SUST Student Symposium on Earth Day 2015: Science, Sustainability, & Social Justice

This past Earth Day, 22 April 2015, the Sustainability Studies Program at Roosevelt University hosted its 3rd symposium of student research in RU’s LEED Gold-certified Wabash Building at 425 S. Wabash Ave. in downtown Chicago (room 616). Four students in Roosevelt’s SUST undergrad program shared their recent internship and research experiences in a forum open to all RU students, faculty, and staff as well as the general public. We had a great crowd of about 40 people turn out, the best attendance yet in the two-year history of our symposium!

Blume, Melanie

Our first speaker was Melanie Blume, a senior SUST major at Roosevelt, where she has taken most of her classes online. A prospective graduate this May, Melanie came to RU as a transfer student from Harper College’s Honors Program. For her SUST 395 Internship this spring 2015 semester, Melanie worked with conservation and education staff at the Spring Valley Nature Center and the Volkening Heritage Farm near Roosevelt’s campus in Schaumburg IL.

RU's Melanie Blume with her protective gear on at Spring Valley Nature Center, Apr 2015

RU’s Melanie Blume with her protective gear on at Spring Valley Nature Center, Apr 2015

These excellent facilities are part of the 135-acre Spring Valley Conservation Area, the largest and most ecologically significant green space with the Village of Schaumburg limits, and are managed by the Schaumburg Park District. During the Spring 2015 semester, Melanie also reflected on her experiences here as a guest blogger. She did everything from seeding native plants to making wine (1880s-style) to hand-plowing the farmhouse garden plot in period garb to helping with a prescribed burn of the Spring Valley prairie. Check out Melanie’s presentation slides here: pdf (2.8MB)

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

Our next speaker was Rebecca Quesnell, a senior SUST major at RU with a double-minor in Environmental Science and Psychology who will also graduate this May. She has worked as an environmental sustainability associate in Roosevelt’s Physical Resources Department since last spring, and this year has managed the WB Rooftop Garden at the Chicago Campus among her many internship duties. During her freshman year, Rebecca enrolled in the inaugural section of SUST 350 Service & Sustainability, a transformational service learning class held onsite at the Chicago Lights Urban Farm in Spring 2012, and soon afterward decided to pursue a major in sustainability studies.

This past summer, Rebecca left the IL prairie and urban landscape of Chicago to tackle an environmental justice internship in Appalachia, VA, with the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in the summer of 2014, which she reported on for the SUST blog last summer. She didn’t bring that sandwich board as part of her presentation on Wednesday, but you can see lots of great photos of her experiences in her slides: pdf (3MB).

Mary Rasic and Kevin Markowski work in the RU community garden, summer 2014

Our third presenter, SUST senior Mary Rasic, also has worked as an environmental sustainability associate in the RU Physical Resources Department since the summer of 2014. Mary transferred to Roosevelt in the Fall semester of 2012, when she began her studies in the SUST program after several years working in the corporate world.

Based at the Schaumburg Campus during her internship, Mary has among her many projects and duties managed the RU Community Garden during its 3rd growing season last year and has been deeply involved in the landscape redevelopment, restoration projects, and arboretum certification at the SCH Campus. (That’s her on the left in the photo above, working in the garden last summer with her fellow sustainability intern, Kevin Markowski.) Mary’s presentation was a comprehensive overview of the many sustainability initiatives undertaken at the SCH Campus since 2014, and provides a snapshot of the diverse tasks and learning opportunities provided to environmental sustainability student interns in RU’s Physical Resources Department, under the direction of Paul Matthews, Assistant VP of Operations & Planning. Check out Mary’s slides here: pdf (2.8MB)

RU student and SUST major Emily Rhea works in the chemistry lab at Columbia College on a Microcosm ocean acidification experiment, Nov. 2014 (photo: M. Hoffman)

Our final presenter was Emily Rhea, a junior SUST major and transfer student from the College of DuPage this past Fall 2014 semester. Emily’s passion for hands-on learning quickly found expression in her work as a science research intern on RU adjunct prof. Michele Hoffman’s Microcosm film project this year.

During the Spring 2015 semester, Emily reported to the SUST blog on her experiences conducting experiments designed to simulate the acidification of the ocean, one of the profoundly worrisome impacts of global climate change on sea chemistry and, therefore, marine biodiversity. Her work is part of that done by several SUST majors the last couple of years on Prof. Hoffman’s exciting interdisciplinary film project. Emily not only has good titration technique (see photo at left), but is an engaging and enthusiastic public speaker, as well! You can see her slides here: pdf (23MB)

Thanks to all who attended our 3rd SUST Student Symposium; to the Physical Resources Department staff who provided refreshments and logistics; and to the students of SUST 390 Sustainable Campus, who hosted the Symposium during their regularly scheduled class time on Earth Day.

Stay tuned for next year’s event, featuring more student internship/research presentations on a variety of sustainability topics!

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