CelebratingYourLeadership Report for Maggie Walker

Significant commitment.
Profound impact.

During a period of significant change at Audubon and across the country, your inspirational giving has helped bring to life a more inclusive, more innovative conservation paradigm.

Organizational transformation at scale requires significant time and resources. It also requires visionary leadership to look at what is and to imagine what could be—the type of leadership you’ve always demonstrated.

Maggie, thank you for your enduring support for conservation, for birds, and for Audubon. Your generosity and leadership have been instrumental in creating a new vision for Audubon, creating spaces for new voices in the world of conservation, and ensuring we can all work together to protect our shared and precious planet.

 
Walker Fellows

Since 2016, the Walker Fellows program has imbued Audubon with new perspectives, new talents, and new energy from tomorrow’s rising conservation leaders. The latest class of Walker Fellows is a diverse group with expertise in film, marketing, and storytelling; they are supported by an increasingly robust mentorship structure—and by the guidance of several graduates of the program, who remain with Audubon in other positions.

For the first time, in 2021 and 2022 we extended the length of the Walker Fellowship positions to six months. We have always encouraged Fellows to undertake substantive projects that spring from the intersection of their own skills, their passion for conservation, and Audubon’s mission to protect birds and the places they need. A longer timeframe provides Fellows with a more substantive training experience and allows them to contribute meaningfully through these types of more time-intensive, deeper, self-driven efforts.

We also created new opportunities for mentorship and support to benefit all of Audubon’s interns, apprentices, and fellows—and each of the latest class of Walker Fellows independently volunteered to participate. Led by Elaine O’Sullivan, Audubon’s director of network support and education, this initiative is designed to ensure that those who are new to Audubon have the guidance, training, and support structures they need to find their footing quickly, build friendships and networks within the organization, and make the most of their experience.

Walker Fellows Class of 2021

Bethany Chan

Walker Design Fellow

Bethany is a Chicago-based designer and artist. As a Walker Design Fellow, they focused on the relationship between inclusive environmentalism, art, and social justice. During their time at Audubon, they had the chance to collaborate widely with our design team and colleagues throughout Audubon, and actively participate in projects that ranged from science and fundraising reports, printed collateral, and Audubon store merchandise to graphics and—the largest project they tackled—a 125+ page field safety manual for use by the Audubon network.

Claire Del Sorbo

Walker Social Media Fellow

Claire received their Master of Arts in multi-platform journalism at Fordham University, where they studied how social media can be used for coalition building. As a Walker Social Media Fellow, Claire helped create content that entertains, educates, and shows even the most amateur naturalists how they can become dedicated advocates for birds and the places they need. They made that vision a reality through their role managing Audubon’s Instagram feed, brainstorming ideas for new social media content, and engaging with community members on various social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook. They also helped to share their peer Fellows' stories by writing spotlight articles about them for the Audubon website.

Zakkiyah Madyun

Walker Visual Storytelling Fellow

Zakiyyah Madyun came to Audubon with the goal of combining her love for film and storytelling (she’s a Cinema Production graduate) with her passion for environmental advocacy and education. As a Walker Visual Storytelling fellow, she harnessed her expertise to create informative, accessible, and entertaining content for Audubon’s video platforms. Among other responsibilities, Zakiyyah collaborates on creating fun and engaging video content for Audubon’s TikTok channel and providing ongoing community management on the platform.

Gabriella Sotelo

Walker Communications Fellow

A graduate of NYU with a degree in Journalism and Environmental Studies, Gabriella Sotelo brought unique capabilities to her position as a Walker Communications Fellow. She wielded her skills to report stories that are important to birders, environmentalists, and herself. These included stories covering conservation issues affecting Latin American countries, explainers about the importance of native plants, and a series of profiles of scientists and conservationists working for Audubon throughout the hemisphere.

Alumni Spotlight

Christine Lin

Senior Producer

When Christine Lin joined Audubon in 2017 as a Walker Social Media Fellow, she didn’t know much about the organization—and Audubon didn’t know much about producing compelling video content designed for today’s online platforms. “I was encouraged to take initiative and to run with my own projects,” explains Christine. “The Fellowship helped me hone my marketing and visual production skills; it also transitioned directly into a more expansive role at Audubon.” After her Fellowship ended, she worked with her managers to determine how she might continue to sharpen her abilities and contribute to Audubon’s mission. The result was the creation of a new position within the organization: Social Media Producer.

 

It took Christine Lin only three years to transition from a Walker Communications Fellow to the co-host of Audubon’s popular web series I Saw a Bird, with guests that ranged from board members and scientists to legendary figures like Dr. Jane Goodall. Over that period, she evolved her role further and had the opportunity to mentor and manage several Walker Communications Fellows following in her footsteps. “When our class of Fellows first had the chance to meet Maggie in Utah, she told us ‘I want you to be subversive’” Christine recalls. “I took that message to heart, and I really encourage the Fellows I work with to do the same—to find their own path and to help drive Audubon forward.

Walker Fellowship Alumni

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging

We are deeply grateful for your commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. In particular, the Walker Fellows represent a best practice for engaging young people of diverse backgrounds and identities in the critical work of caring for our shared environment.

Your support for an extended fellowship experience has proven beneficial for participants and for Audubon. Over the course of six months, fellows were able to dive more deeply into their work, engage in more extensive and impactful projects, form relationships with peers and coworkers across Audubon, and develop skills that will serve them throughout their professional careers. They were also able to build valuable resumes; two of the class of 2021 fellows went directly into full-time jobs afterward.

For Audubon, the longer time frame enabled us to recruit early career professionals who brought greater experience and maturity to their role. As a result, they were able to assume greater responsibility and demonstrate more initiative—leading projects, working with colleagues in different departments and functional areas, and helping to better define and shape the fellowship position for future participants.

Expanding our commitment

Inspired by your example, the board set aside $1 million in fiscal year 2021 to help position Jamaal Nelson, our new chief equity, diversity, and inclusion officer, for success. In addition to the board’s commitment, the development team has raised nearly $950,000 toward our EDIB initiatives.

Of the $1 million dedicated by the board, we have disbursed just over $650,000. The majority of these funds were used to support activities such as the hiring and onboarding process for Jamaal, investments in human resources, and staff training.

We are currently in the process of determining how best to deploy the additional funds resulting from the fundraising development team’s efforts. These activities could include expanding the size of our EDIB team through strategic hiring, supporting a “train the trainer” model that will allow us to efficiently share EDIB principles and strategies across our broad network, and making a deeper investment in environmental justice work through partnerships with influential leaders and organizations whose goals mirror our own. 

This commitment represents an important step in making EDIB a true priority for our organization.

For a more comprehensive overview of Audubon’s latest efforts in this area, please see the 2022 EDIB Report.

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Centers Transformation

Your support for our Centers is powering programs around the country, with a growing focus on grassroots and community leadership.

Thanks to you, we completed a broad-based assessment of our Centers strategy, conducted by the team of Amy Kaufman Cultural Planning, PROS Consulting, and HG & Co., that helped identify strengths, best practices, infrastructure needs, and more. This process will position us to better integrate community needs with an enhanced theory of change.

The transformation efforts you've helped to drive have had several significant benefits, both locally and nationally:

We are continuing to revitalize our Audubon Centers as powerful hubs for education, engagement, and grassroots conservation.

Centers Incentive Fund

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, staff at Audubon Centers have been extremely successful at stimulating program innovation. In many ways, the pandemic has increased communities’ desire to spend time—safely—together and in nature. Our staff demonstrated outstanding flexibility and perseverance, not only in shifting activities to remote contexts, but also in facilitating modified programming that prioritized the health of our visitors while still enabling active in-person engagement.

As we encourage growth at the local level, we are also identifying and nurturing programs with scalable potential: programs that can be uniquely Audubon across the nation. However, as you know, it’s not enough to ask people to come up with good ideas for innovative offerings. In a national network like ours, it takes resources to put these plans into action. In 2021 we received nine grant proposals totaling $538,985, with an additional $577,200 of proposed match funds. Six of the proposals were accepted.

 

Maggie Walker Centers Incentive Fund Grantees 2021

Honoring Our Roots

Following their recent designation by the National Park Service as an Underground Railroad Trail to Freedom site, staff at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary at Francis Beidler Forest are working to build the partnerships, skills, and competency to better interpret the difficult history of the site as part of their efforts to advance equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. With 1,000+ years of unchanged, old-growth forest surrounding the boardwalk, Beidler Forest can play a unique role in sharing this history.

Engaging Native Landowners

Over the past several years, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center has forged partnerships with the Ponca and Winnebago Tribes to implement bird-friendly conservation practices and grow engagement with Indigenous populations. We now aim to expand these relationships to bring Plants for Birds to one of the few remaining remnants of tallgrass prairie, to assist with community projects on tribal lands, and to expand the use of Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center by first peoples.

Forging Pathways from the Classroom to Careers in Conservation

Following on the success of the Tenacious Roots teen afterschool program, Seward Park Audubon Center seeks to launch a new Elevation program that will engage an even broader swath of young people. The program will create cohorts in six schools in the Puget Sound area, empowering students to plan and execute their own conservation projects while connecting with environmental professionals as they grow their understanding of careers in conservation.

Bringing Wild Indigo to the Heart of Columbus

Grange Insurance Audubon Center is partnering with colleagues in the Great Lakes office to expand the Wild Indigo program to the Columbus community. Located within the 120-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park, the Center is a critical resource for the surrounding community, offering access to nature, educational programming, and art exhibitions for people of all ages in the heart of downtown Columbus. Wild Indigo is a program focused on thoughtfully engaging diverse and underestimated communities in conservation issues that are relevant and impactful in their everyday lives.

Reaching Diverse Communities in the Southwest

Rio Salado Audubon Center is also partnering with colleagues in the Great Lakes office to expand the Wild Indigo program to the Phoenix community. The new Rio Salado Wild Indigo program will explore partnership and engagement opportunities in the immediate South Phoenix vicinity, where they plan to help address the barriers and lack of awareness that make natural spaces and environmental careers inaccessible to communities of color and begin to dismantle perceptions that nature, stewardship, and environmental careers are not for them.

Welcoming New Fellows

The two Audubon Centers in California—Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary and the Audubon Center at Debs Park—are teaming up to create a new Community Conservation Fellowship program. This multi-landscape and dual-center fellowship will launch two young adults’ conservation careers and provide young people in two urban centers with volunteerism and advocacy experience.

Incentive Fund Overview

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