In February of 2008, I sat at a conference table with Amanda Putnam, Mike Bryson, Brad Hunt, Gary Wolfe, and Julian Kerbis Peterhans, discussing how Roosevelt University’s Evelyn T. Stone College of Professional Studies might have a more formal curriculum devoted to the urban environment. CPS has long encouraged innovative programs and interdisciplinary collaboration (the six of us at that table included scholars with diverse accomplishments in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences), and this conversation promised to apply Roosevelt University’s mission of social justice to environmental education in a way that would break new ground in the Chicago area.
I was fortunate enough to be brought into the College of Professional Studies shortly thereafter. January of 2009 saw Mike Bryson and I (at the behest of then-Dean John Cicero) team-teach a course focusing on sustainability in general and approaches to sustainability in the Chicago metropolitan area in particular. That course delved into multiple disciplines as well as a hybrid of face-to-face, online, and field teaching experiences. It inspired an article Mike and I wrote for Metropolitan Universities (click this link to open a PDF of the article) and set the stage for Mike, Brad, and I to develop a program in Sustainability Studies. The support of our colleagues, Dean Cicero, and the university allowed us to win approval of a ten-course major in December of 2009.
In January of 2010, I began teaching the introductory seminar SUST 210 The Sustainable Future (which I’ve taught several times since), and from there we offered more courses (and enrolled more students) in each and every semester. These Sustainability Studies courses incorporated quite a few taught by Mike, me, Brad, and Julian, as well as fellow College of Professional Studies faculty such as current Dean Greg Buckley (who taught a fascinating special topics course on the national parks that took students to Theodore Roosevelt National Park), and veteran teachers such as Maris Cooke, who developed the extremely popular course SUST 230 Food. We also brought several accomplished instructors into Roosevelt community of teachers, including lawyer Michele Hoffman-Trotter, planning professionals Dudley Onderdonk and David Morley, environmental regulator Carolyn Persoon, and oceanographer Carla Jones. Students in the Sustainability Studies program have engaged with a broad set of interdisciplinary concerns, debates, and fieldwork in the short time since the program began.
This year, Roosevelt University’s Sustainability Studies program is mature enough to graduate its first cohort (on the heels of our pioneering alumna Heather Diedrich, who graduated last December). On May 4, several graduates will walk across the Auditorium Theatre’s stage and exit, degrees in hand. I am proud that they chose to come to Roosevelt, proud of their work in our classrooms, and excited to see how they will apply their education in the world.
Like them, I am heading to new territory. In the fall, I will begin teaching as Associate Professor of Sustainability Studies at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The Pratt Institute is one of the leading architecture and design schools in the country. Its mission is “to educate artists and creative professionals to be responsible contributors to society. Pratt seeks to instill in all graduates aesthetic judgment, professional knowledge, collaborative skills, and technical expertise.
“With a firm grounding in the liberal arts and sciences, a Pratt education blends theory with creative application in preparing graduates to become leaders in their professions. Pratt enrolls a diverse group of highly talented and dedicated students, challenging them to achieve their full potential.”
Pratt is an exciting, unique place, and this position is an exciting, unique chance to contribute to its many efforts in sustainability. The opportunity to influence the artists and designers of goods, services, and structures (and, I hope, make the future composition of the waste stream less hazardous to vulnerable peoples around the world) is too important to pass up. And so I am acting on that opportunity.
Roosevelt’s Sustainability Studies program will continue to thrive under Mike Bryson’s accomplished leadership, and updates on its exciting developments may be found in the coming weeks in the program’s homepage, Facebook page, and blog. In the near future, I will say more about the exciting developments at Pratt. For now, I would like to thank everyone I have worked with as colleague, teacher, and student, and express how excited I am to face the challenges ahead.