April 16, 2020 | Meet one of Conservation Legacy’s newest Board Members, CJ Goulding. CJ joined the board in 2019 with experience in leading backcountry trips for high schoolers, diversity, equity and inclusion facilitation, youth leadership development, and so much more.
We initially met CJ at Spark 2020 in Denver, CO last summer. CJ was one of four facilitators for this collaborative diversity, equity and inclusion workshop. Spark 2020 brought together a small group of changemakers to discuss the current status and budding potential of DEI topics in the outdoor industry prior to the massive Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. Our digital content coordinator, Amber Wong, recently hopped on the phone to chat with CJ:
Amber: Hi CJ! Thank you so much for chatting with me today. I’m excited for staff to get to know you. Can you introduce yourself?
CJ: Of course! Thank you for inviting me to interview. My name is CJ Goulding. I was born and raised in New Jersey in a Jamaican family. I am the first generation, born in the states. I initially went to school for engineering, but soon changed paths after some formidable internship experiences during college—I realized I needed closer interactions with people in my career. I led a group of high school kids on a backcountry trip through North Cascades Institute, and I began to see my direction and purpose in creating an outdoor framework for building leaders from diverse communities.
Over the past few years, I’ve really leaned into this passion, that purpose, of developing leaders. I’ve seen what facilitating community and connection can do, and the need to advocate for, and create spaces for marginalized communities. I want people from these marginalized communities to gain access to opportunity and growth, and to shift the systems that create those conditions to begin with.
Amber: Thank you so much for sharing some of your background and the powerful experiences that led you to where you are today. What is your job right now?
CJ: I work for the Children and Nature Network. I have been the Manager of Community Leadership Development since 2016. In that position, I focus on community engagement, youth leadership in nature, and DEI. Our whole organization works remote, so I work with leaders and communities all across the country. The counterpart I work most closely with lives in Texas, so between here and Texas we meet in person to lead the trainings and different initiatives we develop.
Amber: What does being part of Conservation Legacy mean to you?
CJ: Being part of Conservation Legacy to me is coming full circle—my way to pay it forward, provide input and guidance for young people with these opportunities. Lots of growth can be done in conservation. Being involved is an opportunity to support how those opportunities show up for other young people.
Amber: What has been your most prominent accomplishment in your work?
CJ: My most prominent accomplishment is when I see leaders that I’ve mentored in a program start creating their own initiatives, doing their own thing. It makes me so proud to know that the people who mentored me, who poured their energy and time into me, now benefits those who I mentor in their leadership development. Some of my mentees stay in contact with me—each person keeps connected in their different ways. Some become peers and collaborators and I present beside them at conferences. I am planning a program this fall with one of my former mentees, and I’ve even been in some of their weddings! It’s more than just work for sure, the learning becomes mutual.
Amber: Can you think of a time that was a turning point/ah-ha! moment in your career?
CJ: Before deciding to switch from engineering in college, I had the opportunity to go to an internship seminar at Grand Tetons National Park, it was an NPS Academy Orientation. The program was looking to increase the diversity in the NPS workforce. I was introduced here to some amazing facilitators. I could see and feel the care and genuine investment in me and the other interns. This was the seed that slowly began turning. It was also my introduction to the concept of public lands, as before this, I had never been further west than Michigan. I didn’t realize it then, but public lands, facilitation, and bringing communities of people together—it all fit my purpose.
Amber: What are you looking forward to in 2020?
CJ: The outdoors can be used as a framework for a lot of positive things. I have a personal project planned for 2020 that centers on positive male experiences in the outdoors. The program model is based on connections, brotherhood, and accountability, specifically for men of color. I’ve been putting the work into this and hope to get it off the ground this year! I think we need to be approaching the outdoors from a different perspective. We ran a small pilot of this program last January, and we are continuing to research and plan a second, larger pilot session later in 2020! Definitely looking forward to it.
Amber: That sounds absolutely fantastic. I hope to hear about how that second pilot goes! What’s a fun fact about yourself?
CJ: I’m an absolute goofball. I love acting silly to make others feel comfortable. I love being with people in person, connecting on that level, getting my hands dirty, listening, hearing stories, sharing stories. I don’t take myself too seriously. I can get down with a 3 year-old and be three, and I can get down with an 85 year-old and be 85!
Amber: And finally the last question. What’s a message you want to share with Conservation Legacy staff?
CJ: I want Conservation Legacy staff to know that the work you are doing is fantastic, and to encourage you to keep doing what’s important. As a fellow teammate, I want to play my role a board member in a way that champions and supports what you’re doing, while building a connection on a personal level as well!
Amber: Thank you so much CJ! I know staff will be excited to learn more about your background and your spectrum of experiences.