Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Pursuing diversity, equity, and inclusion is critical for a just and livable future. The Zilkha Center acknowledges the deeply unjust systems that have brought the world to where it is today, with low-income and communities of color frequently bearing the brunt of environmental degradation while experiencing a lack of decision-making power and access to environmental benefits.

At Williams, we also know that the work of sustainability is more relevant, all-encompassing, and successful if it is developed and carried out with the participation of the college’s diverse campus community. A diversity of viewpoints, lived experiences, and skill sets helps ensure successful sustainability initiatives that meet the needs of all. Historically, environmental and sustainability fields and movements have not been inclusive spaces for people of color, members of the LGBTQIA community, and people across the full socioeconomic spectrum. If sustainability is to be truly embedded in the culture and fabric of the college, we will do what we can to broaden the foundation and to diversify the vision and solutions to meet the needs of all members of our community.

The Zilkha Center is committed to pursuing DEI in all of our work — from staff education, to student programming, to project development, and beyond. Read on to see some specific examples of how the ZC integrates DEI into its work.

DEI in Environmental Initiatives on Campus

To see campus initiatives working towards equitable sustainability that you can get involved in, check out the organizations page!

  • The Zilkha Center and Davis Center join forces frequently (and even have a moniker of their own — go ZCDC!). They meet regularly and collaborate on Root, a first-year EphVenture focusing on identity, sustainability and social justice. In 2021 Root was back in person and a full success for the class of '25!

  • Sustainability is inherently intersectional. We seek to make those connections clear whenever we talk about environmental issues — in our educational programming, in who we invite to come to campus, and in how we help our interns connect their work to broader issues and movements. A large part of the Zilkha Center's work revolves around educating, skill-building, and empowering students through our internship programs. In 2022, we conducted a review of our internship programs to help us identify blind spots and improve our DEI practices. This allowed us to better target our internship outreach to ensure we have a diverse pool of candidates. We also participate in the Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge as part of our summer internship program and host field trips to local BIPOC and/or environmental justice organizations, such as Radix and SoulFire Farm.

  • The Class of 1966 Environmental Center houses both the Zilkha Center and the Center for Environmental Studies. The building itself is part of the Living Building Challenge, which includes seven petals — one of which is the equity petal. The equity petal strives to “transform developments to foster a true, inclusive sense of community that is just and equitable regardless of an individual’s background, age, class, race, gender or sexual orientation.” 

    The Environmental Center promotes human-scaled interaction, exploration and engagement with its accessible indoor spaces and surrounding habitats and gardens. The Environmental Center is open 24/7 to students via swipe access and has elevators to ensure everyone has equal access to the space.  All bathrooms are all-gender and accessible, and the various floors are serviced by an elevator. While the building exhibits tenets of equity, going beyond a building-by-building approach to campus-wide equity and accessibility is necessary.  

  • The Equity Drafting Table was part interactive pop-up and part art installation that fostered community conversations about equity in the built environment.  A tool created by the International Living Futures Institute (ILFI) initially for community conversations, the EDT was adapted by the Zilkha Center for our campus.  The guiding questions included: “What will it take to make my community inclusive and robust for all?” “How do the planning, design, construction, and inhabiting of our built environment create more equitable spaces?” To view community responses, please visit this google doc.