Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Arboretum outreach staff offer inclusivity training to foster a welcoming environment

The UW–Madison Arboretum welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors a year to the trails and gardens, and (when there is not a pandemic) hosts thousands of people who attend family nature programs, guided hikes, volunteer work parties, school tours, and day camp. Arboretum employees and our devoted outreach volunteers are committed to providing an inclusive, welcoming environment for all.

Outreach specialists Marian Farrior and Jennifer Mitchell created an inclusivity training tailored for outreach personnel that provides resources, build skills, and generates discussions on creating and participating in a responsive, attentive, and inclusive climate for working with a wide range of visitors and their interests. The training is designed to be dynamic, ever-changing, and adaptable to the audience.

The first training session was offered to the restoration team leaders – volunteers trained to lead other community members in ecological restoration work at various Arboretum sites. Work party participants include faith groups, university and youth organizations, civic clubs, families, and individuals ranging in age and experience. The second inclusivity training was tailored to the naturalists, who provide guided tours and nature programs for participants from young children to seniors. Volunteer Visitor Center receptionists participated in the third inclusivity training as part of the preparations for reopening the building to the public.

Farrior and Mitchell developed the inclusivity training using material from the Thrive @UW’s Bystander Intervention and Creating an Inclusive Workplace trainings (with permission). They also did extensive virtual and print research for additional resources to address biases in race, class, gender, religion, and abilities. They provided material for participants to read or view in advance, reflection questions to foster small and large-group discussion on inclusion and exclusion, and reference sheets on addressing bias and harassment. They also had participants review and generate potential constructive responses to troubling scenarios they might encounter. The scenarios spotlighted bullying, biased, or exclusionary behavior, as well as different responses one could take to interrupt the behavior.

Because the training was tailored to specific groups of outreach personnel, it helped participants increase their comfort with constructive intervention should they witness an exclusionary interaction. Participants also brainstormed practical ideas for creating a more welcoming environment at the Arb and contributed additional resources and information to share with the group.

We hope that the trainings and resources encouraged volunteers and naturalists to continue their own exploration and understanding about diversity and inclusivity, and to be informed, welcoming outreach team members.

To learn more about this effort, contact Judy Kingsbury at