CJ Goulding (he/him) is passionate about facilitating growth in three things: people, community, and leadership. In his work with the Children & Nature Network and Fresh Tracks, CJ trains, mentors and supports a national network of over 330 leaders who are changing systems and creating equitable access to nature in their communities. This work draws from experience leading outdoor trips, conservation crews, and youth internship programs for the National Park Service. He completed a MaED in Urban Environmental Education with IslandWood and Antioch University, where he studied the power of community and its connection to nature in urban settings. CJ has been featured in the Outdoor Industry’s inaugural “30 Under 30” list highlighting game changers in the outdoor industry, and his essay “Why I Wear Jordans in the Great Outdoors” has been published and featured in culturally relevant outdoor curriculum across the country. He is an eager writer, photographer, and lover of sharing and supporting stories.
Elyse (she/her) has worn many hats in the outdoor industry and education worlds. Since 2006 she has taken thousands of youth and adults on outdoor adventures all over North America, and during these adventures the interrogation of equity, access and privilege played a central role. In 2011 Elyse began her journey as founder of OUT There Adventures, a 501(c)3 dedicated to further bridging the gap between the LGBTQ community and the natural world. Along this path, Elyse has worked tirelessly to reduce outdoor access barriers for all members of the LGBTQ community. This has resulted in dozens of publications, presentations, interviews, trainingsand program partnerships aimed at increasing queer visibility and further complicating the narrative of who goes outside and how. Elyse’s work has appeared in places such as the Rutledge International Handbook of Outdoor Studies, in print and person at industry events such as Outdoor Retailer, and in March of 2018 Elyse was named a “Top Woman in Conservation and Environmental Justice” by ECODiversity Magazine. Elyse is also the co-organizer of the annual LGBTQ Outdoor Summit. Outside of her work, Elyse is known for her sense of humor best conveyed through perfectly timed message GIFs, and in her [rare] free time she can be found paddling through the central Salish Sea.
Sophie Sarkar (she/her) is an Avarna Group facilitation and thought partner. Sophie has seven years of experience leading equity and inclusion initiatives in both local and federal government. She most recently worked as an Equity Fellow for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability, managing their efforts to mitigate urban heat inequalities through community-led climate adaptation planning. Sophie has an MSc in Regional and Urban Planning from the London School of Economics where her research examined experiences of social bias in urban planning education and urban development initiatives. She has worked for the National Park Service, co-founded the PGM ONE Summit, and was recognized on the inaugural Outdoor 30 Under 30. She is also a visual artist and mindfulness facilitator.
Katie KogaDirector of Operations
Katie (she/hers) grew up as an “indoor kid” and did not begin fostering a relationship with the outdoors until later in life, at which point she noticed the disconnect between her love of the natural world and who seemed to participate in it. Rooted in a strong background of intersectional identities, Katie is passionate about working to amplify the multi-vocal narratives of all social and environmental spaces. Katie has applied her strong organizational and systems-thinking skills to support the work of organizations working in fair housing, service-learning, allyship and empowerment, racial justice, and community organizing. Her many, varied interests keep her simultaneously busy and engaged in her community. The “indoor kid” that still lives in Katie enjoys knitting and sewing, in addition to hiking or biking anything that can get a view up top.
José G. GonzálezPartner
José G. González (he/him) is the Founder and Former Executive Director for Latino Outdoors. He is an experienced educator as a K-12 public education teacher, environmental education advisor, outdoor education instructor and coordinator, and university adjunct faculty. His commentary on diversity and environmental outreach has been featured by High Country News, Outside, Earth Island Journal, and Latino USA, and he has been engaged in collaborations with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, U.S. Department of Interior, and the National Park Service. He also represents Latino Outdoors in several coalitions including the Latino Conservation Alliance and the Next 100 Coalition. He has been recognized with several honors, including the National Wildlife Federation, Grist Magazine, and The Murie Center. He received his B.A at the University of California, Davis, and his M.S at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment.
Aparna RajagopalFounding Partner
Aparna Rajagopal, J.D.: Aparna (she/her) is a former engineer and lawyer who shifted gears nearly a decade ago to supporting outdoor and environmental organizations with their justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) efforts. Over the years she has facilitated workshops on JEDI topics for thousands of outdoor educators, nonprofit leaders, outdoor industry professionals, land managers, conservation grantors, natural resources and environmental scholars, and conservationists. As a thought leader in the JEDI space, she has helped organizations that work on engagement, connection, caring, and management of “more than human nature” evolve to actively having difficult conversations about topics such as bias, privilege, oppression, equity, justice, and accompliceship. She and her work have been featured in California Lawyer magazine, Backpacker magazine, Outside magazine, Sierra magazine, the Adventure Gap book, and SNEWS (among others) as well as the She Explores and Outdoor Voices podcasts, and she has contributed to the Harvard Business Review, Earth Island Journal, the Journal of Leisure Research, and National Geographic Magazine’s adventure blog. She has also spearheaded projects that amplify stories and connections of black, indigenous, and people of color in nature, including Expedition Denali: Inspiring Diversity in the Outdoors. Most recently, Aparna co-founded and has served as director for the People of the Global Majority in the Outdoors, Nature, and the Environment Summit (pgmone.org).
Ava HollidayFounding Partner
Ava Holliday, M.A.: Ava (she/her) believes a sustainable future is dependent on simultaneously working towards social and environmental justice. She has devoted the last eight years to researching and working in this field. As a graduate student at the University of Washington in the department of Anthropology, Ava was able to deepen her understanding about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts and challenges in environmentalism, conservation, and outdoor recreation. At UW, she taught courses covering topics such as power, identity, environmentalism, health, and wilderness. She left graduate school to put theory into practice at the Avarna Group. In addition to her work at the Avarna Group, she has supported the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit and serves on the Next 100 Coalition. Throughout her academic and professional career, Ava has supported thousands of people and hundreds of organizations in service of deepening understanding of and cultivating skills to address oppression in environmentalism, conservation and outdoor education.