Sustainability Student Associate Position(s) for Spring 2019

RU students keen on advancing campus sustainability: check out this Sustainability Student Associate position, now accepting applications for the S19 semester!

Sustainability Studies @ Roosevelt University

The Sustainability Studies Program @RooseveltU is hiring one (or more) undergraduate students to serve as Sustainability Student Associates for the Spring 2019 semester. Information and application instructions for the position can be found on Student Employment website: just login to the Career Central job posting system and upload your letter of interest and cover letter.

Deadline for applications is Monday 1/14. Interviews will be conducted that week in person or via Zoom with the goal of hiring by the week of 1/21. Depending upon the applicant pool, the available hours (12/week) may be split among 2-3 students. Cover letter required; writing sample optional (can be paper written for a class); résumé optional but recommended.

Desired Majors: Sustainability Studies, Sociology, or Biology preferred; however, all majors will be considered.

Required Skills/Knowledge: Knowledge of and interest in sustainability; strong writing/editing skills; effective communication skills; dependability and strong work ethic.

This 12 hour/week…

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Tackling Invasive Phragmites at Eden Place Nature Center

by Brittany Janney for SUST 350

Earlier this fall semester at Eden Place Nature Center, our SUST 350 Service class was given two options for part of our workday: pull tiny weeds along the alley fence or take your best shot at uprooting a horde of unwanted, giant perennial grasses, ranging from four to five-and-a-half feet tall invading a bed of native prairie plants. Of course, I chose the latter. It was not just the challenge of figuring out how to eliminate as many of the grass beasts, known as phragmites (common reed), with limited time and resources that drew my attention. It was more because of the knowledge I have of the vast destruction invasive species, like phragmites, can do to a habitat and the importance of doing the best you can to eradicate them.

(photo: Illinois Natural History Survey)

This was not my first rodeo battling invasive plants, though. The first time I ever really learned about invasive species was in high school. I was in an environmental education program freshman year, and one activity we did was go to the nearby forest preserve to clear out some European buckthorn. Like phragmites, European buckthorn is sweeping through Illinois greenspaces, choking out native species along the way. I remember it was crazy to think that what looked like a naturally full forest was actually UNNATURAL. The buckthorn did not belong there, and it was hard to understand why unless someone let you in on the not-so-secret, ecological hot topic issue of invasive species.

Invasive species are any species of an organism (plants, insects, animals, fungi, etc.) in an ecosystem they are not native to and which pose a threat to that ecosystem. Humans often play a large role in the spread of invasive species by introducing an organism, intentionally or not, to a new habitat. Once these species take hold within their new habitat, it can be extremely difficult to eradicate them because they lack what would naturally keep their population in check, like natural predators or climate vulnerabilities. By outcompeting native species and dominating ecosystem biodiversity, invasive species are one of the biggest threats to environmental sustainability.

The hard work of pulling phragmites at Eden Place (photo: M. Bryson, Oct. 2018)

Phragmites, for example, not only choke out native flora, they also alter the hydrology of wetlands and their nutrient cycles. Some other invasive species that are currently wreaking havoc in Illinois and the Chicagoland area (along with phragmites and buckthorn) are garlic mustard, Japanese stiltgrass, tree of heaven, as well as invasive animal species like Asian carp and the emerald ash borer.

While invasive species do not have a natural predator to keep them in check, there is a power that has risen to combat invasive species in the area. The unsung heroes fighting back are none other than volunteers and environmental stewards. Community resilience, as I have learned through our class readings, can come in many forms to tackle many different community issues. Protecting the environment is one of those key communal issues in which individuals will come together to collaborate on solutions.

In Daniel Lerch’s edited volume, The Community Resilience Reader, the first foundation essential to community resilience is people (p. 17). This is very much true when it comes to protecting local ecosystems from invasive species. Not only are there programs and opportunities in the Chicagoland area to educate and train community members about invasive species control, there are community leaders, like Mr. Michael Howard of Eden Place, who help inform others on the importance of preserving native species and ecosystems.

A part of my experience so far at Eden Place has been absorbing Mr. Howard’s knowledge of local native habitats and how any type of imbalance to them can cause disruption. A couple weeks before taking on the challenge to uproot the phragmites, Mr. Howard talked about how phragmites have become a huge problem in the Chicagoland area wetlands. He also pointed out the ones that had taken over the natural areas in the nature center. I did not know much about phragmites until then, but when the option was given two weeks later to help weed them, I knew what I had to do.

The SUST 350 Eden Place team celebrates a phragmites removal session; author, B. Janney, at far left (photo: M. Bryson, Oct. 2018)


Lerch, C. (2017). The community resilience reader: essential resources for an era of upheaval. Washington DC: Island Press.

Brittany Janney is a senior SUST major in the Fall 2018 class SUST 350 Service & Sustainability at Roosevelt University. This fall, students in the course are posting essays about a variety of topics relating to the course themes of urban sustainability and community resilience.

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Posted in Biodiversity, Chicago, Courses, Restoration, Students

“Environments of Justice” Student Presentations @RooseveltU Tomorrow 12/12

Tomorrow 12/12 is the capstone event in this Fall’s Loundy Human Rights Project Distinguished Speaker Series: “Environments of Justice: Student Researchers Report from the Pacific Northwest.” Join us this Wednesday at 2:30pm in the AUD Sullivan Room at RU’s Chicago Campus for a conversation about our shared urban environment, and what lessons we might be able to exchange with our neighbors north of the border. Research questions to be addressed in the session include:

  • What has, can, and should be done about lead contamination in the water supply — and who should do it?
  • What are the benefits of green space, what should green space include, who should have access to it, and who gets to decide?
  • Where should dangerous industrial waste be housed, and who has the right to make this decision?

EJ Honors Class 2018Fall

Student researchers from Roosevelt’s Honors Program — Beckett Costello, Casey Fitzpatrick, Britt Harvey, Bernice Kasongo, Jeremy Kelleher, Ellie Kurt, Kenji Omura, Dan Simon, and Esperanza Varela — will report the results of their comparative research trip to Canada and Olympic National Park to a panel of local environmental justice educators, leaders, and activists.

Panel Respondents:

Thomas Frank is a lifelong Chicagoan with a background in graphic art and urban planning. He has developed online learning communities for the medical field and for underserved communities, and served as the Director of The Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal – the most polluted body of water in the country. In his early career he became aware of how heavily our advanced industrial culture has dependent on externalizing massive amounts of environmental and social harm onto sacrifice communities like East Chicago. Today, Mr. Frank advocates for environmental justice issues and against negative externalities.

Cheryl Johnson is Executive Director and CEO of People for Community Recovery. . Ms. Johnson is the daughter of the late Hazel Johnson, “Mother of Environmental Justice,” who founded People for Community Recovery 36 years ago. Cheryl has been with PCR for the past 33 years in various capacities. Ms. Johnson is a strong advocate lfor environmental justice in air pollution and climate change. Ms. Johnson has co-written several journal articles on environmental health and risk factors, and is an appointed member of the Illinois Environmental Justice Commission and the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC).

Tom Shepherd is the longest serving board member at the Southeast Environmental Task Force on Chicago’s far-southeast side -an area where steel once was king, and where there is an abundance of environmental degradation, garbage dumps, and contaminated land. Tom’s background as an activist and community organizer brought him to work to cure some of those environmental ills in the region. SETF’s current campaigns include stopping the Koch Brothers’ profligate transport and irresponsible management of petcoke on the Calumet River.

Michael Bryson is Professor and Director of Sustainability Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at Roosevelt University in Chicago and Schaumburg, IL; and a Research Associate in Science and Education at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. He is co-founder of Roosevelt’s Sustainability Studies program, launched in 2010 and the first undergraduate degree program of its kind in the Chicago region; and the founding director of the Roosevelt Urban Sustainability Lab (est. 2015). He currently teaches in and directs the Sustainability Studies Program and serves as Chair of the Department of Sociology, Sustainability, and Community Development in RU’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Light refreshments will be served. For more information, please contact Prof. Bethany Barratt, Director, Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project,

Posted in Chicago, Environmental Justice, Events, Research, Students

Register @RooseveltU for Spring & Summer 2019 Classes!

Hey, RU students! Still need to register for Spring 2019 classes? Check out the line-up of courses in Sustainability Studies, including many excellent online and experiential learning options. And don’t forget to take a look at our two cool summer courses, as well! ~The SUST Faculty

Sustainability Studies @ Roosevelt University

SUST 220 Water students after their Bubbly Creek canoe trip w/ Friends of the Chgo River, Fall 2017 (M. Bryson)

Here’s a cheerful autumnal thought, something to give thanks for: advising and registration are ongoing for the Spring & Summer 2019 semesters here at @RooseveltU — and there are still seats left in most of our SUST classes. The Sustainability Studies program is once again offering a wide range of on-campus and online courses for the next two exciting semesters of learning, research, and campus outreach projects!

Undergraduate students, please look over the Spring 2019 schedule using this coursefinder, check your remaining course requirements, and email or call your assigned academic advisor with your planned schedule and any questions you have about your upcoming classes. Your advisor will help you craft your schedule and provide you with an RU Access registration code so you can register.

Sustainability Studies courses offered…

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Film Screening @RooseveltU: “Chicago’s True Nature” (Mon. 11/26)

Looking for a way to get back into the swing of things the week after Thanksgiving? Come to the film screening of “Chicago’s True Nature” on Monday 11/26 at 12:30pm in WB 612!

Sustainability Studies @ Roosevelt University

Join us tomorrow, Nov. 26th, from 12:30-1:45pm in WB 612 @RooseveltU’s Chicago Campus for a film screening of Chicago’s True Nature, a documentary film about the remarkable Forest Preserve system of Cook County, IL. Sneak preview here:

This event is hosted by students in PHSC 103 Global Climate Change and co-sponsored by the RU Green student organization. All RU community members welcome. And if you can’t make the screening, you can watch the film online!

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The Sustainability Program offered a special topics course over the summer called SUST 390: Rooftop Garden and I was fortunate enough to become one of Roosevelt University’s garden stewards. The course was taught by SUST adjunct professor Vicki Gerberich and our classroom was the green rooftop. I thought any student would jump at the opportunity to be outside the classroom. So what attracted me to SUST 390 was its roots in experiential learning. For those unfamiliar with the learning style, experiential learning is a process through which students develop knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences outside a traditional academic setting. Phycologist David Kolb describes this theory as “…the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38).


(Photo: M. Harlovic, July 2018)

During the first week of class, we took up our plots. I selected a couple containers—below the Microgreens on the South wall. While my classmates planted from seed, I transplanted Thyme, Allium and Bee Balm from my Grandmother’s garden in Oak Park. I also went to Home Depot and spotted some Vincas I thought would give the garden a much-needed flare of color.

After the summer course ended, I needed a few more credits for graduation and I was offered the opportunity to intern on the garden from August (typically a dry month) to the end of the growing season. Since the garden’s start in the spring of 2013, it has been funded and managed by the Department of Physical Resources, with work being done primarily by student interns and volunteers. I took the internship and continued my work through the month. We did not have rooftop water access until recently, so we were hauling buckets of water from the bathrooms in the Barry Crown Fitness Center. Additionally, the garden stewards deemed the lack of walking space around the garden was our primary issue. But we took care of that concern during the Service Day in September when we rearranged the containers to create our temporary walkway.

July 2018

(Photo: M. Harlovic, August 2018)

Through this course, I learned about the unique urban ecosystem and the value of green rooftops in urban settings. For instance, green rooftops reduce our carbon footprint and improve storm water management. Furthermore, my work on the garden contributed to our 2015-2020 Strategic Sustainability Plan. But I must thank RU Green for their assistance during the semester because the garden wouldn’t look as healthy as it does now without their efforts.

Posted in Agriculture, Biodiversity, Chicago, Courses, RUrbanPioneers, Service, Students

Tap App


Single-use bottles are so last year. Refillable bottles are all the rage and a new software startup is looking to change the game. Tap is a new app that allows you to find nearby refill stations, so you never have to buy one of those pesky plastic ones again! According to, “Over 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute and nearly 80% of these end up in our landfills and oceans. At this rate, the amount of single-use plastic ending up in our oceans will outweigh fish by 2050, unless we make a change.” To reduce the amount of plastic waste, Tap is creating a movement under the hashtag #drinkdifferent. Instead of building new refill stations, they are tapping into existing businesses. By downloading the app, you are joining millions in a pledge to reduce plastic waste; a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information about the app, please visit

Posted in Chicago, Energy, Pollution, Schaumburg, Students, Waste & Recycling, Water

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