Eden Place Nature Center’s Farm to Table Fundraiser: Tomorrow 4-8pm

This year’s inaugural event will feature organic and fresh food from Eden Place and local area farms. Enjoy a four-course meal prepared by three of Chicago’s best restaurants, live music and a host of special guess attendees. Enjoy Delicious Cuisine Creations from Majani Restaurant, Roe’s Gratitude, Sweet Blooms, and Eden Place Farms.

Tickets still available online! Event will be at the Nature Center, with street parking on the north end. See event info on Facebook here.

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Planning for Environmental Justice: Kim Wasserman @RooseveltU, Wed 9/26

Lineup of “Just By Nature” environmental activism & justice events at Roosevelt University, Fall 2018. All events held in the Sullivan Room of the historic Auditorium Building @RU. For more info, contact Prof. Bethany Barratt (bbarratt@roosevelt.edu).


Posted in Chicago, Education, Events, Politics, Pollution, Roosevelt, Social justice, Students, Sustainability, Urban ecology, Waste & Recycling | Comments Off on Planning for Environmental Justice: Kim Wasserman @RooseveltU, Wed 9/26

Welcome to the Fall 2018 Semester @RooseveltU

Key text for SUST 350 this fall

As we wrap up Week 1 of the Fall 2018 semester, I want to extend a welcome to new students in the sociology, sustainability studies, and community development & action programs here @RooseveltU, as well as a “welcome back” to our continuing students. It was great meeting my students in SUST 240 Waste (Wed 2-4:30pm in WB 1215) and SUST 350 Service & Sustainability (Tues 12-13pm @EdenPlace Nature Center and online), and I’m looking forward to a great semester of learning together!

I also want to recognize some of our student leaders this 2018-19 year in our Department of Sociology, Sustainability, & Community Development:

  • Michelle Giles, senior SUST major, is President of the student organization RU Green and one of our Rooftop Garden stewards
  • Matt Harlovic, another senior SUST major, is Vice President of RU Green and chief steward of our Rooftop Garden as part of his SUST 395 Internship work this fall
  • Brenda Hershey and Shay Odimayo, both graduate students in the MACDA program, are the Graduate Assistants for our department in the College of Arts & Sciences

Students, please check back here to get in touch, find my office hours, or tap into my class/writing/research resources. I also recommend subscribing to the sustainability blogs and social media listed on the right, so you can stay up to date on all things sustainable here at Roosevelt. My SUST 240 and 350 classes will be contributing posts to the SUST at RU, RU Green Campus, and Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future blogs this semester.

Finally, I look forward to seeing you at the various College of Arts & Sciences events planned for the fall, as well as the landmark American Dream Reconsidered Conference here at RU the week of September 10-14. That will be an exciting week, capped off by our annual Day of Service on Friday 9/14! SUST students, faculty, and alumni will be running a volunteer workday on our 5th-floor Rooftop Garden.


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Talking (and Sampling) Water at Sherman Park in Chicago

One of the stone bridges over the lagoon at Sherman Park, Chicago IL (source: YoChicago)

This past Tuesday I had the good fortune to go to the Sherman Park branch library of the Chicago Public Library system in order to do an hour-long program on water and sustainability for neighborhood teens. The librarian who invited me, Faith Rice, encouraged me to be as “hands-on” as possible instead of just lecturing, which suited me just fine — so I brought my surface water testing kit, turbidity tube, bucket, and assorted supplies in the hope that we could leave the library and do some sampling of the lovely, meandering lagoon of historic Sherman Park on Chicago’s South Side.

As I made the drive from Roosevelt in the Loop down to Garfield Avenue, it began to rain. Perfect, I thought, for an afternoon dedicated to talking about water — but the downside was that the rain caused some of the teens who walk or ride their bikes to the library to go home early before our 4pm session. Nevertheless, when I arrived I was welcomed by Faith’s  colleague, Lala, who got me set up in the lovely old library’s classroom and assured me we could step outside to the park and get a bucket of water for testing.

Aerial view of Sherman Park in Chicago (source: Google Earth)

I ended up ditching my planned slide presentation and just having a free-ranging conversation about water with three kids: Destiny, a high school senior; Tiara, an 8th-grader; and Lawrence, another 8th-grader. Despite not knowing me from Adam, they were very talkative and willing to share their knowledge about the water cycle, as I asked them to say what comes to mind when they hear the word “water.” We soon trekked outside with Lala to the nearby edge of the park’s lagoon, where we gathered a bucketful of water to do three trials with our turbidity tube outside in the intermittant drizzle. (Average reading was 9cm or 120NTU, which indicates a high level of turbidity — something obvious just from looking at the murky water.)

We took another bucketful of water back into the library’s classroom to do a few more quick tests before the kids needed to leave by 5pm. As we re-entered, we caught the attention of the security guard, who betrayed her interest in our somewhat noisy (and wet) experiments — so I invited her and an adult patron to join us. They let the kids do all the work, but we also chatted about their ideas and assumptions about the quality of water in the lagoon as well as the ongoing issue of lead contamination of Chicago’s drinking water.

The kids measured the temperature of the water (26 degrees C, a bit high for most aquatic life, but indicative of our near-shore sampling and the hot summer in Chicago); pH (8.9, fairly alkaline but still within an acceptable range); and nitrate (0-0.1ppm, a relatively low level of a nutrient that can cause harmful algal blooms). While we didn’t have time to conduct more comprehensive tests, the kids were able to assess the current water quality of the lagoon as “so-so” — OK in some respects, not so good in others — which pretty much jibes with most of my water quality sampling results on the Chicago River the last several years with my Roosevelt University students.

Beyond those quantitative assessments, though, what impressed me about the afternoon’s adventure was the importance of parklands and water bodies here in the vast urban landscape of Chicago. Just as the Sherman Park branch library is an oasis of education, literacy, and community programming (for kids and adults alike), so too are the meadows, woods, and lagoon of Sherman Park itself a vital natural resource for the neighborhood’s residents. Getting one’s feet a little muddy at the banks of the lagoon taking water samples drives that point home in a tangible (and fun) way.


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Exploring Urban Nature in Chicago (May 2018)

Just finished up five days of exploring the urban and suburban environment of the Chicago region with my intrepid squad of @RooseveltU students in our one-week-intensive Sustainability Studies 360 course, Writing Urban Nature. Here they are at the North Park Village Nature Center on Chicago’s NW Side, one of the many sites we visited this week in Chicago, Schaumburg, and Will County.

From Chicago’s lakefront to its North Side parklands and trails; from South Branch of the Chicago River to the wetlands and woodlands of the NW suburbs; from heritage farms to prairie restoration sites — we visited a wide diversity of places in which to analyze the ever-shifting relations between the natural and built environments in this place that has come to be called “Chicago Wilderness.”

Pictured from L to R here are Austyn (oboe major), Tom (psychology), Alicia (sustainability studies), Grace (wildlife biology), and Denise (biology). Notably, Grace joined our group as a student-at-large from Western State CO University, enrolling in this environmental humanities class via the Resilience Studies Consortium of US colleges and universities. The students now are working on creative non-fiction essays as part of our Writing Urban Nature online project, est. 2015.

Posted in Chicago, Classes, Education, Field Trips, Humanities, Roosevelt, Students, Sustainability, Urban nature | Comments Off on Exploring Urban Nature in Chicago (May 2018)

SUST 360 Writing Urban Nature: One-Week Experiential Learning Course this May

Registration Information

  • SUST 360-01 Writing Urban Nature — CRN 31243 / Pre-req: ENG 102 with a grade of C- or better

Meets May 21-25 from 9:30am to 5pm at RU’s Chicago Campus. Required pre-session on May 9 from 4-6pm, room TBA — videoconferencing also will be provided through Zoom for the pre-session. Some additional work online required. Final writing assignment due June 1st.

See detailed course preview here!

Posted in Chicago, Classes, Education, Faculty, Field Trips, Humanities, Roosevelt, Students, Sustainability, Urban nature | Comments Off on SUST 360 Writing Urban Nature: One-Week Experiential Learning Course this May

Register for Summer & Fall 2018 Classes Now @RooseveltU

Advising and registration are underway for the Summer and Fall 2018 semesters at Roosevelt. Sign up now to get the classes you want! Spaces are still available in our SUST courses, and we’ve got many hands-on learning opportunities for both summer and fall.

RU students: (1) look over the Summer and Fall 2018 schedules using this Coursefinder, (2) check your remaining course requirements in Degree Works, 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 selected titles below for detailed course previews!

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Summer 2018:

SUST 210 Sustainable Future (online, May 29 – July 25, Prof. Pickren)
SUST 360 Writing Urban Nature (Chicago, one-week intensive, May 22-26, Prof. Bryson)
SUST 390 Rooftop Garden (Chicago, May 29 – July 25, Prof. Gerberich)

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Fall 2018:

SUST 210 Sustainable Future (M, 2-4:30pm, Prof. Pickren)
SUST 210 Sustainable Future (online, 8/27-10/20, Prof. Pickren)
SUST 220 Water (T, 2-4:30pm, Staff)
SUST 230 Food (online, 10/22-12/15, Staff)
SUST 240 Waste (W, 2-4:30pm, Prof. Bryson)
SUST 310 Energy & Climate Change (online, 8/27-12/15, Staff)
SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, & Planning (Th, 2-4:30pm, Prof. Pickren)
SUST 330 Biodiversity (Field Museum, Th 9am-1pm, Prof. Kerbis)
SUST 350 Service & Sustainability (Eden Place Farm, T 12-3pm, Prof. Bryson)
SUST 350 Service & Sustainability (online, 8/27-12/15, Prof. Bryson)
SUST 390 Intro to GIS (M 11-11:50am & W, 11am-1pm, Prof. Pickren)

Click on the links above for detailed course previews!

March is a super busy time of the academic year, but don’t neglect getting in touch with your advisor. It’s the best time to get signed up for classes. For additional useful info, see this Advising Resources page on my faculty site as well as this Registration page on the RU website.

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Sustainability & the Arts: One Earth Film Festival Runs March 2-11 throughout Chicagoland

The Festival is showing environmental-focused films throughout the Chicago region through mid-March. Entry is free, with a $7 suggested donation.

Check out the full film schedule here: https://www.oneearthfilmfest.org/films-by-date/


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Chicago’s True Nature: Black History Month Event at RU on Tues 2/27

Tuesday, February 27, 2018
4pm –6pm

Roosevelt University
Sullivan Room
Auditorium Building 2nd Floor (AUD 232)
430 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

Please register at:

You’re Invited to a Celebration of Black History Month!

The Chicago area is known as a crossroads of diverse cultural groups and ideas. Less commonly known, is the biological diversity of our region. Varied ecosystems are home to native plant and animal species thriving within the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

With nearly 70,000 sprawling acres of wild and wonderful wilderness, the Forest Preserves is a regional asset which improves our quality of life, but not everyone is aware of or has the opportunity to enjoy the benefits that come from spending time outside. The Forest Preserves and its partners recognize the challenge of ensuring that everyone has access to nature and are working to better engage communities of color and grow public stewardship of nature.

Please join us to hear about both the historical and contemporary connections between environmentalism and the African American experience and how we can work together to protect nature and ensure that it is welcoming and accessible to all.

A panel discussion will follow thought-provoking presentations by Brian McCammack, professor at Lake Forest College and author of the new book Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago, Veronica Kyle, Chicago Outreach Director with Faith in Place, and Arnold Randall, General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Kimberly N. Ruffin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English at Roosevelt University, will act as moderator.

Light refreshments will be served. Hardback copies of Professor McCammack’s book Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago will be available for sale for $40 each (cash or check).

The event is free but space is limited, and registration is required. For directions and transportation information please visit www.roosevelt.edu/campuses/maps-directions

This event is co-sponsored by Roosevelt University and the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Speaker Bios and Abstracts:

Veronica Kyle directs all of Faith in Place’s Chicago outreach programs, with a particular passion for those related to Sustainable Food and Land Use. She is responsible for the creation of the Migration & Me Program which came about as the result of the realized concern that there were not enough people of color, mainly brown and black people, who were visibly engaged in available extracurricular outdoor activities, stewardship, and Earth care.

Brian McCammack is the author of Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago (Harvard University Press, 2017) and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Lake Forest College, where he teaches courses on environmental history and politics. Landscapes of Hope recently won the 2018 George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book in environmental history from the American Society for Environmental History. In Landscapes of Hope, he examines the deep connections to nature that black Chicagoans forged in the first half of the twentieth century. The Forest Preserves of Cook County were particularly notable in this regard because African Americans not only sought out leisure there despite racial segregation and intimidation, but the labor of young black men in the Civilian Conservation Corps also helped improve and even build areas like the Skokie Lagoons.

Arnold Randall is the General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Forest Preserves of Cook County, established over a century ago, is one of the oldest and largest urban conservation districts in the United States, managing nearly 70,000 acres of diverse habitat across Cook County and offering recreation and education programs for audiences of all ages and from all walks of life. But preserving nature today in the nation’s second largest county comes with its own particular challenges – a lack of funding, climate change, and an urban population often out of touch with nature. The Forest Preserves is actively working with partners to provide a variety of programs that link diverse and urban populations with nature, including a Conservation Corps job training program and robust camping program at five new campgrounds.

Kim Ruffin is an Associate Professor of English at Roosevelt University, author of Black on Earth: African-American Ecoliterary Traditions (U. of Georgia Press, 2010), and nature-loving Certified Forest Therapy Guide.


Posted in Biodiversity, Chicago, Education, Events, Faculty, Humanities, Land use, Roosevelt, Social justice, Sustainability, Urban nature, Wildlife | Comments Off on Chicago’s True Nature: Black History Month Event at RU on Tues 2/27

“Cultivating the Wild” Essay Reprinted in The Leopold Outlook

Warm tidings on a cold December morning: “Cultivating the Wild on Chicago’s South Side,” an essay I co-wrote about Eden Place Nature Center with Michael Howard for the book Wildness: Relations of People and Place (U. Chicago P., 2017), has been reprinted in the Fall 2017 issue of The Leopold Outlook magazine.

Photo: Gavin Van Horn

Check out the magazine’s back issues here and learn more about the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s work. And many thanks to my co-author Michael Howard as well as the co-editors of Wildness, Gavin Van Horn and John Hausdoerffer, for encouraging us to take on this project.

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