Monthly Archives: May 2012

Coming This Fall! (To Classrooms at Pratt)

Details to come as the start of the semester gets closer, but two new undergraduate courses are coming to the Pratt Institute’s fall schedule.

On Mondays 9:30am-12:20pm, the Sustainable Core debuts.  This course will bring together faculty from across the institution to introduce students to ways the school’s disciplines approach sustainability.

On Thursdays 9:30am-12:20pm, American Urban Life explores how cities in the United States have evolved from colonial times to the present.  Themes to be explored include how social movements develop in cities and how humans interact with the environment to consume resources, manage wastes, and develop systems of survival.

Both courses will cover environmental consequences of modern life, and both are suitable for any undergraduate student interested in the subject matter. I am excited to bring them both to Pratt.


The Brooklyn Side

Those who know me and my deep-rooted Chicago provincialism have known I have been very happy in my work co-creating Roosevelt University’s Sustainability Studies program, enjoying the best pizza in the United States bar none, and developing angina while watching the White Sox play. It begs the question, why move to New York City?

My short answer is Pratt. Here’s the longer answer:

Sustainability at Pratt includes a variety of initiatives, including incubation of startup firms devoted to sustainability, community outreach both in its immediate Brooklyn environs and throughout New York City, graduate programs on planning and facilities management, and a plethora of undergraduate courses approaching sustainability from disciplines ranging from architecture to philosophy.

Within this very fertile environment, my immediate challenge as associate professor of sustainability studies is to coordinate an introductory SUST 201/202 Sustainable Core course that incorporates existing activities and expertise at Pratt. The goal is to provide students a broad overview of sustainability problems, concerns, values, and approaches that a) might lead them to consider related coursework and b) give them valuable perspective to bring to their futures regardless of career path.

For me, this opportunity is irresistible. My work is concerned with the consequences of consumption and waste on the environment and society, including unintended consequences of the disposal of mass-produced goods, stigma associated with handing wastes, and particular attention to the ways in which attitudes concerning waste and society shape each other over time. My position at Pratt is housed in the Department of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies, an intuitive fit for my approach to sustainability. Furthermore, Pratt students are creative leaders who will shape art, fashion, industrial design, and the built environment in ways that will affect consumption and waste streams long after I am gone. This opportunity is an unusually vivid chance for this historian to apply my training and concerns to improve the future.

Delightfully, there is no shortage of passion for sustainable education among the people I have met at Pratt, and even though I destroyed my voice during this week’s visit to campus (a nasty cold combined with a marathon of animated meetings is a dangerous combination), our meetings leave me excited rather than exhausted. Anyway, if you are a Pratt student reading this, consider enrolling in SUST 201/202 The Sustainable Core this autumn. We are working on making it a memorable experience.

That, and not the stabbing pain I get behind the eyes when Robin Ventura calls on Hector Santiago to protect a lead, is the reason to move away from Chicago and to New York.  Although a trade bringing Hector to the Yankees would be welcomed as I will soon be in position to root against the local American League team…

“I have faith that I will someday will make change.”

By no means is this the only wonderful story involving my students who graduated last Friday, but this one rightfully received attention from WBBM.  (Click the link for audio.)

Wrongfully Convicted Man Graduates From Roosevelt University

Jarrett Adams

Jarrett Adams has received his B.A. from Roosevelt University, five years after being released from prison where he was serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. (Credit: Lisa Fielding/WBBM Newsradio/CBS)

CHICAGO (CBS) — For Jarrett Adams, 31, graduating with honors from Roosevelt University wasn’t a day he ever imagined.

“I would love to be able to tell you that when I was convicted and sentenced to 28 years, I knew I was getting out and everything was going to be OK,” Adams said. I didn’t feel like that.”

Adams was convicted of sexual assault shortly after graduating from Hillcrest High School in Country Club Hills. He was at a party with friends on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater when he and his friends were accused of a gang rape on Sept. 5, 1998.

Even though he proclaimed his innocence, a jury convicted him and sentenced him to 28 years in prison.

After serving nearly 10 years behind bars, and with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, the conviction was overturned and the charges dropped. He says he knew he had to make the most of his second chance.

“Everything happens for a reason. I believe God is ordering my steps,” Adams said. “In order for things to be corrected, it will take someone who has been through it.”

Freed in 2007, he enrolled in South Suburban Community College getting his Associate’s Degree of May 2009. He studied at Roosevelt since the Fall of 2009.

On Friday, at the Auditorium Theatre, he received his Bachelor of Professional Studies.

“How did I get to this point? It couldn’t have happened without an education,” he said.

Adams says he now helps those like him, those who need help and have nowhere else to turn. That, he says, has now become his life’s mission.

“If I can go and spend wrongfully ten years in prison and within five years, four years really go to law school, you can do anything,” he said.

“I hope whoever hears my story, they will know that anything is possible even after what happened to me.” Adams continued. “I have faith that I will someday will make change. I don’t know how but I know I won’t stop trying.”

Adams works for the Seventh Judicial Circuit’s Federal Defender program and plans to attend Loyola University Law school.

Congratulations, Jarrett! And let this be a lesson, future students, heed my suggestions on your research papers (as Jarrett did in the senior seminar), and good things will happen!