SUST 390 Writing Urban Nature (May 2017)

SUST 390 WUN Poster Summer 2017For more details, check out the course preview page here!
Please share this poster/link far and wide (pdf).

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Friends of Volo Bog Offer $1K College Scholarship; Apply by March 31st

The Friends of Volo Bog organization is offering an Entering College scholarship and a Continuing College scholarship for $1,000 each to outstanding students interested in pursuing an environmental career.

To be eligible for the Entering College scholarship the applicant must reside in Lake, McHenry, Kane, Cook, DuPage, Kendall, or Will County, attend a high school in one of these counties, have a minimum B average for the first three years, and plan to attend an accredited college or university.  The applicant should be planning to enter a career directly related to preserving the natural environment.

To be eligible for the Continuing College scholarship the applicant must be currently enrolled in an accredited college or university pursing a degree directly related to preserving the natural environment, have a permanent residence in Lake, McHenry, Kane, Cook, DuPage, Kendall, or Will County, have graduated from a high school from one of these counties with a minimum B average, and currently hold a minimum B average in their college studies.

Applications are due by March 31st each year for the following school year starting in the fall. Application packets are available here.

The Friends of Volo Bog is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to promoting citizen awareness of the local natural heritage of Volo Bog State Natural Area, portions of which are dedicated state nature preserves, and to preserving the same through special events, educational and training programs, acquisitions of properties for such purposes and taking whatever steps deemed necessary to insure the continued care and preservation of Volo Bog State Natural Area as a natural site.

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Introducing “Rooftop: Second Nature” — Remarks at the Opening Reception, 9 Feb. 2017

425 S. Wabash (looking east), Chicago, IL, June 2013 (photo: Brad Temkin)

425 S. Wabash (looking east), Chicago, IL, June 2013 (photo: Brad Temkin)

Nature within the urban landscape is simultaneously close at hand and hidden from view — a paradox of proximal obscurity. Yet its myriad forms are as diverse in kind as their human denizens. City parks, urban farms, back yards, forest preserves, vacant lots, and green rooftops — all these and more comprise the spaces of urban nature.

Despite the ubiquity and diversity of urban nature, it remains largely invisible to and thus unappreciated by many city dwellers. We are much more likely to assume nature exists “out there,” away from our cities and suburbs — especially in remote places characterized by few people and sublime landforms. An implicit corollary to that is that the city is unnatural.

Lurie Children's Hospital (looking southwest), Chicago, IL, May 2012 (photo: Brad Temkin)

Lurie Children’s Hospital (looking southwest), Chicago, IL, May 2012 (photo: Brad Temkin)

Yet the recent coinage of the seemingly oxymoronic phrase urban wilderness signals that we have begun to re-envision the role of nature within metropolitan landscapes. This nature is almost always hybrid in character, a product of human design and action even when appearing “natural” in outward form. Consider our location right here, along the southwestern rim of Lake Michigan — where the surveyor’s grid was laid down upon the marshy prairie, a river’s current audaciously reversed, and lakefront parkland perched atop thousands of tons of landfill.

Gage_Gallery_Spring_2017 rooftop promo emailThe intersections of the made and the natural can be apprehended in such settings . . . if one observes carefully, knows where to look, and possesses a spirit of exploration. The dramatic roofscapes by Brad Temkin in Rooftop: Second Nature are striking visual compositions that reveal the city from a different and unfamiliar angle, as well as information-rich object lessons in how green infrastructure enhances urban sustainability.

More broadly, though, this exhibit speaks to the vital role played by the environmental arts and humanities in envisioning a more sustainable future for humanity as well as for the millions of fellow species on our beautiful yet vulnerable planet. Thought-provoking ideas, artwork, architecture, poetry, stories, historical accounts, theater, music, and film are necessary complements to painstaking ecological analysis and pragmatic environmental policy.

Why? Because ideas and vision matter. Compelling narratives, whether literary or visual, can animate science, challenge our use of technology, inspire policy, and change hearts and minds. Such narratives must guide our thinking to ensure that social equity and environmental justice are not trampled in the relentless pursuit of short-term profits from, say, building oil pipelines across sources of drinking water in the Great Plains; or dumping the “overburden” of mountaintops into the creeks and rivers of Appalachian coal country; or selling more Pepsi or iPhones.

Skeptics of climate change cannot be persuaded by scientific data and evidence-based policy alone — certainly not when science itself is under unprecedented attack in our society; not when environmental laws are in imminent danger of being dismantled; not when the very status of an observed and documented fact is undermined by the brazen contempt for reason and unsettling embrace of doublespeak that now constitutes the discourse of the new administration.

In such fraught and perilous times, a sustainable future can only be achieved, let alone properly envisioned, with the full participation and engagement of the environmental arts and humanities.

By showing us the “second nature” of the urban landscape in these images of green rooftops, Brad Temkin’s art not only delights and inspires with unexpected manifestations of beauty, but also implicitly challenges us to consider what “first nature” is, and what sort of relationship we want with it — one which in we are conquerors . . . or stewards.

This is a slightly edited version of a short speech I gave at the opening reception for Rooftop: Second Nature on 9 Feb 2017 at Roosevelt University’s Gage Gallery, 18 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL. The Gallery is open 9am-5pm weekdays and 10am-4pm Saturdays.

Posted in Architecture, Arts, Chicago, Education, Events, Green design, Humanities, Photography, Politics, Roosevelt, Sustainability, Urban ecology, Urban nature | Comments Off on Introducing “Rooftop: Second Nature” — Remarks at the Opening Reception, 9 Feb. 2017

Photography, Sustainability, & Urban Design: “Rooftop: Second Nature” Opens 2/9 at RU’s Gage Gallery

Gage_Gallery_Spring_2017 rooftop promo emailPhotographs by Brad Temkin

February 9 – May 6, 2017

Opening reception and talk by Brad Temkin
Thursday, February 9th, 5-7 p.m.

Roosevelt University’s Gage Gallery
18 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL
(312) 341-6458

Statement from the Artist

“Rooftop: Second Nature draws poetic attention to an important new movement to counter the heat island effect caused by city life. Green roofs reduce our carbon footprint and improve storm water control, but they do far more. They reflect the conflict of our existence, symbolizing the allure of nature in the face of our continuing urban sprawl.

“My images do more than merely document rooftop gardens. By securely situating the gardens within the steel, stone, and glass rectangularity of urban downtowns, I ask viewers to revel in their far more open patterns, colors, and connection to the sky. In this break, I see not merely beauty and dichotomy, but the framework for positive change.”

— Brad Temkin

On Urban Ecology, Green Rooftops, and the Sustainability of Cities
Exhibit Essay for Rooftop: Second Nature, Roosevelt University, Spring 2017

What does a sustainable city look like? Solar panel arrays, bike lanes along busy thoroughfares, and urban farms converted from vacant lots all come to mind; but the iconic symbol of the contemporary green metropolis is the green rooftop. Though mostly invisible to us at ground level, these living surfaces embody key chacteristics of the urban ecosystem even as they serve as sustainability badges of honor for environmentally-minded civic leaders.

The science of urban ecology demonstrates that cities are not mere technological constructions, distinct from and diametrically opposed to nature, but complex ecosystems constituted by energy flows and waste sinks, evolving communities of organisms, and habitats both natural and designed. The green rooftops that increasingly dot the skylines of 21st-century cities are engineered to serve specific ecological, economic, and/or aesthetic functions for the buildings they crown and the people who inhabit them. Such spaces are simultaneously technological and natural: well-ordered assemblages of soil, plants, and micro-organisms that soften the surfaces and round the edges of the rectilinear built environment.

Said rooftops also are prime examples of green infrastructure, a critically important element of the urban fabric. Parklands and nature preserves, wetlands and riparian zones, bioswales and rain gardens, farm lots and backyard gardens, and green rooftops — all comprise a city’s green infrastructure. These diverse physical spaces provide a myriad of ecosystem services: they conserve freshwater resources, reduce energy consumption, mitigate air and water pollution, create wildlife habitat, and enable our own physical contact with nature.

The dramatic images in Rooftop: Second Nature are striking visual compositions that reveal the city from a different and unfamiliar angle, as well as information-rich object lessons in how green infrastructure enhances urban sustainability. Within one roof’s environs, a diverse riot of native prairie plants is juxtaposed with the boxy lines of air conditioning units, while other images expand the frame beyond the rooftop’s edge to portray its larger context, such as Chicago’s street grid bisected by its namesake river.

Such visual elements evoke the entanglement of ecological cycles in which the roof participates. These living surfaces provide superior building insulation, thus reducing heating and cooling costs and, in turn, decreasing carbon emissions. Plants evapotranspire water, which cools the micro-climate of the building’s exterior, thus mitigating the urban heat island effect. Precipitation falling on these rooftops is not wasted as runoff to an energy-intensive sewer and wastewater treatment system; rather, it is captured in place, absorbed by the resident plant community, and returned to the atmosphere in a silent yet eloquent demonstration of the water cycle.

Brad Temkin’s photographs are densely layered with meaning and invite inquiry from the viewer: From what vantage point was that shot taken? What are beehives doing on a skyscraper roof? How is this largely unseen rooftop relevant to the river flowing only two blocks away? Who has access to these spaces, and what psychological benefits might accrue from exploring them? Such questions suggest the dynamic interplay between art and science within our perceptions of the sustainable city.

— Michael A. Bryson

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We’re Composting Food Waste Here on AUD 8th Floor @RU

Composting Info for AUD 8th 2017JanComposting Definition 2017Jan

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All I Want for the Holidays is a MAP Grant

illinois_state_capitol-wikipediaTo the Roosevelt University Community: please help pressure our Illinois legislators to fund MAP grants for our students!

On Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during the Winter Brunch, please stop by and sign the “All I Want for the Holidays is a MAP Grant” banner. Take a selfie and post to social media with #MAPMatters. We will share images of this signed banner with our state representatives and senators.

Thank you for your advocacy efforts!

For more information, contact Jennifer Tani, Assistant Vice President, Community Engagement (

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Register @RooseveltU for Spring & Summer 2017 Classes

SUST students visit the North Park Village Nature Center, Fall 2012 (M. Bryson)

SUST students explore a wetland at the North Park Village Nature Center, Chicago IL, Fall 2012 (photo: M. Bryson)

Advising and registration are now ongoing (since Nov 1st) for the Spring & Summer 2017 semesters here at @RooseveltU. Undergraduate students, please look over the Spring 2017 schedule using this coursefinder, check remaining course requirements on your curriculum checksheet, and 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.

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Spring 2017:

ACP 110 Primary Texts (MW 11am-12:15pm, Bryson)*
SUST 210 Sustainable Future (14-week online, Pickren)
SUST 220 Water (8-week online, 1/17-3/10, Bryson)§
SUST 230 Food (M 2-4:30pm)
SUST 240 Waste (14-week online, Pickren)
SUST/ACP 250 The Sustainable University (W 2-4:30pm, Bryson)◊
SUST 310 Energy & Climate Change (8-week online, 3/20-5/12)§
SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, & Planning (Th 2-4:30pm, Pickren)
SUST 340 Policy, Law, & Ethics (14-week online)
SUST 395 Sustainability Studies Internship (by arrangement)

* First Year Seminars are open to new full-time undergrads with 12 or fewer hours in transfer credit.
§ These 8-week accelerated online courses are open to all students and synced with the Flex-Track adult degree calendar. They may be taken back-to-back.
◊ Students may register for either ACP 250 (Grounds for Change credit) or SUST 250 (Sustainability Studies credit).

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Summer 2017:

SUST 210 Sustainable Future (12-week online, 5/30-8/8, Pickren)
SUST 390 Writing Urban Nature (1-week intensive, 5/22-26, Bryson)

November is a super busy time of the academic year, but be sure to make a little time to get in touch with your advisor to sign up for the classes you need. For additional useful info, see this Advising Resources page on this website.


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Part-time Student Sustainability Position Available in RU’s Physical Resources, Chicago Campus

RU Campus STARS logoThe RU Physical Resources Department is offering a paid student internship/work-study position for the 2016-17 academic year. This job is an outstanding professional development opportunity and involves working directly with the RU Physical Resources Team under the direction of Paul Matthews, Assistant VP for Campus Planning/Operations. The internship is based primarily at the Chicago Campus, Applications are being accepted ASAP (see details below) until the position is filled.

Duties and responsibilities include:

  • Assist in implementing the newly adopted Sustainability Strategic Plan, approved in Spring 2015
  • Help maintain and update of the RU Green Campus website, Green Campus Blog, and associated social media pages to provide other information which may benefit and educate the RU community about environmental sustainability
  • Help manage the Chicago Campus Rooftop Garden
  • Assist in maintaining contact with associations and government sponsored agencies that support the Physical Resources Environmental Sustainability Initiatives, including: Association for the Advancement for Sustainability within Higher Education (AASHE), United States Green Building Council, Second Nature, World Wildlife Federation, EPA Green Power Partnership Program, and the Illinois Governor’s Campus Sustainability Compact
  • Participate in DCEO Recycling Grant Reporting; Recycling Project for AUD, Field House, and Wabash (with 50% diversion goal); and university Compost Agreement, which provides materials for Schaumburg Garden Plots
  • Help prepare PowerPoint presentations on select ES topics to present to the RU Community when necessary.
  • Attend RU-based meetings that deal with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership thru Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification Program for the Wabash Vertical Campus, Field House, and other major construction projects. Assist in tracking the LEED credits for certification and green building construction, and in achieving USGBC LEED Silver level for Field House.
  • Work on Physical Resource plans or initiatives that center around green technologies, landscapes, hardscapes, alternate methods of transportation, and renewable energy sources.

To Indicate Interest and Get More Information: Contact Paul Matthews, Assistant VP of Operations/Planning, Department of Physical Resources, Roosevelt University, at 312-341-3600 (office) or (email). This position does not require federal work-study status, but may qualify as a work-study position for those with that designation. See the Career Resources page on RU’s website to apply.

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Roosevelt University’s “American Dream Reconsidered” Conference Planned for Sept. 12-15

Students, colleagues, and friends — please attend and participate in this major conference at Roosevelt next month, which should be a galvanizing week on our campus. The theme couldn’t be more timely, considering the tensions, rancor, and controversies of the current election season. In particular, I’m looking forward to speaking on a faculty panel addressing the presidential election (Wed 9/14, 4:15pm) and participating in Service Day on 9/15. The following text is from Roosevelt’s official announcement of the conference. Be sure to register soon!

RU Chicago and US flagWhat does the American Dream mean today? That’s the topic of a major conference Roosevelt University will be hosting Sept. 12-15 in Chicago.

At more than a dozen lectures and discussions, leading American scholars, activists and entrepreneurs will analyze the American Dream and how it affects millennials, education, health care, real estate, immigration, politics and more.

PrezAli at RU“The American Dream is about every individual who aspires to achieve more in life,” said Ali Malekzadeh, president of Roosevelt University and a native of Iran. “Understanding our national ethos of democracy and equality has never more urgent. At the American Dream Reconsidered Conference, we will present many viewpoints on what it means to be an American in these challenging times.”

The conference, sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois, McDonald’s Corporation and other organizations, also celebrates Malekzadeh’s first year in office. It is being held in lieu of formal and expensive presidential installation ceremonies commonly held on university campuses.  Instead, President Malekzadeh has led an effort to discuss the future of the American Dream and initiate a new scholarship program for six outstanding Roosevelt students. Among the highlights of the first annual American Dream Reconsidered Conference are:

• A conversation with PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel on “The American Dream — Globalization, Technology and Progress.” (Sept. 13, 12:30-1:45 p.m.)

•  A lecture by Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor of Education at UCLA, on “The Five Principles of Courageous Leadership to Guide Achievement of Every Student.” (Sept. 12 , 6:00-7:30 p.m., Roosevelt’s Goodman Center)

•  A panel discussion on “The Current State of the American Dream” featuring John W. Rogers Jr., founder and CEO of Ariel Investments; Melissa Bean, Midwest chair of JP Morgan Chase and former member of the U.S. Congress; Rabbi Abie Ingber, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University and Ali Malekzadeh, Roosevelt president. (Sept. 14, 9:30 to 10:45 a.m.)

Jelani Cobb

Jelani Cobb, professor at Univ of CN

• “A Conversation on Justice, Race and the American Dream” with Martha C. Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund distinguished service professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago and Jelani Cobb, professor of journalism at Columbia University and staff writer at the New Yorker magazine. (3:30 to 5 p.m., Sept. 13)

• “A Conversation on Community Leadership and Social Justice,” moderated by Samuel Betances, and including Tom Burrell, founder of Burrell Communications; Gloria Castillo, president and CEO of Chicago United; Father Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina’s Church; Dana Suskind, University of Chicago Medicine and founder of the Thirty Million Words Initiative and Omar Yamini, activist and author. (Sept. 12, 1:30 to 3 p.m.)

Other panel discussions during the week focus on: immigration (Sept. 14, 2 to 3:15); the Affordable Care Act (Sept. 13, 9:30 to 11 a.m.); the 2016 presidential election (Sept. 14, 4:15 to 5:45 p.m.); real estate (Sept. 13, 9:30 to 11 a.m.); and corporate America (Sept. 14, 4:15 to 5:45 p.m.). There is also a film on millennials created by undergraduate students.

On the last day of the conference, Thursday, Sept. 15, Roosevelt will award BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois American Dream Scholarships to outstanding Roosevelt students.  The University community will also participate in the American Dream Service Day, when students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University will volunteer at 30 nonprofit organizations throughout the Chicago area.

Eleanor Roosevelt with RU students in 1945

Eleanor Roosevelt with RU students in 1945

Roosevelt University, home of the American Dream Reconsidered Conference, was founded in 1945 to protest discriminatory racial and religious college admission quotas, and remains dedicated to providing access to higher education for all qualified students.

“Education is the key to achieving the American Dream,” President Malekzadeh said.  “That’s why Roosevelt is hosting this conference.”

The American Dream Reconsidered Conference is free and open to the public, however reservations are requested. For more details and to register, visit: The conference will be centered at Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, with additional events at RU’s campus in Schaumburg, IL.

Posted in Community, Conferences, Education, Events, Humanities, Politics, Roosevelt, Social justice | Comments Off on Roosevelt University’s “American Dream Reconsidered” Conference Planned for Sept. 12-15

SUST Program Student Associate Position Available for 2016-17

For the first time, the SUST Program at RU has a student associate (work-study) position available for the 2016-17 academic year, starting 29 Aug 2016 and ending 8 May 2017. This position is for 12 hours/week at the Chicago Campus and earns $10.50/hour. Undergraduate students must be enrolled in 6 credit hours (F16) and graduate student 3 credit hours to be eligible. The position is open to all RU students, but SUST majors will receive priority consideration.

Position Description

This student associate position for the Sustainability Studies Program within the College of Arts & Sciences reports directly to Dr. Mike Bryson, SUST professor and director. Primary duties include but are not limited to:

  • outreach to current students and alumni on behalf of the SUST program
  • social media research, writing, and editing (SUST at RU blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn)
  • contribution to campus sustainability projects in coordination with the RUSLab, Operations & Planning within the Department of Physical Resources, and the RU Green student organization
  • event planning and coordination, including the SUST Student Symposium in fall and spring, and Earth Month campus activities in April 2017
  • completion of other tasks to advance RU’s Strategic Sustainability Plan and support the SUST Program’s mission

The student associate will acquire and polish multiple professional skills as well as gain valuable experience in sustainability education, outreach, planning, communication, and collaboration. Applicants will be assessed according to their academic record, relevant work experience, writing/communication skills, and ability to work both independently as well as collaboratively. Office space provided in AUD 829, with additional access to the Roosevelt Urban Sustainability Lab in AUD 526. Hours are flexible and can be negotiated with the SUST director.

To Apply

Go to the Student Employment at Roosevelt webpage and click on Career Central. Follow the instructions to register as a student user if you have not already done so. Search for the position by typing in SUST in the search box, then follow the instructions for submitting your application. In addition to filling out the online application form, three supporting documents are required:

  • a cover letter expressing your interest in and qualifications for the position
  • a résumé summarizing your education and employment history, as well as your relevant skills/experience
  • a writing sample that exemplifies your writing at its best (this can be something new or a paper you wrote for an RU class)

Application Deadline: applications will be reviewed starting immediately and continue through 24 August 2016. Position begins on 29 August or soon thereafter. All applications must come through the RU Student Employment website linked above.

Questions? Email Prof. Bryson ( to discuss your interest in the position or to ask any questions about the application process.


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