Conservation Voters for Idaho’s Boards and Commissions Fellowship program is intended to develop the skills and capacity of Idaho leaders and build the power of underrepresented groups to serve on relevant boards and commissions.
The 2021 Boards and Commissions Fellowship program is well underway, and our twenty-one fellows have been learning a lot when it comes to policy, how to serve on boards and commissions (and how to apply), and so much more. We wanted to start introducing you to some of these amazing individuals so let’s dive in with our first Fellow Spotlight – Jane White!
Jane White is a self-proclaimed geek, grandmother, history buff, and archaeology nerd. She’s also visited 46 of the 50 states, but hadn’t been to Idaho until she moved here last March.
Wherever in the country she’s been, Jane has always been dedicated to serving her local community. “In my volunteer work, I’ve served in leadership capacities on boards, but they’ve always been smaller boards – small school boards, athletic association boards, and so on,” she says. “But I wanted to expand my contributions.”
Enter: CVI’s Boards and Commissions Fellowship.
Just a month into the program, Jane is already learning to expand her knowledge of what it means to be an advocate and has found inspiration from the group of fellows.
“What I like about it best is seeing all the people who haven’t given up, who want to work harder to make the community better, not only for them and the groups they represent, but for Idaho and society as a whole.”
Jane is adamant that everyone can and should be working to make their community a better place. She encourages folks to tap into their passion and assess their personal skills and then, “go for it!”
To Jane, that has meant “ensuring the voices of the LGBTQ community – in particular the trans community – are heard, and to increase visibility and representation of the that community.”
As a trans person, Jane has realized others expect her to represent the entire community. “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me after they get to know me a little bit more and say, ‘you know, you’re the first trans person I’ve known, much less worked with, much less seen in a position like that,” she explains. “They told me it changed their perspective about trans people.”
Jane knows it’s harmful to have such limited representation on Idaho’s boards and commissions. When the same people have access to joining statewide boards, the institutional knowledge stays within those specific communities.
“We’re at a disadvantage because we don’t have that working knowledge,” she says. This fellowship is helping break the cycle that currently exists.
In part, that working knowledge includes professional connections. Those connections, Jane says, are what “allow you to integrate better into those boards and commissions.” The fellowship’s weekly workshops and trainings provide a space for the fellows to network and form these essential connections.
But the fellowship is also helping Jane answer even some of the most basic questions about potentially serving on a state board: “How do you apply for it? How do you get selected for it? When you get on, how does the process work? How do you make a contribution?”
CVI’s conservation and environmentalism angle to the Boards and Commissions Fellowship makes perfect sense to Jane. “It’s important for us, as a society, to preserve nature as much as we can — for us, for future generations, and for our survival.” Just like certain groups have been systematically excluded from boards and commissions, the multiple environmental crises our world is facing are harming underrepresented communities more than those with better representation.
“Many policies that are put into place are destructive and short-sighted,” Jane says. “We need to shift our focus to a more long-term focus that honors our earth-based heritage.” Bringing those with diverse perspectives and backgrounds onto state boards and commissions will help diversify the types of solutions we can expect from our legislature and other decision-making bodies.
For Jane, that starts now. “I want to pull back the curtain and look on the inside and see how things work,” she says. “I’ve always been a firm believer in being part of the solution.”