SUST 390 Preview: The Sustainable Campus (Spring 2016)

Following up on Roosevelt’s campus-wide strategic sustainability planning effort in 2015, the SUST Program will offer a SUST 390 honors seminar entitled The Sustainable Campus this coming Spring 2016 semester. Taught by SUST Program Director and Professor Mike Bryson, the class will meet at the Chicago Campus on Wednesdays from 2:00 to 4:30pm, and begins January 20th, 2016. Pre-requisites: ENG 102 and Honors standing.

The Sustainable Campus: More than Just a Cool Building

RU's distinctively blue Wabash Building (constructed 2012), a LEED-gold structure that complements the National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building (foreground) at the downtown Chicago Campus.

RU’s distinctively blue Wabash Building (constructed 2012), a LEED-gold structure that complements the National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building (foreground) at the downtown Chicago Campus.

What are colleges and universities doing to make themselves more sustainable institutions? How can their efforts serve as laboratories for innovation and models for larger communities, from small college towns to sprawling suburbs to bustling big cities? What have Roosevelt University and other area institutions accomplished the last few years in creating more sustainable campuses, and where are they headed in terms of sustainability planning, operations, academics, and community relations?

This seminar focuses on the microcosm of the university as a lens through view to explore how communities are striving to save energy, conserve water, reduce waste, encourage active transportation, restore biodiversity, foster environmental literacy, develop innovative curricula, and connect with local communities. Seen in this context, the Sustainable Campus is always a work in progress, yet has the capacity to model sustainable development strategies that may be applied to communities large and small (such as the suburb of Schaumburg IL, the focus of the RU student online project, Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future).

SUST students planting trees at Eden Place Nature Center, Chicago's South Side, 2 Dec 2014  (M. Bryson)

SUST students planting trees at Eden Place Nature Center, Chicago’s South Side, 2 Dec 2014 (M. Bryson)

Making the Plan Real

While we will analyze case-studies of other US colleges and universities that are well on the path toward sustainability, this section of SUST 390 will concentrate on Roosevelt’s efforts since 2010 to green its operations and curriculum, which last year included a series of university-wide sustainability planning workshops during the Fall 2014 semester. As a follow-up to the approval of RU’s Strategic Sustainability Plan in Spring 2015 and the submission of RU’s first STARS self-assessment in Fall 2015, our class will undertake several student-led projects to advance the plan’s priority initiatives in its four thematic areas:

    RU honors students in SUST 240 Waste conduct a waste audit of RU's AUD and WB buildings, fall 2014 (M. Bryson)

    RU honors students in SUST 240 Waste conduct a waste audit of RU’s AUD and WB buildings, fall 2014 (M. Bryson)

  • Energy and Climate
  • Waste and Natural Resources
  • Education and Outreach
  • Economics and Governance

Students in SUST 390 The Sustainable Campus thus will get an in-depth and hands-on perspective on the university’s sustainability efforts and, through their project planning and implementation, make an important and lasting impact in helping the university realize its vision of becoming a more sustainable institution, both inside its walls and throughout its connection with Chicagoland communities.

For more information on this upcoming course, please contact Dr. Mike Bryson via email ( or phone (312-281-3148).

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Fall 2015: Welcome Back to RU

I would like to extend a warm welcome to my students, advisees, and colleagues to the 2015-16 academic year at Roosevelt. Here’s to an excellent Fall 2015 semester! With the recent migration of the SUST program from RU’s College of Professional Studies to the College of Arts & Sciences, my office has moved a few blocks south on Michigan Avenue, from the Gage Building to the Auditorium Building (AUD 829). As noted on my Contact page, phone and email are the same as ever. Please drop by and say hello when you get a chance. And check out this post from the SUST Blog for what’s ahead this year in our program.

On a lakefront hike with students in ACP 101 Our Sustainable Future, 26 Aug 2015 (photo: E. Choporis)

On a lakefront hike with students in ACP 101 Our Sustainable Future, 26 Aug 2015 (photo: E. Choporis)

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RU Releases Its First-Ever Strategic Sustainability Plan: a Roadmap for the Future

The Plan!

The Plan, at long last!

I’m very pleased to report that the last step of our 2014-15 strategic planning process for the sustainable future of Roosevelt is now complete: the university has officially released its Strategic Sustainability Plan this week. This is not only great news, but also a tribute to the hard work and collective efforts of the students, faculty, administrators, staff, and alumni who drafted the plan in Fall 2014 and shepherded its endorsement and approval by the university’s faculty senate and administrative leadership in Spring 2015.

I want to especially commend SUST major MaryBeth Radeck, who did vital background research on sustainability planning in Spring 2014 for her SUST 395 internship, then managed the planning workshops as well as wrote/edited the plan document in Fall 2014; Paul Matthews and Tom Shelton of Physical Resources, who were co-leaders on the planning process and have supported RU’s sustainability work since 2010; Beeka Quesnell and Mary Rasic, SUST majors and Environmental Sustainability Associates in Physical Resources during 2014-15, who provided tremendous logistical support for the planning workshops; and my students in SUST 390 Sustainable Campus, who took on the initial task of researching baseline data in the Spring 2015 semester for RU’s first STARS assessment, one of the key steps that will help us drive the Plan forward in 2015 and beyond.

Check the full plan out here on the RU Green Campus website, and join the effort to work on its many goals and priority projects. There’s lots to do, so the more folks we have on board, the better!

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Congratulations to Roosevelt’s May 2015 Graduates!

A warm congratulations to all Roosevelt University graduates, young and old, today as you grace the stage of RU’s beautiful Auditorium Theatre. In particular, I salute the accomplishments of our seven Sustainability Studies graduates this spring, soon to be proud alumni: Melanie Blume, Colleen Dennis, Jordan Ewbank, Ana Molledo, Kelsey Norris, Beeka Quesnell, and Jesse Williams.

Congrats to all on your achievements, hard work, and perseverance in earning your degree and, in the process, making countless positive contributions to our campus community. Best wishes for the future! I’m proud of all of you.

RU Graduation 2015


For more photos, check out #Roosevelt2015 on Twitter. . .

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Bikes, Tweets, and Symposia on Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Here at Roosevelt, we’ve got some great events to mark the day, which I will start with a humble but well-intentioned two-mile bike ride to my train station in Joliet for my morning commute to Chicago, in honor of #RUEarthWeek2015 (pdf). Then, after dutifully putting in a few morning hours in my office, I shall repair to the Wabash Building (425 S. Wabash Ave, downtown Chicago) for these activities:

1-2pm (WB 1317) — Join me on Twitter (@MikeBryson22) for an #RUjusticechat on the relations between campus sustainability efforts and social/environmental justice. You can chat from wherever you are in the world . . . but if you’re in my neck of the woods, stop by WB 1317 for some F2F interaction and home-made cookies!

3-5:30pm (WB 616) — Attend the 2015 SUST Student Symposium, the signature Sustainability Studies event of the semester. Learn about the research and internship projects undertaken by four of our Sustainability Studies majors this year, and enjoy great conversation as well as free refreshments aplenty, courtesy of RU’s Physical Resources Dept. Hosted by the students of my SUST 390 Sustainable Campus class, who are undertaking RU’s first-ever STARS sustainability assessment this spring.

Bike2CampusWeek 2015 Flyer_Version2

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Earth Week Events at Roosevelt

Earth Week 2015 at RU

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Writing Urban Nature: A One-Week Intensive Summer Course in Chicago, May 18-22

SUST 390 Writing Urban Nature flier 2015-04-13Still plenty of room in this new one-week-intensive summer course! Pre-session is next Wed., May 6th, at 4:3pm in Gage 218. For more detailed information on my summer intensive course, check out this Writing Urban Nature preview; and share a pdf version of the image above via email.



Posted in Chicago, Classes, Education, Faculty, Field Trips, Humanities, Literature, Parklands, Roosevelt, Students, Sustainability, Urban nature | Comments Off on Writing Urban Nature: A One-Week Intensive Summer Course in Chicago, May 18-22

Mitchell’s Food Mart — A Thriving Throwback in Joliet

This essay was published as an op-ed piece entitle “Mitchell’s Still Has Magic for Me” in the Joliet Herald-News, p14, on 30 December 2010. I offer it here five years later as a commentary on supporting local economies and celebrating the unique small businesses in our home towns. Gladly, business is still good!

Normally I utterly detest shopping. But a few days before Christmas when my wife noted we were running low on some staple food items, I seized the opportunity with gusto: “Great, honey! I’ll run to Mitchell’s.”

Mitchell's signA small, nondescript building with a friendly 1960s-vintage lighted sign, Mitchell’s Food Mart on Raynor Avenue in Joliet is the epitome of the small neighborhood grocery store, one run by the same family since opening sixty years ago.

Walking inside is like a journey back in time. Customers carefully guide half-size shopping carts down four or five narrow aisles packed full with meticulously arranged inventory. Each item features a little orange price tag that has been applied by hand (no UPC scanning here). The one register for checkout features a friendly and efficient employee who actually knows how to bag groceries and make proper change, both of which are lost arts.

Mitchell's street viewThe utterly delightful candy section, strategically placed alongside the checkout line, reminds me of every corner drugstore’s sweets aisle from my childhood days. It’s got a little bit of everything, much of which (in keeping with the store’s small-is-beautiful theme) is available in minute quantities. My two girls go gaga picking out five-cent Tootsies as rewards for being cooperative sidekicks.

The heart and soul of Mitchell’s, though, is the butcher counter in the back, a supremely wonderful meat-eater’s paradise (vegetarians stop reading now). The first thing I do here is grab a number, because Mitchell’s has the wisdom to use this time-honored system that is sadly neglected at most supermarket delis.

Above the lunchmeat slicers are posted the current won-loss records of Chicago’s sports teams, adjusted seasonally and updated daily. I always check the scores, then pause to regard the squadron of white-aproned butchers expertly plying their trade behind the counter, a sight I find endlessly fascinating.

Here in the queue is where one best experiences the singular magic of Mitchell’s. As folks stand waiting for their portions of hand-cut bacon or tender rump roast to be wrapped up in neat white paper, they inevitably start chatting. Time and again, I’ve had wonderfully entertaining conversations there with total strangers, or mini-reunions with old acquaintances.

From the outside, it’s hard to imagine how a small-scale operation like Mitchell’s survives, even thrives, in this era of cavernous supermarkets with their national supply-chain economics and over-the-top product selection.

But from the inside, it’s easy to see how.

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Interdisciplinarity, Sustainability, & Service Learning

A little while back, I was asked by some of my environmental studies colleagues outside of RU to briefly describe my take on interdisciplinary scholarship in under 200 words. Here’s what I came up with:

An interdisciplinary scholar can speak different disciplinary languages, recognize how they work together, and use that facility to say something unique in the process. Interdisciplinary scholarship is about integration: fitting things together in a complementary, cohesive, creative fashion so that the whole is niftier than the mere sum of its parts. I’ve sung in choirs where men and women blend the different pitches and timbres of their voices in 4, 6, even 8 part harmony. At its best, interdisciplinary work is like that: creating beautiful music from difference, even the occasional dissonance, such as in the give-and-take dialogue of interdisciplinary team-teaching. While most university landscapes remain dominated by disciplinary silos, interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship open up new ground for discovery and connect faculty and students working on problems of mutual interest. 

The last few years I’ve taught in and directed the Sustainability Studies program here at Roosevelt, the curriculum for which was designed in a consciously interdisciplinary fashion to integrate methods and insights from the natural and social sciences as well as the arts and humanities. My own academic background in biology and literature, as well as my many years of working within a multidisciplinary faculty teaching general education to returning adult students in RU’s College of Professional Studies, means I have keen interest in integrating knowledge and research methods from the humanities and natural sciences — something that is an excellent fit within the inherently interdisciplinary endeavors of environmental studies and the newly emerging sustainability studies. In a previous post, I reflect on the relevance/importance of the arts and humanities to matters of environmental science and policy.

Another thought is that service learning provides a powerful vehicle for interdisciplinary teaching and learning — both within the context of a single (potentially interdisciplinary) class as well as in the collaboration of two or more courses from different academic departments. A fascinating model for this is the Sustainable City Year Program, pioneered recently by the University of Oregon and spun off in various ways by other US colleges and universities. This is an action-oriented and sustainability-directed approach to interdisciplinary learning and scholarship that can be tailored to the particular strengths and capacities of a given university.

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Metropolitan Farms Internship for Spring/Summer 2015

Here is an announcement for unpaid internships at a new aquaponics urban farm on the West Side of Chicago, available starting in April.

Metro Farms logoMetropolitan Farms is a commercial scale urban farm that is dedicated to the growth and development of aquaponic farming in Chicago. By condensing the agricultural food chain, reducing the use of water and electricity, and converting unusables to healthy consumables as efficiently as possible, we aim to foster an agricultural revolution. They produce organic and chemical free edible plants and fish in our advanced aquaponics system, which will be distributed all over the Chicago area.

Source: Metropolitan Farms

Source: Metropolitan Farms

We are looking for two reliable, hardworking, and passionate people to help us with the beginning stages of our aquaponic planting and harvesting process.

Time Frame:

  • April-July
  • 4-6 hours per week


  • Experience with plant production and care preferred
  • Access to a car with a valid drivers license
  • Familiarity with aquaponics preferred
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Great work ethic
  • High attention to detail
  • Ability to work independently as well as part of a team


  • This opportunity is an unpaid educational internship.

For more information, visit our website and our Facebook page. To apply, send an email to Ashley Luciani at with “Metropolitan Farms Internship” in the subject line. Please let her know a little about yourself, your experience with urban farming or gardening, and why you would be interested in joining this endeavor. Make sure to provide the best way to reach you.

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