designs such as school programs, junior ranger
programs, and internships. In this way, the agency can develop enduring relationships
with not only the program participant, but also with their family and community.
While there are major challenges and constraints to creating partnerships for diversity
and inclusion, the acknowledgement and celebration of diverse organizations can lead
to success (Makopondo, 2006).
Program Sustainability
More than half of the RDI programs reported were oered with varying repeated
frequency. An important aspect of program sustainability is oering programs that
are more than one-o specialty events (Staneld McCown et al., 2012), especially as
threshold or one-time programs have been shown to be unsuccessful at converting tar-
geted visitors into continuous visitors (Santucci, Floyd, Bocarro, & Henderson, 2014).
is baseline catalogue indicates that the number of discontinued RDI programs has
sharply increased since 2009. Although the reasons for the discontinuation are not cap-
tured in this study, Staneld McCown et al. (2012) stressed that developing meaningful
and long-term partnerships with community members and organizations can promote
program sustainability and help overcome leadership turnover and relocation. Prior
studies (e.g., Santucci et al., 2014; Staneld McCown et al., 2012) have shown that pro-
grams designed to engage diverse audiences have declined when a key individual who
was a conduit between the agency and the community le. erefore, strengthening
the capacity of RDI program ocers in relationship-building with partner organiza-
tions as a means to achieving program sustainability and establishing enduring rela-
tionships with diverse communities would further the mission of creating culturally
relevant programs.
Funding also impacts program sustainability. e inventory found that 61.7% of
RDI programs were supported by internal funding while only 20.5% of programs re-
Schultz et al.
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Xiao Xiao
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lied on some form of external funding. Although this nding suggests that securing
internal funding is crucial for the survival of many programs, its continued security
should be assessed in the shadow of a more than $11 billion infrastructure backlog of
maintenance that continues growing (National Parks Conservation Association, 2018).
It is uncertain how much longer internal funds will continue to be allocated at the
same level towards programming especially as diversion of entrance fees away from
the backlog during the recent government shutdown raised concern over long-term
park damage.
Supportive Culture/Addressing Issues of Workforce Diversity
Only 212 reported RDI programs focused on agency personnel. In 1991, the Na-
tional Park Service’s 75th Anniversary Symposium tackled the issue of diversifying the
workforce, yet it remains a concern nearly 30 years later (Mitchell, Morrison, Farley, &
Walters, 2006). Despite the creation of the RDI oce, nearly 80% of the NPS workforce
is White (Partnership for Public Service, 2017) and over 40 years old (CFI Consult-
ing Group, 2017). Sexual harassment within the NPS workforce poses further chal-
lenges for diversity and inclusion. According to a NPS Work Environment report (CFI
Group, 2017), approximately 44% of supervisors and 37% of superintendents within
the agency are women and many of them have experienced or witnessed sexual harass-
ment in their workplace. Signicantly, the majority of the victims (74.7%) made no
complaint, grievance, or report about their experience. RDI programs need to continue
cultivating an inclusive culture within the agency that will support successful recruit-
ment of a diverse workforce and greater gender equality. Research has shown program
participants are more likely to develop a stronger desire to remain involved with orga-
nizations through positive formal employment or volunteering experiences (Witte &
Davis, 2017).
e existence of this baseline catalogue of RDI eorts could also be leveraged
within the agency to de-stigmatize concerns and fear around publicizing innovative
diversity programs. roughout data collection, NPS employees voiced concerns that
publicly identifying programs as RDI would invite negative attention to their ground-
work eorts. Having the Oce of RDI and senior management of the NPS support
the importance of RDI and the baseline data, could be one way to encourage a system-
wide culture shi towards continued adoption of prioritizing the evolution of a diverse
workforce and visitor population.
Limitations and Future Research
Some logistical issues should be mentioned as limitations of the study. First, our
ndings are based on the recollection of NPS employees, leaving the accuracy and
objectiveness of the collected information imperfect. Furthermore, NPS employees are
oen reassigned to dierent units for career advancement. is continuous transition
weakens the historical knowledge within the respective park units/programs. Second,
early adopters of RDI programs were overwhelmed by needing to report a decade
worth of data. A few large NPS programs, such as the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation
Assistance Program, found it challenging to collect comprehensive data on their RDI
programs since they have oered hundreds, if not thousands, of programs between
2005 and 2016.
ese logistical issues suggest that creating a centralized data repository can help
the agency to track RDI programs by allowing for a continuous rolling collection of
Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion in the National Park Service
17
data. Moreover, it would allow park units/programs to slowly dedicate sta hours to
document and report their extensive RDI eorts. Given the resource constraints of
the NPS, providing a rolling online data collection would alleviate the logistical issues.
While this study answered the questions of if the NPS is engaging in RDI pro-
gramming and in what ways, there remains the question of the success of these eorts.
It would be valuable to undertake in-depth case studies of select RDI initiatives that
have been successfully as well as unsuccessfully implemented throughout dierent NPS
units. Case studies can examine what works well in the selected programs by examin-
ing factors that lead to successful outcomes and also learn from failed programs and
initiatives to avoid making the same past mistakes (Berman & Fox, 2016). us, the
studies are expected to provide some guidance to other units throughout the service.
We also suggest a return to the h theme from Staneld McCown et al.’s model,
Media and Communications, and the study of alternative media platforms’ inuence
upon how Americans perceive the NPS and their diversity eorts. For example, in re-
cent years, controversies have resulted in discussions around the NPS on non-govern-
ment sanctioned social media platforms, such as Alt NPS accounts, and government
sanctioned marketing eorts, such as the 2016 Find Your Park campaign which re-
sulted in more than three billion impressions (Davis, 2017; National Park Foundation,
2014). While there is research on the impression of millennial and non-millennial visi-
tors (Miller & Freimund, 2017), there is room to better understand how media plat-
forms can be used to engage diverse populations.
Conclusion
Stodolska (2018) raised the question of if research on race/ethnicity and leisure
had missed the boat. is study attempted to apply that question to the NPS. As Amer-
ica continues reaching these age group tipping points heading toward the 2044 predic-
tion of a White minority society, there is increasing pressure on the NPS to become
more responsive to diversity within its visitor population and workforce. It is obvious
from this study that the NPS has begun to act upon the call for increased diversity and
inclusion programming. Prior research showed that the NPS’s managerial culture is
fairly conservative, which may make NPS sites unattractive to younger generations
(Santucci et al., 2014). is generation gap, created in the diversity explosion, leads to
a divide between the older White majority and the younger White minority popula-
tions that is reected in broader American culture (Frey, 2018). e parks belong to the
public, and as such must reect the myriad of histories, cultures, interests, and needs
of the American public. erefore, what remains is not a question of whether the NPS
will become inclusive but rather by which mechanisms and to what level of success the
NPS will diversify in its eorts to be relevant for contemporary America.
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At its optimistic best, America has embraced its identity as the world's melting pot. Today it is on the cusp of becoming a country with no racial majority, and new minorities are poised to exert a profound impact on U.S. society, economy, and politics. In April 2011 a New York Times headline announced, “Numbers of Children of Whites Falling Fast.” As it turns out, that year became the first time in American history that more minority babies than white babies were born. The concept of a “minority white” may instill fear among some Americans, but William H. Frey, the man behind the demographic research, points out that demography is destiny, and the fear of a more racially diverse nation will almost certainly dissipate over time. Through a compelling narrative and eye-catching charts and maps, eminent demographer Frey interprets and expounds on the dramatic growth of minority populations in the United States. He finds that without these expanding groups, America could face a bleak future: this new generation of young minorities, who are having children at a faster rate than whites, is infusing our aging labor force with vitality and innovation. In contrast with the labor force-age population of Japan, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, the U.S. labor force-age population is set to grow 5 percent by 2030. Diversity Explosion shares the good news about diversity in the coming decades, and the more globalized, multiracial country that U.S. is becoming.
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