June 29, 2021

“AM What?” Why We Need This New Organization

Last week, the Association of Minority Zoo and Aquarium Professionals (AMZAP) took over our Community Conversations webinar to talk a bit about the purpose and foundations of their group. Craig Saffoe, founder of AMZAP and Curator at the National Zoo, joined us along with several members of the steering committee. The mission of AMZAP is to increase minority representation throughout the zoo and aquarium industry.

To this end, Craig shared that AMZAP is comprised of primarily (but not exclusively) zoo and aquarium professionals who identify as racial minorities or People of Color. AMZAP exists to mentor and support minority professionals in achieving their goals within the zoo and aquarium field.

AMZAP was born of a recognition that minorities in zoos and aquariums lacked an organized affinity group where they could discuss common experiences and feel a sense of community. Additionally, many minority professionals have shared a lack of exposure to or understanding of the range of zoo and aquarium careers available to them, particularly in their formative years. Thus, AMZAP has identified these two areas–community building and career exposure–as their primary objectives. Within these objectives, AMZAP has four primary goals:

  1. Networking – providing opportunities for minority professionals and allies to meet and build relationships

  2. Outreach – helping add exposure and clarity to zoo and aquarium professions

  3. Mentorship – facilitating deeper relationships for learning and support

  4. Professional development – offering new opportunities to gain skills for long-term career success

These goals position AMZAP as a critical resource for professionals at all stages of their zoo or aquarium career, and even as a pre-career resource for those who might be considering a job in our field–or those who may not even yet know what a job in this field might entail.

As an important point of clarification, Craig also addressed what AMZAP is not. Despite working on related issues, AMZAP does not consider themselves an injustice group, instead focusing on empowerment of professionals. Similarly, AMZAP is not strictly a DEIA group. While they may explore and support intersectional issues, they are exclusively focused on racial and ethnic minorities. And lastly, AMZAP is not exclusively for POC-identifying individuals. White-identifying folks who wish to support and elevate the goals of the group are welcomed!

In the remainder of the session, steering committee members from AMZAP shared their perspectives on why a group like this is important, touching on several of the issues mentioned above. They also discussed ways in which folks can support AMZAP, including making institutional staff aware that participation in the group is approved and even encouraged by management. Speakers also made the call for institutions to become formal support organizations. Doing this does not come with any financial commitment, but instead spreads the mission of AMZAP more widely and allows for the group to benefit from different networks. Interested folks–including those who are not minority-identifying–can join AMZAP to participate in conversations, mentoring programs, and other opportunities. Lastly, spreading awareness about AMZAP helps the program to grow and serve more people in our field.

Click here to view the full webinar recording and click here to view a PDF of the presentation detailing the AMZAP organization.

Next week, our AMZAP takeover continues as we discuss ways in which folks of all backgrounds can further support racial and ethnic minorities in our field. Join us for another generative and inspiring session by registering here!

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