Sustainability through Diversity: Global Non-Profit Partners with LSU Manship

July 01, 2021

Building Diversity in Environmental Communications

When the Louisiana chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a global environmental organization with more than one million members and the largest such non-profit in the U.S., realized they needed more diverse messaging—and messengers—to reach more people in local communities to build broad support for life- and livelihood-sustaining conservation programs, they turned to the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication.

“Environmental reporting keeps the public informed about important issues that affect their daily lives,” said Karen Gautreaux, executive director of TNC. “But there are not many programs that teach the skills necessary to pursue a career in environmental communications [or train] students from all backgrounds. Meanwhile, we face an uphill battle to connect with diverse audiences to make the changes science tells us are necessary to ensure all communities are healthy and safe.”

The goal of the partnership between TNC and LSU is to increase diversity in environmental science as well as in newsrooms. This is why TNC chose Taylor Barnett, a first-year LSU Manship graduate student, as its inaugural communications fellow.
“I think the way that I’ve been able to help the most is really bringing an outside perspective,” Barnett said. “I’m a Black woman and have a different way of seeing things, and knowing how something might appear or resonate with younger people or communities of color is critical if we want to get more communities involved in a dialogue about the environment and conservation, which is something we absolutely have to do since it impacts all of us and environmental problems tend to disproportionally affect Black people and minorities.”

Taylor Barnett

Taylor Barnett is going into her second year as a graduate student at the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication and will continue as The Nature Conservancy’s inaugural communications fellow.

– Photo courtesy of Taylor Barnett

“We’re white, and the scientists we work with are almost all white, and we just couldn’t find a broad enough pool of candidates to be able to include diverse voices and perspectives to reach broader audiences. So, it made sense for us to turn to one of the best communication schools in the country and try something new. Part of our mission is educating future conservationists and encouraging students to see ecology as a meaningful career. Working with Taylor [Barnett, graduate student at LSU Manship] met all of our objectives. I have huge respect for her because when we first met, we told her, ‘We don’t know what we’re doing,’ as far as her being our first communications fellow, and she said, ‘Awesome, I’m in.’”

- Bryan Piazza, director of freshwater and marine science at The Nature Conservancy and head of their Conservation Fellows Program