Student Profile: Roberta H. Hunter

Roberta H. Hunter stumbled upon environmental education 20 years ago while volunteering for a summer camp at a nature conservatory in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Hunter was always interested in the environment. She grew up in rural Maine and frequently spent her free time outdoors, but she never thought of making a career out of her hobby. After the summer ended, Hunter began interning at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she educated urban youth about water-quality.

Twenty years later she has held a variety of positions in environmental education, often in a leadership role. She obtained her Masters of Science in Environmental Education at Southern Oregon University and is currently enrolled in the Learning Sciences Ph.D. program at Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE).
In 2004 Hunter launched a successful education consultancy, through which she provides environmental and science education programming for schools, nature centers, and businesses. She emphasizes the importance of time spent in nature to aid children’s development and aims to build connections between students and their local environment.  One experience she found rewarding was working with the Princeton Regional School System where she implemented student-directed science research for grades K-5. 
“It was really amazing how excited the students became about the work they did, both the research and in presenting their findings to their peers,” said Hunter. “But what really intrigued me, and inspired me to pursue my Ph.D., was how effective this program was in changing the practice of the teachers.”
This experience sparked her interest in exploring how informal and traditional educators make decisions about environmental issues through problem-based learning (PBL).PBL engages learners to work collaboratively to find answers and solutions to complex problems such as environmental issues. Hunter’s research focuses on the development of environmental literacy in educators through PBL and the impact this has on the environmental literacy of their students. Through this work she hopes to find better paths for building and assessing environmental literacy.
Hunter is on track to finish her doctoral degree in 2018. Afterward she hopes to find a faculty position at a small liberal arts college or a leadership position at a national environmental education organization. Hunter has been married for twenty years and emphasizes the importance of outdoor experiences with her family.
To learn more about Ph.D. programs at the GSE, please visit the program webpage.