Sustainability at the Field Museum: SUST Major Laura Miller Hill Reports on Her Summer Internship

During the summer of 2015, several Roosevelt University students majoring in Sustainability Studies have been doing internships or pursuing study abroad opportunities in various locales around the world, from Chicago to Hawaii and from Schaumburg to Scandinavia. Over the new several weeks, we’ll post their reports from the field on their activities, adventures, and advocacy work in the service of environmental conservation, sustainable development, and social justice.

Here’s the first of these student blog posts, from Laura Miller Hill, a senior SUST major who is interning at Chicago’s world-renowned Field Museum along beautiful Lake Michigan.

The Field Museum’s Edible Treasures Garden and friend (photo: L. Miller Hill 2015)

The Field Museum’s Edible Treasures Garden and friend (photo: L. Miller Hill 2015)

This summer I have been working with Sustainability Manager Carter O’Brien as a Keller Science Action intern at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. My primary job is to take facts, stories and general information regarding sustainability initiatives throughout the museum and consolidate them into webpages that are both educational and easily understood by people who visit the Museum’s A Greener Field website.

During my time as an intern, I have met and interviewed many interesting people around the Chicago area who are instrumental in making the Museum more sustainable. From my interviews I have learned how to initiate and sustain the composting of food waste, the steps needed to start a workplace food garden, how to establish native landscaping on a large scale, and the steps involved in transforming the food service industry into one that relies on local foods and produces zero food waste.

Miller Hill blog image 1bBefore I even began my internship, I was invited to participate in my first meeting of A Greener Field, the Museum’s green team and the driving force for sustainability initiatives at the Museum. A Greener Field began in 1989 to promote recycling at a grass-roots level, and now has over 50 members representing every area of the Museum. The team provides an outlet for staff to share the successes they have had and the challenges they have faced when trying to make their departments more sustainable. It is also used as a way for staff to initiate and help implement museum-wide sustainability programs. Under the guidance of Carter O’Brien and the A Greener Field team, the Museum has made great strides in energy and water conservation and the reduction of waste throughout the Museum, and in the process helped the Museum earn Gold LEED Certification.

Southern portion of Northerly Island, Spring 2015 (photo: L. Miller Hill)

Southern portion of Northerly Island, Spring 2015 (photo: L. Miller Hill)

I was also invited to join Carter, museum scientists, and our own Professor Mike Bryson on a tour of the southern half of Northerly Island led by members of the Army Corps of Engineers. This was an exciting opportunity for me, as this 40-acre portion of the “island” (actually a peninsula created as part of the 1909 Daniel Burnham Plan of Chicago) is not yet open to the public. Our group was able to see the restoration work that the Army Corps and the Chicago Park District are doing to turn a former airport into a wildlife habitat that will be accessible to the public through trails and boardwalks throughout the site. Regrading of the island will provide birds with hills and the visual topography to help them land and avoid flying into large buildings in the area. The addition of a pond and the creation of a deeper wetland will provide an estuary for non-game species of fish, and a habitat that will remain wet during dry periods for birds traveling along the migratory Lake Michigan flyway.

Photo: L. Miller Hill, 2015

Photo: L. Miller Hill, 2015

The tour of Northerly Island and my meeting with A Greener Field helped me realize how instrumental the Field Museum is in acting as a sustainability leader and preserving biodiversity in the Chicago region. Although we tend to think of the Museum primarily as a protector of rain forests and as a collector of artifacts from archeological sites all over the world, along with government entities, citizen groups and other non-profit organizations, the Museum also plays a significant role in protecting natural habitats in our own backyard. I am very much looking forward to my role in documenting how Field Museum staff are working together to reduce their own ecological footprint and the processes an educational science institution must go through to change the way society thinks about and interacts with the natural environments we live and work in every day.

Laura Miller Hill M15Laura Miller Hill is a returning adult undergraduate student at Roosevelt University, where she is a senior Sustainability Studies major. She is spending her summer working as a Keller Science Action Center intern at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago under the supervision of Sustainability Manager Carter O’Brien. Miller Hill’s primary job is to take facts, stories and general information regarding sustainability initiatives throughout the museum and consolidate them into webpages that are both educational and easily understood by people who visit the Museum’s A Greener Field website. She also authored this waste and environmental justice essay about Town of Pines, Indiana, on the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

Posted in activities, biodiversity, climate change, conservation, education, food, museums, Roosevelt, science, students | Leave a comment

RU Sustainability Efforts Profiled in Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and ChicagoInno Articles

Roosevelt’s sustainability efforts, plans, and accomplishments have been getting a good amount of positive press lately in the wake of the university’s releasing its first Strategic Sustainability Plan in June.

Back on June 12th, reporter Paulina Firozi published a front-page article in the RChicago Tribune entitled “Rooftop Farms Appealing, But Will They Catch On?” that discussed green rooftops, gardens, and farming in the Windy City. The article was later reprinted by the LA Times as “In Chicago, Rooftop Farming Is Getting off the Ground” on July 9th. Firozi’s comprehensive overview included quotes from RU professor Mike Bryson, Sustainability Studies Program Director.

More recently, Karis Hustad featured Roosevelt in her latest profile of Chicago universities’ sustainability efforts in this ChicagoInno article, “Want to Check Out Roosevelt’s Sustainability Innovation? Look Up,” published on July 2oth. This article features interviews with RU’s sustainability guru Paul Matthews (Associate VP of Operations and Planning) and Rebecca Quesnell (BA ’15), a recent SUST graduate and now Sustainability Operations Coordinator at Roosevelt.

Posted in alumni, education, faculty, green design, news, publications, Roosevelt, students | Leave a comment

RU’s Wabash Building Earns International Honors

Last month RU’s Wabash Building, the LEED-Gold certified “vertical campus” that opened in the fall of 2012, won another major architectural/real estate award. This news release is reprinted from the Roosevelt public relations announcement on 8 June 2015.

Roosevelt's Wabash Building (background) and Auditorium Building (foreground); source: Roosevelt University

Roosevelt’s Wabash Building (background) and Auditorium Building (foreground); source: Roosevelt University

Roosevelt University’s Wabash Building in downtown Chicago has won the 2015 International Real Estate Federation’s World Gold Prix d’Excellence Award at its recent World Congress meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

One of the highest honors given annually to outstanding projects in a variety of categories, the international award recognizes the Wabash Building in the Purpose Built category, specifically for supporting Roosevelt’s mission of social justice as a “learning-living laboratory for sustainability.”

Opened in 2012, the mixed-use 32-story Wabash Building at 425 S. Wabash Ave.,  previously had been selected as the best property in the United States in December 2014 when it received the International Real Estate Federation – U.S. Chapter Grand Prix of Real Estate Award, making the project eligible for its current international recognition.

“It’s a great honor to win an award of such international scope,” said Jon DeVries, director of Roosevelt’s Marshall Bennett Institute for Real Estate. “This award represents Roosevelt’s commitment to sustainable multi-use development in an urban setting and it gives the University strong international exposure to real estate leaders around the globe, introducing us widely to leaders in parts of Europe and Asia,” he said.

Paul Matthews, assistant vice president for campus planning and operations, said the award is another acknowledgement of the University’s commitment to sustainability. “The vertical campus concept in an urban setting is a benchmark that has translated into community action, educational opportunities and outreach to other universities and colleges on the importance of sustainability,” he said.

Designed by the architectural firm of VOA Associates in Chicago, Roosevelt’s Wabash Building has won a number of sustainability awards since its opening, including Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in Washington, D.C. in late 2012.

“We are very honored by this award,” said Christopher Groesbeck, VOA principal and lead architect of the Roosevelt project. “The Wabash Building presents a sustainable vision of the metropolitan university of the future, a hybrid that has global relevance. We greatly appreciate FIABCI’s recognition,” he said.

Ruth Kruger, president of the FIABCI-USA Chapter, accepted the World Gold Prix d’Excellence Award on May 30 in Kuala Lumpur on behalf of Roosevelt and VOA Associates. Since then, Roosevelt’s award-winning Wabash Building has been generating additional excitement and is on the radar for members of the FIABCI-USA Midwest Chapter’s Chicago Midwest Council.

“It’s been a great pleasure to partner with Roosevelt University and VOA Associates to bring this unique and sustainable building to the attention of the world,” said Ronald Sears, chair of the FIABCI-USA Chapter’s Chicago Midwest Council.

Posted in architecture, awards, green design, news, Roosevelt

Register Now for Fall 2015 Classes at RU

SUST majors in Prof. Michele Hoffman's 220 Water class, pictured here with volunteer guides from Friends of the Chicago River, paddled the North Branch of the Chicago River, Fall 2014 (M. Hoffman)

SUST majors in Prof. Michele Hoffman’s 220 Water class, pictured here with volunteer guides from Friends of the Chicago River, paddled the North Branch of the Chicago River, Fall 2014 (M. Hoffman)

Hey, Roosevelt students — do you still need to finish up your fall course schedule? Interested in learning more about sustainability, the environment, and social justice? You’re in luck!

Advising and registration are ongoing and spots are still available for the Fall 2015 Sustainability Studies offerings here at Roosevelt. If you’re a current RU student, (1) look over the Fall 2015 schedule using this coursefinder, (2) check your remaining course requirements on your curriculum checksheet, and (3) email or call your assigned academic advisor with your planned schedule and any questions you have about your upcoming classes. Your advisor will provide you with an RU Access registration code so you can register. Click on the links below for course previews!

The last workday for SUST 350 Service & Sustainability at Eden Place Nature Center, near 15 trees we planted that fall (photo: M. Bryson)

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Fall 2015:

SUST 210 Sustainable Future (online, C. Jones)
SUST 220 Water (Chicago, W 9:30am-12pm, M. Hoffman)
SUST 230 Food (online, V. Gerberich)
SUST 240 Waste (Chicago, W 3-5:30pm, G. Pickren)
SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, & Planning (online, G. Pickren)
SUST 330 Biodiversity (Chicago @ Field Museum, Th 9am-1pm, J. Kerbis)
SUST 350 Service & Sustainability (Chicago, T 12-3pm, M. Bryson)

Yes, summer in Chicago is great for biking, playing softball, enjoying the lakefront, taking in concerts — but it’s a great time to get signed up for classes. For additional useful info, see this Advising Resources page on Prof. Mike Bryson’s faculty website.

Hauling straw in the Eden Place Nature Center's pickup truck during a SUST 350 Service workday on Chicago's South Side, Fall 2014

Hauling straw in the Eden Place Nature Center’s pickup truck during a SUST 350 Service workday on Chicago’s South Side, Fall 2014

Posted in courses, education, faculty, Roosevelt, students

Big Workday on June 23 at the RU Chicago Campus Rooftop Garden

Garden Harvest as of June 11th, 2014, from the Wabash Building rooftop gardens at RU's Chicago Campus (over ten pounds in two weeks); pictured here are RU sustainability interns MaryBeth Radeck and Kevin Markowski

Garden Harvest as of June 11th, 2014, from the Wabash Building rooftop gardens at RU’s Chicago Campus (over ten pounds in two weeks); pictured here are RU sustainability interns MaryBeth Radeck and Kevin Markowski

The Roosevelt University Chicago Campus Rooftop Garden is having a big workday next Tuesday, June 23rd, from 10am-2pm. The garden is located on the 5th floor of Wabash Building at 425 S. Wabash, and is managed this summer by Rebecca Quesnell, SUST alum (BA ’15) and Environmental Sustainability Associate in the RU Physical Resources department. All RU students, faculty, staff, and alumni and encouraged to show up for whatever time you can spare next Tuesday and help out!

What will be happening:

  • Pulling weeds and sending them to the pulper machine to be turned into compost
  • Thinning out plants
  • Reseeding if needed
  • Creating barriers to deter slugs away from the vegetable plants
  • Removing current piles of debris in order to lessen the ‘slug headquarters’
  • Creating markers for our vegetable plots (may happen inside or outside)

For questions, or to let Rebecca know you’ll attend for all or even just part of the workday, contact her at or 312-341-3602.

Posted in activities, agriculture, alumni, events, food, Roosevelt, students

Announced Closure of IL State Museums by Governor Rauner Threatens Both Nature and Culture

A message by the Illinois Environmental Council, which we feel is worthy to pass on to our readers.

Illinois’ State Museums provide important environmental education opportunities to thousands of visitors each year. Governor Rauner recently announced that these museums are targeted for closure in the next fiscal year. In addition to important environmental education visits, facilities such as the Dickson Mounds and Lockport Gallery provide important learning facilities for critical conservation areas such as Emiquon NWR and TNC Preserve and the I&M Canal. Closing these museums during peak tourism season, when children are on summer break, would be a huge loss for Illinois and its families.

Per this announcement, the Illinois State Museum headquarters in Springfield will be closed. The other branch facilities targeted for closure include Dickson Mounds in Lewistown (50,000 visitors last year); the Illinois Artisans Shop and Chicago Gallery in the Thompson Center (Chicago, 103,000 visitors); the Lockport Gallery in Lockport (14,000 visitors); and the Southern Illinois Art Gallery at Rend Lake (18,000 visitors).

ISM Springfield

  • Changes: Dynamic Illinois Environments – An exhibition that explores 500 million years of environmental change in Illinois. Visitors see, hear, and touch our state’s natural history through hands-on interactive displays, audio and video effects, fossils, and more. The exhibit also teaches visitors how human actions affect the environment.
  • Peoples of the Past – Life-sized dioramas and artifacts bring to life Illinois’ rich Native American heritage.
  • The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum – Children learn more about the environment by crawling through a cave, digging for fossils, assembling a baby mastodon, or exploring collections of fossils, insects, and artifacts.
  • Hot Science Gallery: The Science of Extinction – planned to run from April through September.
  • Summer Film Fest: Growing Up Wild: Penguins on Parade – Attendees will learn about penguins and other birds who cannot fly. Scheduled for June.
  • Story Time at the Museum: “A Sunny” Story Time – The sun keeps us warm, gives light, helps plants grow, and so much more. Scheduled for June.
  • Super Saturdays at the Museum: Solar Powered – Attendees will learn about the power of the sun, how big the sun is, and how a solar distillery works. Scheduled for June.
  • Summer Film Fest: Kids Discover Bats – There are over 1,000 kinds of bats. Attendees will learn about bats and how they can help bats survive. Scheduled for June.
  • Summer Film Fest: Growing Up Wild: Puppy Dog Tales – Attendees will learn about dogs, wolves, foxes, Australian dingoes, coyotes, jackals, and other canines. Scheduled for June.
  • Summer Film Fest: The Magic School Bus In a Bee Hive – Teaches kids about bees and how they communicate with other bees. Scheduled for July.

ISM Dickson Mounds Museum

  • A National Historic Site and one of the major on-site archaeological museums in the United States.
  • The River Valley Gallery – Explores the character of the Illinois River and traces the interaction between the river and the people who have lived along it from the end of the Ice Age to the present day.
  • Nature Adventure Camp for Kids – Participants will hike, canoe, bird watch, collect water samples, and learn how ancient and historic people used the resources of the land to survive. Scheduled for June.
  • Nature Trek: Geology Tour – Attendees will learn about the geology of the Lewistown-Havana area, and how the Illinois River Valley was formed. Scheduled for June.
  • Nature Trek: Experience a Voyageur Canoe – Attendees will paddle a voyageur canoe and learn about history, geology, and biology as they paddle on Thompson Lake. Scheduled for July.
  • Dickson Mounds is part of the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, which is one of many Illinois Scenic Byways that help draw visitors to Illinois.

ISM Chicago Gallery & Illinois Artisans, Chicago

  • Footprints Through Time: Artists Inspired by History – Prior to the modern “carbon footprints” concept, indigenous peoples embraced the concept of the interconnectivity of people and nature. This exhibition tells stories that broadly communicate the cultural and environmental landscape of Illinois.

ISM Lockport Gallery

  • Provides a jumping off point to explore the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal (opened 1848), a recreation trail, and a nature preserve.

Please consider taking action to tell the Governor and your state legislators to keep these museums open. 

Posted in economics, exhibits, humanities, Illinois, museums, news, parks and public land

RU Releases Groundbreaking Strategic Sustainability Plan

In celebration of the university’s official release of its first Strategic Sustainability Plan this summer, we reprint this 10 June 2015 RU news release by Laura Janota, Director of Public Relations at Roosevelt.

RU SustPlan Cover

Cover of RU’s Strategic Sustainability Plan

Green is no longer just Roosevelt University’s school color. Green is now a part of the University’s institutional DNA thanks to a new five-year Strategic Sustainability Plan.

Developed by Roosevelt University students, administrators, faculty and staff, the plan positions the University as a leader in driving the most important transformation of higher education now happening, which is the greening of American colleges and universities, according to Paul Matthews, assistant vice president for campus planning and operations and one of the plan’s leading organizers.

The plan has four areas of focus: climate and energy, education and outreach, waste and natural resources and economics and governance.

Among goals, it calls for reducing energy usage by 10 percent; the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles and installation of refueling stations; expansion of the undergraduate Sustainability Studies program; connection of faculty and students across disciplines in sustainability innovation, research, educational outreach and service-learning opportunities; advancement of recycling and composting efforts by a student-led team; start-up of sustainable local food businesses at the University; expansion of community/rooftop gardening; raising awareness about water usage through a water conservation campaign; and creation of an Office of Sustainability, residing in the University’s Physical Resources division, which will manage Strategic Plan implementation, among other administrative tasks.

“This is a roadmap that documents what we have done so far and sets goals and priorities for making the University more sustainable in the future,” said Michael Bryson, professor of humanities and director of the University’s Sustainability Studies undergraduate degree program.

Since 2010, the University has been taking major steps to become greener. Highlights include: attaining green certification for more than half of all campus electricity; graduating 45 Sustainability Studies majors since 2011; creating service learning opportunities for students in sustainability with environmental organizations like Chicago Lights Urban Farm, Eden Place Nature Center, the Field Museum of Natural History and Friends of the Chicago River; recycling  100 percent of all e-waste; composting 50 percent of all food waste; restoration of significant campus grounds to prairie; and establishing community, rooftop  and other types of gardens at the University.

“People sometimes think that sustainability is just focused on building design and energy efficiency, but it is also about the kinds of academic courses we offer, the partnerships we forge in the community, as well as the practice of social justice,” said Bryson, who created a special course called The Sustainable Campus.  During the recent spring semester, 19 Roosevelt students took the course in which their major assignment was to collect base-line data for tracking the University’s progress in meeting its sustainability goals through use of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).

Assessment using STARS was one of the recommendations for the plan made by Sustainability Studies student Mary Beth Radeck, who researched the status and landscape of sustainability planning at higher education institutions across the United States as part of a recent independent study course she took with Bryson in 2014.
“I not only found that it wasn’t the norm for universities to have formal sustainability plans, but also discovered that one of the best ways to make real progress in greening a university is to assess where the institution has been and where it is going,” said Radeck. “The STARS system is a reliable tool to help Roosevelt with assessment,” she said.

Radeck facilitated group planning for Roosevelt’s new Strategic Sustainability Plan and also wrote and presented the plan that has been approved by top Roosevelt administrators and endorsed by Roosevelt’s Faculty Senate, as well as reviewed by Roosevelt’s Board of Trustees.

Posted in education, news, planning, Roosevelt, students