REI-Funded Center Promotes Nature-Based Research and Reparation

The name of a new University of Maryland research center is rooted in West Africa, but its promise to offer deeper understanding of the human-nature connection will come to fruition in College Park and around the country.

The Wekesa (which means “born during harvest time”) Earth Center will conduct research on the connection between nature and wellness, offer programming that offers people new ways to interact and feel a belongingness with the natural world, and discuss the ways that land-based brutalities and injustices like lynchings or forced exiles of Indigenous people have manipulated the land as a tool of creating harm and perpetuating anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.

In recognition of her nature scholarship, Associate Professor of kinesiology Jennifer Roberts received a grant of $160,000 from REI’s Cooperative Action Fund, the nonprofit branch of the outdoors company, to establish the center. The Wekesa Earth Center will be led by Roberts and Shannon Jette, also an associate professor of kinesiology in the School of Public Health. Read more about JPB Fellow Jennifer Roberts’ research.