Jack Van Etten sits in front of green bushes

Jack Van Etten interned with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) as an undergraduate of Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. He is a senior majoring in Environmental Science with minors in Marine Biology and Global Communications. Funded by IISG and mentored by Kara Salazar, Van Etten was positioned at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.


I spent my summer working with Purdue Extension and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, specializing in sustainable community development. During my internship, I gained experience working with counties across the State of Indiana, aiding them as they produced plans to develop rain gardens, deal with invasive species and promote sustainable efforts.

In my time with the program, I worked on the following projects:

  • Podcast Series – In order to prepare communities to go through the Purdue Extension planning process, I created an informative podcast series that could be used for introductory material. This podcast series covered subjects such as the social determinants of health, keys to healthy eating and active living, strategizing and crafting an action plan. I had never written or produced a podcast before, so it was interesting to work through that creation process.

  • Rain Garden Templates – Working with multiple counties, I developed a template for promoting rain gardens. This was focused around making information on depth, plants, shape, composition and drainage easier for the public to access, with the goal of inspiring communities to build more rain gardens to help with stormwater drainage.

  • County Planning – To deal with controlling the spread of invasive species, I assisted Pulaski County as they started to develop an invasive species plan. To do this, we assessed the strengths of the county, the goals that they wanted to accomplish and the best strategies to accomplish these goals. This was a process that should encourage and guide the county towards a system that will help quell the push of invasive species.

Before this internship, I was unfamiliar with sustainable practices in Indiana and the planning processes that must be undertaken to get those sustainable practices going. However, over the summer I gained experience with promoting sustainability and invasive species awareness, as well as the production of plans. During my time with the IISG and Purdue Extension programs, I also got practice with networking, improving my rhetoric in a business setting, learning graphic design and performing outreach in both casual and professional settings.

I leave this program to return to my senior year at Roger Williams University, where I am majoring in Environmental Science with minors in Marine Biology and Global Communications.


Learn more about our internship opportunities online, or contact Angie Archer at (765)496-3722, amcbride@purdue.edu.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension.