Photo by Nicole Litwiller

Two constant themes during my undergrad and graduate experiences at EMU were 1.) uncertainty around my career goals and 2.) working to embrace that uncertainty. I graduated undergrad with a Global Development major and continued my education at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, which I finished in 2020. Upon graduating, I knew that I felt most energized when living in the intersecting work of addressing climate change and dismantling systems of oppression. However, I still didn’t know what I was looking for in a job right out of school. I’d been working in a restaurant for most of the pandemic and I was in need of a change by the spring of 2021. So, I started the long and grueling application process: I created a LinkedIn account, had conversations with my friend and career mentor Amy Knorr, and submitted application after application.

I eventually came across a position with the National Wildlife Federation titled “Equity and Justice Storytelling Fellow.” Everything about this role was appealing to me – listening to and holding people’s stories, engaging with organizational change, and stepping into the environmental field. I applied without any idea where it would lead, but I really wanted it. Long story short, after three rounds of an application process, I got the job! 

I began my work with the National Wildlife Federation in September. I am working with the Equity and Justice team to help tell the story of NWF’s journey toward becoming a more equitable and just place to work. The National Wildlife Federation does not currently have a consolidated location for this story; it is held by many people and documents. Therefore, I am creating a shared and co-created narrative about these processes (both past and ongoing), which will also include parts of NWF’s history and the history of the conservation movement, as well as people’s hopes and dreams for the future of NWF. This work will allow NWF staff and other stakeholders to refer to the story as we continue on this journey. Additionally, it can be a malleable roadmap for change agents in other organizations also working towards equity and justice.

I was talking with a friend and former classmate, Lindsay Acker, recently. We noted that we didn’t fully appreciate the education we were receiving from the PXD department and CJP while we were in those programs. It wasn’t until beginning this job that I understood how many skills I developed in these programs. My Mediation and Facilitation classes taught me how to ask people thoughtful questions and listen deeply. My Restorative Justice class (as well as the way PXD and CJP work to integrate RJ into their cultures) taught me to think about accountability in counter-cultural ways. I learned how to formulate grounding and relevant Theories of Change in ‘Peacebuilding Theory and Action’ (or just about any conversation with TOC queen, Gloria Rhodes). ‘Leading Organizational Change’ got me excited about organizations and how they can transform. Every course and professor I can think of taught me how to critically analyze power, consider who is being centered, and notice how white supremacy, the patriarchy, heteronormativity, ableism, and other systems of oppression show up in our organization’s culture and narrative.

This is my first time being apart from the EMU community in six years. As I departed, I didn’t know if I’d have the necessary skills for a job beyond the EMU world. Thanks to PXD, CJP, and all of the wonderful people in these programs, I can confidently say that I feel prepared, excited, and qualified to help tell the story of the National Wildlife Federation’s equity and justice journey.

Nicole Litwiller is a Peacebuilding & Development (PXD) and Center for Justice and Peacebuilding alum at Eastern Mennonite University and is currently working with the National Wildlife Federation as part of Equity and Justice team

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