New York State
NRPA, VP of Education and Chief Equity Officer
Session Title: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Parks & Recreation: How We Got Here and Preparing the Profession for the Future
Autumn Saxton-Ross, PhD, is the former Mid-Atlantic Regional Director and Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Lead for NatureBridge is a DC resident and mom of two. In that role she oversaw programs at Prince William Forest and Shenandoah National Parks in Virginia. NatureBridge is the largest residential environmental education partner of the National Park Service, and its mission is to connect young people to the wonder and science of the natural world, igniting self-discovery, inspiring stewardship of the planet. Through its overnight, hands on programs, NatureBridge connects children to themselves and others.
In her previous position as the Program Director for Place-based Initiatives at the National Collaborative for Health Equity, she worked to encourage the use of policy and environmental change as a solution to health inequities, focusing on communities of color. She managed the Kellogg funding PLACE MATTERS initiative- a national learning laboratory that builds the capacity of local leaders to identify and address the social, economic, and environmental conditions that shape health, opportunities and resources and promotes innovative strategies to address those conditions in order to create a national health equity movement.
Previously, she has been the Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity (PANO) Specialist for the DC Department of Health and the Assistant Director for Health in Parks for Washington Parks & People. In those positions, she focused on environmental and policy approaches to healthy eating and active living and promoting the natural connection between parks, recreation and health. Prior to receiving her doctorate, she was the Health and Wellness Coordinator for both Montgomery County and DC Recreation departments, taught Women’s Health for Howard University and was an Elementary Physical Education and Health teacher for DC Public Schools.
With degrees in sociology, health education, and exercise science, her research, academic and professional interests are on the social and physical environment and their influences on physical activity, opportunity and resources, specifically in Black and urban populations, and the health benefits of parks and green spaces. Her life’s work is improving the health of communities through engagement, activity, education, exposure and opportunity, truly believing that a healthy life is lived better outdoors.
Autumn is a connector- actively seeking out ways to build bridges between seemingly disparate people, opportunities and ideas. And if you really want to see a sparkle in her eye, start a conversation on all things Marvel, Octavia Butler or Star Trek: The Next Generation.