María Fernández-Giménez was recently elected to the Society for Range Management Board of Directors. SRM is an international professional and scientific organization dedicated to studying, managing and sustaining rangelands, which cover nearly half the earth’s land surface.
Fernández-Giménez, a professor in the Forest and Rangeland Stewardship department, began her new role at the organization’s recent annual meeting in Reno, Nevada. She was welcomed to the Board and met with various committees as their Board liaison to help facilitate achieving their goals. Accepting this leadership responsibility is a natural step for Fernández-Giménez in a society that she calls her professional home.
Over the 25-year span of her membership in the Society, or SRM, Fernández-Giménez has found many opportunities to make her mark. Her frequent service in responsibilities at the state chapter and national levels has reflected her strengths in international work and diversity and inclusion in natural resources.
Early in her professional career, Fernández-Giménez served as Chair of the organization’s International Affairs Committee, and helped expand international membership by making participation more affordable for members from developing countries. She learned of this need first-hand as one of the first Western scientists to research rangeland ecosystems in post-communist Mongolia.
“This organization is a smaller professional society compared to some, so it’s a place where, as a young professional or academic, I found a niche. I found I could contribute and that I could have an impact,” said Fernández-Giménez.
For the past two years, she has served as Co-Chair of its Diversity Task Force. This committee was organized after Fernández-Giménez and others wrote to the Board of Directors, expressing concerns about diversity and inclusion with recommendations for improvement in programs and leadership.
Soon after, she was invited to run for the Board of Directors. Her platform emphasized a more inclusive professional society that would reach out to bring new members from diverse populations, audiences and professions into its fold.
“I want to find ways we as a society can make sure everyone feels that they are welcome and they belong,” she said. “Unique backgrounds, skills and experiences will have something to contribute and there’s a place for everyone within SRM.”
Fernández-Giménez is well qualified to help the organization achieve this goal as much of her academic career has emphasized partnerships with people on the ground to conduct science that directly meets their needs.
“When people have input into the inception and design of a project and then help interpret and implement results, it makes our work credible, relevant and meaningful, and more likely to be widely used,” she said. “For me, that’s the process through which people come to understanding.”
Sustaining the future of rangelands across the world will require the individual and collective efforts of people from all personal and professional backgrounds. Fernández-Giménez is ready to use the next three years in her new role to help make connections from the grassroots level through academics and management to the larger scale of policy.