A Steadfast Path: My Urban Forestry and USDA Forest Service Journey
By Beattra Wilson, Photos Courtesy of the Author
Beattra Wilson began her career with the USDA Forest Service in 2002 in Atlanta as an urban forestry trainee; she is now the Forest Service Assistant Director of Cooperative Forestry and National Lead for Urban and Community Forestry. We asked Beattra to share some of her educational and career trajectory and what excites her about her work. Here she is in her own words.
I grew up surrounded by pine forests in a small town in Louisiana called Oakdale. I was introduced to agriculture education and career opportunities beginning in fourth grade through my involvement with 4-H. I competed at the parish and statewide fairs in the 4-H Sew with Cotton and Public Speaking contests.
Those 4-H experiences helped propel me to hold leadership roles in high school. I also had a pivotal experience at a summer agricultural camp at Southern University and A&M College, a historically black college and university (HBCU) system, where I learned in depth about urban forestry and other agriculture professions. (This summer agriculture institute continues to serve 40-50 students each summer, and the Forest Service is a supporting partner.)
As I was looking into college degree programs, based on my test scores and GPA I was recruited by two colleges for urban forestry and agriculture economics and five colleges for engineering. Ultimately, I chose to study urban forestry because it seemed like a perfect merger of my deep connection to agriculture along with my desire to have a career that afforded me the opportunity to live in a big city.