North Central College student receives campus ecology fellowship

Jul 02, 2013

Heidi Goetsch ’14 is just one of 10 students nationwide to receive a Campus Ecology Fellowship through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The grant will fund long-term improvements to campus, thanks to Goetsch’s leadership in establishing a new native plant garden at Oesterle Library—and gives Goetsch an experience that complements her environmental studies minor.

“My grant proposal actually emerged from my environmental studies class called People and Nature,” she says. “The class project involved how to relandscape the campus with native plant gardens, which attract wildlife like birds, butterflies and bees. Several areas were discussed, including Oesterle Library. Later, I went forward with the proposal to the NWF for the library.”

Her proposal was advised by Martha Bohrer, associate professor of English, who also teaches courses in environmental studies. “I am really excited for Heidi, to be one of 10 nationwide to receive an NWF campus ecology fellowship,” Bohrer said. “This is the first time any environmental studies student has applied for an outside grant. Heidi did her research and consulted relevant people. It’s all her idea, her initiative.”

As part of her fellowship, Goetsch will be designing a “Native Plant Landscaping Guide” to educate the campus on native plant gardening. Her second task will be to lead other members of the campus community to begin a native plant garden around Oesterle Library next year. She plans to recruit help from members of the College’s Green Scene environmental club.

Goetsch will receive $2,000 toward project costs from the NWF grant and will attend a training workshop in West Virginia.

“Projects like Heidi’s are incredibly important,” said Brittany Graham, sustainability coordinator. “In an area like downtown Naperville, there is not much biodiversity. Any open space has turf grass, which doesn’t promote biodiversity or help with storm water management.”

This summer, Goetsch is working in the sustainability office as a part-time employee and is conducting a greenhouse gas inventory for the campus. She feels that her experiences and academic work in environmental science and philosophy will prepare her for a career in either environmental journalism or law. “I’m gaining first-hand experience with important issues and programs,” she added.

Since 2000, the National Wildlife Federation has awarded more than 150 Campus Ecology Fellowships to students across the country working on projects ranging from campus-wide energy audits to implementing sustainable forestry practices, reaching more than 2.5 million students, faculty, staff and community members at the fellowship sites.