Outdoor Education’s executive-in-residence, Britt McClintock, may have grown up in Pennsylvania, but her formative years occurred outside San Francisco, where she attended Sonoma State University. There, she majored in anthropology and threw herself into the outdoor world, continuing post-graduation at University of California, San Francisco. She worked in outdoor education with the graduate students at UCSF before eventually becoming a wilderness therapy guide. In 2016, McClintock came to Colorado College to present her documentary, “Genderations,” a film on the gender binary and how it affects parents. She now has returned to CC for Blocks 1 and 2 to offer insight on diversity and inclusion in the outdoor community.
The Catalyst: Could you describe your role as an executive-in-residence in the Office of Outdoor Education?
Britt McClintock: It’s kind of a funny question because it sounds kinda fancy for a general term, but the idea, basically, was to come in and talk to as many students as possible, as well as faculty and staff, about their experience at CC, and also the thoughts and feelings about Outdoor Education, what outdoor culture looks like. Then working towards what inclusion and diversity would also look like, but in terms of Outdoor Education. That seems to be a big — I don’t want to say “theme,” because that makes it sound like it’s not an important thing — but there seems to be this push from what I’ve noticed. I’ve only been here for less than three weeks. But this push for inclusion and diversity at CC as a whole, that’s happening. But then it seems like each department is also very interested and invested. I don’t think I came in with the intention of [working outside of the Outdoor Education Department], but as I’ve sat down with more and more students and faculty, it’s kind of turning into that. I mean the end goal is to give Outdoor Education observations and then recommendations about what I think needs [to] happen to make inclusion and diversity a thing. But as that’s happening, I’m realizing it has to come from [all of the college].
TC: What led you to working in the field of inclusion?
BM: For me, it’s not just working in the field; it’s been part of my life. So as I started my outdoor recreation journey in undergrad, I was kinda always the only person of color. I mean, back when I was in college I was the only woman on a lot of trips as well, so it’s always been on my radar. Nature, outdoor adventure, is for everyone, and for some reason outdoor culture has kind of turned into this exclusive thing. I don’t know if that has to do with branding at companies — like did it make certain gear more inaccessible for people who don’t have the finances? But yeah, it’s always been on my radar. It’s not just like, “Oh, I’m going to go into this line of work,” it’s been a way of life.
TC: How would you rate Colorado College’s performance in terms of inclusivity in the outdoors?
BM: Well, it’s been three weeks. From just numbers and the stats that I’ve looked at, it seems like Outdoor Education does a really, really good job including everybody. I think I wouldn’t be here if it didn’t seem like something really important to [the college]. It seems like a lot of students of color are going on trips and doing the Level 1 outdoor training. I think where there’s a block is the following through with that investment after the fact. For the amount of people that I’ve talked to so far, they’ll kind of start their Outdoor Education experience with their NSO trip or maybe one trip after that, but it seems like it kinda stops there. I’m not completely sure what that is. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
TC: How would you describe your impact on NSO?
BM: There are so many factors. If we’re looking at just students of color, it’s so individualistic in some ways. If you have students from inner city Chicago and have never, for their 18 years, been exposed to any of this, that’s one barrier. It’s really intimidating. I can’t sit here and lie, like it’s inevitable that a majority of the folks who are in Outdoor Education are white. That’s an intimidating factor. I think our challenge is redefining what outdoor adventure looks like.
TC: What do you consider the biggest barrier facing the outdoor programs trying to increase inclusivity?
BM: I was like a deer in the headlights for NSO this year. But actually, I would say it was a good thing. I don’t think that I personally had much of an impact for this year, but I had an opportunity to sit back and observe, to give some feedback for next year. I think, Outdoor Education does a really good job about talking about inclusion, but then I think what needs to go into place is learning how to facilitate really difficult conversations about what inclusion looks like. It can be really uncomfortable, so pushing NSO leaders to have those talks and facilitate those conversations would be great.
TC: What types of workshops have you offered/are you going to offer?
BM: The first one will actually be next Thursday. Most of the workshops will be discussion-based. I think the most important thing is hearing about how students are feeling on campus in the most honest way possible. You know, I think it is a hard thing to just come in and quickly tell me really intense things. So I’m hoping that the workshops feel smaller and people are able to discuss those things. The workshop for next week is actually titled “Redefining the Outdoors.” So kind of in the same sense of what we’re talking now, it’ll be about sitting down and thinking that we don’t have to be scaling mountains to be an outdoorsy person. So why don’t we try to put down some ideas of what it would look like to even sit in the grass and have lunch? That could be being outside and being outdoorsy. You have so many good people here, so very smart. This is a really special place. It’s important to hear from folks who maybe have no experience with the outdoors but maybe still have a bit of a connection to that.
TC: Based off of your time at CC so far, how do you think you will feel about leaving when the end of Block 2 arrives?
BM: That’s a good question. In two blocks and with your schedules, which are crazy, trying to sit down with everybody — there’s so many things. I’m kind of bummed out, when I think about it. It’s a little bit daunting to have some of the conversations and realize that I’m just not going to be able to do a lot in two blocks. Yeah, it makes me feel sad, but I think that if I can put some things in place in the next month and a half, then that can be carried on.
TC: What do you think is the strangest part about CC compared to other schools?
BM: I don’t think anything is strange, I like it. It’s got its own vibe and energy. Not strange, but probably difficult I would assume for some students to adjust after graduating from a place like this. I think all of [the strangeness] would probably just revolve around the block schedule. Also though, when I was in college, a lot of my friends and myself worked in the community. It seems like a little bit of a bubble for sure here. People don’t have time to work or do certain things outside of CC, so that’s kind of an interesting thing. It adds to the culture I’m sure.
TC: How does your documentary work with “Genderations” coincide with your work in Outdoor Education?
BM: “Genderations” was about discussions around the gender binary/gender socialization, and it centered around this question of “What is the obsession of knowing our baby’s sex before they’re born?” that helps us plan their life. So if you know you’re having a boy or a girl, for some reason we have this idea that it helps us figure out what to buy and what they’re going to do. We’re like already giving them these ideas before they’re even here. With those conversations, it ended up also being about race, class, and sexuality. My friend and I realized it’s all kind of packed in together. As far as that experience then with Outdoor Education, it kind of goes into the conversation of what being inclusive, being diverse looks like. All of those conversations are just as significant when it comes to Outdoor Education because once you get outside, you have some barriers that break down. I’ve talked to a lot of people who realize that certain gender stereotypes don’t exist once you’re outside. That’s a really good time to have those conversations. That’s why I think, for me, the push really to really get outside, even if it feels a little uncomfortable, it can give you a new perspective.
TC: If you could travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
BM: That’s a really hard one. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in my life, and whenever anyone asks me a question like that I’m like, “I should think of somewhere I’ve never been.” But I always go back to Spain, which I’ve been to a handful of times. But yeah, Barcelona. Along the coast. I lived in San Francisco for such a long time, so it’s kinda like the European San Francisco.