‘To illuminate and protect the wonder of our world’

That is the National Geographic Society’s mission—and the CEO says it’s vital to give people of every race, identity, and experience a role in that work.

Our world has changed dramatically since I accepted the position as CEO of the National Geographic Society in January, having spent the past nine years as president of Colorado College. When we look back on 2020, organizations will be measured by how they reacted to two life-altering global events: the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial justice movement spurred by systemic racism and violence toward Black Americans. National Geographic has covered both extensively.

In response to the pandemic, the Society pivoted to focus its education programs on supporting teachers, parents, and students with learn-at-home resources, including a series connecting students with National Geographic explorers on all seven continents. To help educators design distance-learning resources, we gave grants to teachers in under-resourced communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. And to ensure that news about COVID-19 was reported safely and included stories of marginalized communities, we launched a global emergency fund for journalists, financing more than 150 projects in over 50 countries.

At the same time, we accelerated the Society’s efforts to identify, support, and elevate the work and voices of explorers—scientists, educators, and storytellers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Though our community of grantees and educators has never been more diverse—in 2019, 62 percent of our grants were awarded to citizens of countries other than the United States, and almost 50 percent were awarded to women—we have more to do.

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