Sustainability Studies in 2014: The Year in Review

2014 was another productive and exciting year in the Sustainability Studies undergraduate program at Roosevelt University, and we’re looking forward to a great 2015 as we start classes this winter. Here we celebrate 2014 with a brief rundown on student activities and accomplishments, faculty activities and projects, and SUST-related projects and campus events.

Student Activities and Accomplishments

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

Students ride in the Eden Place Nature Center’s pickup truck during a SUST 350 Service workday on Chicago’s South Side (October 2014)

Sustainability Studies majors led a variety of sustainability projects at both the Chicago and Schaumburg campuses, performed conservation and service work here in the Chicago region as well as abroad, secured professional internships, and engaged in environmental activism and social justice work this past year.

Campus LeadershipRebecca Quesnell, MaryBeth Radeck, and Mary Rasic worked as Environmental Sustainability Associates in RU’s Physical Resources department at the Chicago and Schaumburg campuses. Rebecca managed the Wabash Building’s fifth floor rooftop gardens in the spring and fall semester, while MaryBeth nurtured it through the summer growing season; and Mary stewarded the RU Community Garden at the Schaumburg Campus during its third season with fellow Associate Kevin Markowski (BSBA ’14) and helped the campus achieve Level 1 Arboretum Accreditation through the prestigious Morton Arboretum in Lisle IL. That work built upon the Schaumburg Campus’ 2013 designations as a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat and an National Arbor Foundation Tree Campus USA, efforts led by MaryBeth in 2013. Skot Rogers (BPS ’14) provided insightful data analysis for the SUST program’s Sustainability Literacy Assessment survey in Spring 2014.

RU's restored prairie and part of its urban forest at the Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

RU’s restored prairie and part of its urban forest at the Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

Sustainability Planning: Many SUST majors, new and continuing, joined faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni in a series of three planning workshops this past fall which led to the development of RU’s first Strategic Sustainability Plan.

Students, staff, and faculty prioritize sustainable actions at Roosevelt University on 26 Sept 2014 (photo: M. Radeck)

Students, staff, and faculty prioritize sustainable actions at Roosevelt University on 26 Sept 2014 (photo: M. Radeck)

The planning process grew out of SUST major MaryBeth Radeck‘s Spring 2014 internship with RU Physical Resources and the SUST Program, during which she researched campus sustainability plans in the US. MaryBeth volunteered her project management skills to coordinate and manage the planning workshops; and SUST majors and fellow Environmental Associates Rebecca Quesnell and Mary Rasic provided logistical support and additional leadership for the workshops. Student participants were SUST majors Yessenia Balcazar, Maria Cancilla, Karen Craig, Colleen Dennis, Stephen Ditman, Stephanie Eisner (alumna, BA ’13), Reece Krishnan, Laura Miller-Hill, Emily Rhea, Deidra Sharp, and Jesse Williams.

Rebecca Quesnell working for environmental justice in Appalachia during her internship with SAMS in southwest Virginia (July 2014)

Rebecca Quesnell advocates for environmental justice in Appalachia during her internship with SAMS in southwest Virginia (July 2014)

Internships: In addition to those mentioned above, other SUST majors pursued professional or academic internships during 2014. Colleen Dennis began working in the botany department of the Field Museum photo-archiving plant specimens; Rebecca Quesnell interned at the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards during the summer and worked on environmental policy, community development, and environmental advocacy in the heart of coal country; Skot Rogers (BPS, ’14) interned with the Chicago Recycling Coalition non-profit environmental advocacy organization in the summer and fall of 2014; and Jordan EwbankBridget Powers (BA ’14), Emily Rhea, and Charlie Roberts (BA ’14) joined SUST adjunct professor Michele Hoffman Trotter on her “Microcosm” film project throughout the spring, summer, and/or fall semesters working on various science, fundraising, and event-planning projects.

Ron Taylor (photo: M. Bryson)

Ron Taylor (photo: M. Bryson)

Fellowships and AwardsRon Taylor (BPS ’13), part of the original entering SUST class of Fall 2010, was selected as the 2013-14 recipient of the Outstanding Student Award for academic achievement and leadership in Sustainability Studies at the annual College of Professional Studies student awards ceremony last April. Jordan Ewbank (BA ’14) studied abroad in Spain during the Fall 2014 semester.

Research and Creative WorkBridget Powers (BA ’14) tackled forest conservation work in Tanzania with RU biology professor Norbert Cordiero’s BIO 369 Conservation Biology travel course in May; Allison Breeding (BA ’13), Jordan EwbankBridget Powers (BA ’14), Emily Rhea, and Charlie Roberts (BA ’14) worked with SUST adjunct professor Michele Hoffman Trotter on her “Microcosm” film project throughout the spring, summer, and/or fall semesters.

MaryBeth, Jordan, and Colleen at the Spring 2014 SUST Student Symposium (photo: M. Bryson)

MaryBeth, Jordan, and Colleen at the Spring 2014 SUST Student Symposium (photo: M. Bryson)

Colleen Dennis (BA ’15), Jordan Ewbank (BA ’15), and MaryBeth Radeck made presentations on their sustainability internships at the Spring 2014 SUST Student Symposium in April. MaryBeth Radeck co-presented “Transformative Sustainability” with SUST prof Mike Bryson and Asst VP of Physical Resources Paul Matthews at the GreenTown 2014 environmental conference in Chicago at UIC on May 21st. Then in the early fall, MaryBeth and Prof. Bryson spoke to the Schaumburg Community Garden Club about the history and genesis of the RU Community Garden.

Service Learning: Students in the Fall 2014 offering of the SUST 350 Service & Sustainability transformational service learning course worked at Eden Place Nature Center in the South Side neighborhood of Fuller Park. This was literally a groundbreaking course as it represented the first collaboration between Eden Place and RU since a student community research team a Spring 2012 Sustainable Future honors course did site visits to the Fuller Park neighborhood in spring of 2012 for the Institute of Cultural Affairs Accelerate 77 Project. This fall, under the direction of EPNC volunteer director Troy Howard, SUST 350 Service students built trails, pulled weeds, hauled straw bales, removed invasive plants, collected and turned compost, repaired fences, prepared the grounds for Octoberfest activities, and planted trees, whether working independently or side-by-side with EPNC staff and volunteers. They became intimately familiar with the land and animals of this amazing 3.4-acre privately owned nature center and green space, the only one of its kind on the city’s South Side, and got to visit Eden Place’s newer 3-acre farm site about a half-mile south. Best of all, perhaps, was the opportunity to meet and talk with Eden Place co-founder and legendary Chicago environmental/community activists, Michael and Amelia Howard. These photos from the last workday, Dec. 2nd, illustrate the physical work they performed and the great wrap-up discussion with the Howard family.

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

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

Environmental and Social Activism: SUST majors Rebecca Quesnell and Colleen Dennis attended the Climate Change March in New York City this past fall, and were active leaders in the RU student activist organization RISE. Along with many other RU student activists they promoted climate change policy, clean energy development, anti-fracking legislation, and anti-violence social change.

New Media and CommunicationsColleen Dennis (BA ’15), Jordan Ewbank (BA ’15), Rebecca Quesnell (BA ’15), and MaryBeth Radeck contributed essays to the SUST at RU blog as part of their internship requirements. Several dozen students in SUST 210 and 240 classes during the fall semester of 2014 wrote posts and conducted research for the ever-expanding Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future blog/website. After being completely redesigned and expanded in 2013 by MaryBeth Radeck, the RU Green Campus website and its accompanying blog have been vital communication tools for the RU community.

Alumni News

Special congratulations go to the 13 SUST majors who comprised the graduating class of 2014! Thus far in the program’s history since its start in 2010, 20 students have earned the BPS and 18 have earned BA degrees.

Zarakyah Ben Sar Ahmadiel, aka Troy Withers (BPS ’13), was in the news this past spring for his work on promoting nutrition and health to youth; he works at the South Side restaurant/catering business Soul Vegan as well as Donald Morrill Elementary School in Chicago.

Tim Conway (BA ’13), a former marine inspector with the Chicago Park District, now works as a research analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Angi Cornelius (BA ’13) works full time in the Dept of Teacher Education in Bradley University’s College of Education and Health Services.

Stephanie Eisner (BA ’13) finished a stint during 2014 as Logistics Coordinator at Green Iowa Americorps in Des Moines IA, and participated in the RU sustainability planning workshops last fall.

Michael Magdongon (BPS ’13) interned during Summer 2013 at the Espaço Ciencia science museum in Recife, Brazil, where he worked as an Organizational Consultant and developed a marketing/business plan addressing issues, providing solutions, and suggesting potential opportunities for the museum’s science education mission. He runs his own business (Mag Auto Imaging), works as a financial planner, and is applying to MBA programs.

Allison Mayes (BA ’13) is Post Closing Escrow Associate at Chicago Title.

Jessie Crow Mermel (BPS ’12) is Communications Director at Angelic Organics Learning Center, the education wing of the Angelic Organics CSA farm near Rockford, IL. She and her husband, Randy, are longtime instructors at the Learning Center.

Bridget Powers (BA ’14) secured an AmeriCorps post working at a Boys and Girls Club on the Northern Cheyenne Nation’s Reservation in Wyoming for 2015.

Steven Roberts (BPS ’12) is healthcare IT analyst at Novant Health in Charlotte, NC, and aspires to study urban planning and transportation systems.

Ben Schulman (BPS ’12) is finishing up an MA in Communications at UIC and is Communications Director at AIA Chicago.

Alan Swartz (SUST minor, BS Chemistry ’14) is a PhD student in chemistry at the University of Chicago.

Ron Taylor (BPS ’13) won the 2014 Outstanding Student Award in SUST and is Director of Federal Business Development at the Chicago-based IT firm IYKA Enterprises.

Jeff Wasil (BPS ’12) is an Emissions Compliance Engineer at Bombardier Recreation Products Evinrude Product Development Center. He has published and presented several technical papers on marine engine emissions including particulate matter, gaseous emissions, bioassay analysis, life-cycle emissions and alternative fuels and has testified before Congress regarding ethanol-extended fuels.

Amanda Zeigler (BPS ’12) is a full-time research assistant for the Emerging Pathogens Project at the Field Museum of Natural History after starting as a zoology intern in the first FMNH-based section of SUST 330 Biodiversity.

Faculty Activities and Accomplishments

Mike Bryson on a trail outside of Crested Butte, CO (photo: L. Watts)

Mike Bryson outside of Crested Butte, CO (photo: L. Watts)

Mike Bryson, SUST Program Director and Associate Professor of Humanities, was designated by the Field Museum of Natural History as a Research Associate in Science and Education in late 2013; he has worked on the Microplants citizen science project with FMNH botanist Matt Von Konrat and other colleagues. Bryson spent the Spring 2014 semester on research leave studying the life and work of May Watts, a noted Chicago region naturalist, writer, and artist whose papers are collected at the Morton Arboretum. He published reviews and essays on ecocriticism and sustainability education, gave presentations at several local and national conferences, attended the Sustainability City Year Conference at the Univ. of Oregon, hosted Chicago high school students involved in the CIMBY conservation program during the summer at RU, was a guest panelist at “Is It Just Space?” public forum on spatial justice and urban sustainability at the Institute of Cultural Affairs in Chicago, co-led the Fall 2014 Strategic Sustainability Planning effort at Roosevelt, and was an invited participant in the Relative Wild writers’ workshop in Crested Butte, Colorado, sponsored by the Center for Humans and Nature.

Visiting Instructor of Natural Science and Adjunct Professor of Sustainability Studies Maris Cooke taught SUST 330 Biodiversity in a unique weekend-hybrid format at the Schaumburg Campus and took her students are a wide range of field trips to natural sites and restoration areas in Chicago and the NW suburbs.

Yonah Freemark, Adjunct Professor of Sustainability Studies and a journalist with a background in architecture and urban planning, taught SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, and Planning in Fall 2014. He blogs extensively about transportation and urban development/planning issues.

Vicki Gerberich, Adjunct Professor of Sustainability Studies, took a walk on the wild side by offering a SUST 390 special topics course entitled Sustainable Chicago in summer 2015, which featured several great field trips in the city and suburbs.

Hoffman portraitMichele Hoffman, Adjunct Professor of Sustainability Studies, is now on the Board of Directors for the Hawaii Association for Marine Education & Research and was appointed Director of Advancement and Education for the organization. She continued her groundbreaking research and filming for her exciting marine science documentary, Microcosm, which this past year took her to Hawaii, Puget Sound, and locations afield to interview scientists and visit different marine ecosystems. Here is Chicago she’s collaborating with scientists at the Shedd Aquarium and Columbia College on conducting lab experiments and filming microscopic marine processes. Michele has involved several SUST students in this exciting project, including Allison Breeding (BA ’13), Jordan EwbankBridget Powers (BA ’14), Emily Rhea, and Charlie Roberts (BA ’14), and been a terrific supervisor for SUST 395 internships. She taught SUST 220 Water for the first time in Fall 2014, and regularly teaches SUST 210 Sustainable Future and SUST 340 Policy, Law, & Ethics.

Carla JonesCarla Jones, Adjunct Professor of Sustainability Studies (pictured at right), is co-authoring a book on biofuels. She teaches online versions of SUST 210 Sustainable Future, 220 Water, 310 Energy & Climate Change, and 330 Biodiversity.

Adjunct Professor of Sustainability Studies Carolyn Persoon is an environmental scientist at the EPA Region 5 office in Chicago, where she works on a pollution regulatory policy and enforcement. Persoon regularly teaches SUST 230 Food online and at the Chicago Campus.

Julian Kerbis Peterhans in the mammals lab at the Field Museum in Chicago

Julian Kerbis Peterhans in the mammals lab at the Field Museum in Chicago

Julian Kerbis Peterhans, Professor of Natural Science, worked on analyzing specimens and publishing results from his 2012-13 Fulbright research fellowship in Uganda, where he discovered four new mammal species and wrote about his adventures for the SUST blog. His SUST 330 Biodiversity course at Roosevelt is regularly offered at the Field Museum of Natural History and links students with researchers in zoology, botany, and geology who are engaged in conservation work around the globe. Peterhans frequently hosts behind-the-scenes tours of the FMNH and is an active conservation scholar/educator here and abroad.

Programs and Campus Events

2014 was a busy and exciting year on many fronts at both Roosevelt campuses in terms of sustainability events, initiatives, and projects. Many of these involved the Sustainability Studies program, often in tandem with efforts by other academic programs and/or the university’s Physical Resources Department.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and administrators from many parts of the university gathered for three Friday workshops from September through November to develop Roosevelt’s first-ever Strategic Sustainability Plan. The hard work, enthusiasm, and spirit of collaboration were outstanding as many SUST majors, both new and continuing, pitched in on the brainstorming and drafting of the plan. The draft was sent to the University Senate in December, and that body overwhelmingly endorsed the plan during its January 2015 session. We eagerly await endorsement by the University’s upper administration this winter!

Drip irrigation system at the RU Community Garden, awaiting tubing to deliver water directly to plants (photo: M. Radeck)

Drip irrigation system at the RU Community Garden, awaiting tubing to deliver water directly to plants (photo: M. Radeck)

The second Sustainability Students Student Symposium in April at the Chicago Campus featured presentations by MaryBeth RadeckColleen Dennis, and Jordan Ewbank on their 2013-14 internship/fellowship experiences and research at Roosevelt University, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Microcosm documentary film project, respectively.

The RU Community Garden at the Schaumburg Campus increased its productivity in 2014 by installing a drip irrigation system and donated many pounds of produce to the Hanover Park Food Pantry, while the Wabash Rooftop Garden in Chicago produced 33 pounds of vegetables and herbs, much of which was used in the WB Dining Center.

Gloves highly recommended for this SUST 240 Waste class! (photo: M. Bryson)

Gloves highly recommended for this SUST 240 Waste class! (photo: M. Bryson)

Students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s honors section of SUST 240 Waste & Consumption conducted a waste audit of office floors in the WB and AUD buildings on the Chicago Campus in October 2014. This was the second such student-run audit of the Chicago Campus since the WB opened in Fall 2012, another is planned for the WB dormitory floors in Spring 2015.

The Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website/blog project, founded on Earth Day of 2011, continued to expand through work by students in SUST 210 Sustainable Future and 240 Waste & Consumption classes during the Fall 2014 semester. As part of this ongoing effort to document and critique sustainability efforts in suburban communities, undergrad scholars contributed over 160 blog posts and 100 research essays to this unique web project, which is now the subject of a peer-reviewed article by Prof. Mike Bryson in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences (Dec. 2014).

IL Sust Gov Compact Gold sealRoosevelt earned Gold Certification through the IL Governor’s Campus Sustainability Compact in December 2014, the highest such certification possible. SUST majors and Dept of Physical Resources sustainability associates Rebecca Quesnell, MaryBeth Radeck, and Mary Rasic contributed greatly to this important effort.

Several SUST students attended and participated in a unique public symposium on urban sustainability and spatial justice, entitled “Is It Just Space?“, hosted by the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago on 7 Oct 2014. Co-sponsored by the Center for Humans and Nature and the Chicagoland Sustainability Leaders Network, the forum featured small- and large-group discussions as well as a panel presentation by sustainability scholars and practitioners, including SUST prof. Mike Bryson.

SUST majors in Michele Hoffman's 220 Water class paddled the North Branch of the Chicago River this fall (M. Hoffman)

SUST majors in Michele Hoffman’s 220 Water class paddled the North Branch of the Chicago River this fall (M. Hoffman)

SUST students and faculty took field trips and engaged in hands-on learning throughout the Chicago urban and suburban landscape. Notable examples include a tour of landfill, recycling, and hazardous waste facilities with the Southeast Environmental Task Force; summer and fall canoe trips (in SUST 390 and 220, respectively) on the Chicago River; visits to Chicago and suburban parklands; tours and workdays at Iron Street and Eden Place urban farms; behind the scenes tours of biodiversity research and collections at the Field Museum with Prof. Julian Kerbis Peterhans; and more!

SUST 240 Waste students visit the Waste Mgmt South Chicago Municipal Recycling Facility with Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, Oct. 2014 (M. Bryson)

SUST 240 Waste students visit the Waste Mgmt South Chicago Municipal Recycling Facility with Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, Oct. 2014 (M. Bryson)

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