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Chicago Wilderness Congress 2020

Inspiring Healthy Communities for People and Nature

Thursday, April 2, 2020

UIC Forum - Chicago, IL

Chicago Wilderness is a regional alliance that connects people working in conservation, business, science, education and beyond. Together we tackle challenging issues and strive to foster a resilient region. Building on a 20-year legacy of collaboration, our broad alliance of member organizations advance work in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

The Chicago Wilderness Congress 2020 is a daylong conference that brings together 500+ practitioners, individuals, students, researchers, volunteers and leaders representing government agencies, cultural and education institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations and more. This regional gathering is an opportunity to inspire dialogue, catalyze new ideas, and create opportunities for collaborative action.

The goal of Congress 2020 is to inspire and cultivate healthy communities for both people and nature through broad participation from all who call this region home. We believe that when all our region’s communities and identities are represented, we can achieve our common goal of supporting resilient natural ecosystems and improving quality of life for all communities, including those impacted by environmental issues. Congress 2020 is an opportunity to re-energize and strengthen Chicago Wilderness and ensure that everyone is invited and empowered to participate in conservation-based decision-making. 


Carolyn Finney, PhD is a storyteller, author and a cultural geographer. She is deeply interested in issues related to identity, difference, creativity, and resilience. Carolyn is grounded in both artistic and intellectual ways of knowing - she pursued an acting career for eleven years, but five years of backpacking trips through Africa and Asia, and living in Nepal changed the course of her life. Motivated by these experiences, Carolyn returned to school after a 15-year absence to complete a B.A., M.A. (gender and environmental issues in Kenya and Nepal) and a Ph.D. Along with public speaking, writing, media engagements, consulting & teaching (Wellesley, UC Berkeley and the University of Kentucky), she served on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board for eight years which assists the National Park Service in building relationships of reciprocity with diverse communities. Her first book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors was released in 2014 (UNC Press). Recent publications include “The Space Between the Words” (Harvard Design Journal Spring 2018), “A Thousand Oceans” (Geographical Research, Wiley Pub., Fall 2019) and “This Moment” (River Rail: Occupy Colby Fall 2019). She is working on a new book (creative non-fiction) that explores identity, race, lived experience and the construction of a black environmental imaginary, and a performance piece about John Muir (The N Word: Nature Revisited). This fall she was the Artist-in Residence for the Kentucky Foundation for Women’s Fall Residency Program and she is doing a two-year residency in the Franklin Environmental Center at Middlebury College as the Environmental Studies Professor of Practice. Photo by Michael Estrada.


Chicago Wilderness is no longer accepting proposals for Congress 2020. Please check back in January 2020 for a full list of sessions that will be offered at the conference.


Interested in sponsoring Congress 2020? View our official sponsorship letter or contact Laura Reilly at to learn more about sponsorship opportunities. 


Please check back at the beginning of 2020 to learn more about volunteer opportunities the day of Conference.


Congress 2020 will be held on Thursday, April 2, 2020 at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Forum building located at 725 W. Roosevelt Rd, Chicago, IL. 


Congress 2020 early bird registration will open in January 2020. The early registration fee is $50 for members, $75 for non-members, and $40 for students. Late registration is $75 for member, $100 for non-members.  A limited number of scholarships are available for individuals as needed. 


The 2020 Congress will continue to build on our student and emerging professional engagement efforts from prior years. Additional information will be forthcoming.


Consider becoming a member of Chicago Wilderness! Join fellow individuals, organizations, corporations, institutions and agencies that make up the Chicago Wilderness Alliance. Visit the Membership page to learn more. 

Check back often as we will update this page as details become finalized and more information is available to share. 

If you would like to learn more, please contact us at