Rebecca Koetz

Rebecca Koetz

Forestry and Natural Resources

Nature of Teaching Program Coordinator
FORS 303
195 Marsteller Street
West Lafayette, IN 47906

Why Extension?

Tell us about your background?
I am originally from Joliet, IL, a growing Chicago suburb. Nature has always been a place of peace, connection, and independence for me. My favorite memories are of camping and swimming with my family, and exploring local parks with childhood friends and my best four-legged friend, Bella. I realized I wanted to study natural resources when I came to Purdue as an undergrad and met students from the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. I realized quickly that this was the program for me and switched from my original program. Growing up, I had no idea that a career in natural resources even existed. Because of this I feel privileged and motivated to provide nature experiences and career options for youth of all ages.
I received my B.S. in Wildlife in 2015 and M.S. in Forestry and Natural Resources in 2018 from Purdue University. My undergraduate experience included being the treasurer and then president of the Student Chapter of Environmental Education, and interning with Purdue Extension, where I created hellbender extension materials with Dr. Rod Williams and traveled around the state to teach people about the endangered eastern hellbender. My M.S. research was on the effects of education on elementary student plate waste. I created lesson plans for this research, now published on the Nature of Teaching website My undergraduate and graduate experiences, as well as my personal motivation made for a smooth transition to my position as Program Coordinator of The Nature of Teaching.
What is your role with FNR Extension?

My work includes promoting The Nature of Teaching program throughout Indiana and surrounding states, hosting professional development workshops for teachers, creating further lesson plans for the program, and fostering community engagement surrounding food waste and nature education.

How did you get involved with FNR Extension and outreach?
I began working with Dr. Rod Williams on the Nature of Teaching program as an undergrad and then as a graduate student. During my masters program Dr. Williams received enough funding to hire me on as Project Coordinator to expand and promote the program I know and love.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy how collaborative and dynamic my position is. I often have to make decisions on how to move the program forward and often those decisions are to collaborate with coordinators of other programs and outside organizations, and to travel all over Indiana and the U.S. to promote the program at workshops and conferences. Working for this program requires me to learn about what is happening in my community, instilling a greater sense of community connection. I feel that I’m able to utilize several of my skillsets with this position including curriculum development, social science research, meeting and workshop facilitation, and leading programs for youth and adult audiences.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
The biggest challenge I face is probably that there is no set way to do this job. I really have to pave my own way and make my own moves, which is both challenging and rewarding!
What part of your job did you least expect to be doing?
I didn’t expect how independent my position would be. I collaborate with my supervisor, Rod Williams, fairly often, but I’m able to make a lot of my own decisions, which is very rewarding and enriching.
Do you have an outside hobby?
I am on the Board and volunteer with a local nonprofit, Engage Nature, where we provide engaging nature experiences for community members in the Greater Lafayette Area. It compliments my position with Purdue very well and we often use Nature of Teaching lessons in our programs. I also belly dance with local community Troupe Oasis.