Goals and Achievements
I had two major goals in attending graduate school; one was to become knowledgeable in the understanding and execution of environmental issues, and the second was to accomplish the transition from an environmental communications contributor to a leader. I hope to play a leading role in developing communications and advocacy campaigns for whichever organizations I work with in the future. I feel that my courses allowed me to develop a solid foundation in the disciplines needed of an environmental communicator including environmental science, history, philosophy, law and policy and community advocacy, as well as their organizing principles. Each of my courses gave me an opportunity to apply the information therein to contemporary issues, theories and skills. Through projects, I was able to explore how these items applied in my bioregion, which in turn strengthened my acumen in my area of focus: communications.
“Chicago Grown: How to Feed a City in 80 Miles or Less”
Using the right ingredients, a city of 3 million people can feed themselves with locally grown food! From windowfarms to biointensive grow-ops on vacant lots and vertical self-sustaining aquaponic plants, and everything in between, “Chicago Grown: How to Feed a City in 80 Miles or Less” explores the possibility of a self-sustaining Windy City through interviews with Chicago food leaders and profiles of exemplary models of urban agriculture currently making headway in the Chicago Food Movement.
My graduate thesis project was to write 4 chapters of a book targeted toward a general audience (along with a formal book proposal). (click on the image to view an excerpt)
I worked directly with Todd Jones, founder and CEO of Every Last Morsel (ELM) for 6 weeks on a graduate practicum. ELM is a soon to-be- launched social enterprise that offers an online market place and social network connecting community and backyard gardeners with their hungry neighbors. I acted as a grant-writing/communications consultant to ELM. My duties consisted research, writing and editing. My primary goal was to research possible funding opportunities and develop copy for grant-writing applications. My secondary goal was to create one or more communications that reflected ELM as a model for sustainability, in line with my thesis project.
I researched and wrote two letters of inquiry and one pre-proposal for grants. I created boilerplate copy to describe ELM’s mission and goals. The copy explored the ways ELM could offer entrepreneurship opportunities to disadvantaged communities using a public health and well being framing, while the grant messaging focused on how advanced recordkeeping tools and online marketing could help small-scale growers become more efficient in both growing and selling their produce.
My work with ELM has provided me with insight into the economic and organizational challenges faced by small-scale growers, as well as possible solutions and innovations that can improve the economic viability of small-scale farming along with the efficiency and long- term sustainability.
Here is a list of the courses I completed in pursuit of my Master of Science (M.S.), Environmental Studies and Communications at Green Mountain College. Below each course description (taken from the GMC MSES Catalog) are projects I completed for each course.
Bioregional Theory & Practice
The central goal of this course is to provide students with the experience and direction necessary to understand the multidimensional complexity of their home bioregions in a comprehensive fashion. This will require that each student research the natural and cultural histories of her local ecosystem, compiling a thorough annotated bibliography of resources that provide an enhanced understanding of the region’s geology, botany, and wildlife biology, as well as human population dynamics, cultural practices, and environmental impacts. As a part of this project, students will identify contemporary environmental issues and professional resources in the local bioregion.
- The Greatest of Lakes -The Chicago Lake Plain Bioregion
- Portage to the Past – A Deep History of Chicagoland
- Transition Chicago – Metropolitan Sustainability Efforts
Environmental History & Philosophy
This course provides a systematic historical and philosophical analysis of prevailing Western perspectives of the environment. Drawing on the work of historians such as Max Oelschlaeger, Carolyn Merchant, and Donald Worster, students will begin by exploring the Classical and Judeo-Christian roots of Western thought, after which they will consider how attitudes toward the nonhuman world have evolved since the collapse of the hierarchically structured Medieval world and in the wake of modern science. Students will trace current debates in environmental ethics and history through journals of record in these fields, honing their skills in research and argumentation before defending their own solutions to environmental problems in their local bioregions.
Natural Systems Ecology
This course provides a rigorous overview of six major organizing areas for study of ecology: physiological ecology, dynamics of energy and element cycles, population ecology, population interactions, community ecology, and evolutionary ecology—the latter especially as it is relates to conservation issues. Each major section of the course begins with one or more case studies, then proceeds to the theoretical underpinnings that allow us to understand the ecological processes in question. Students will read a body of current literature and produce a significant paper centered on ecological issues of their bioregion.
- The Potential Effects of Asian Carp on the Gizzard Shad and the Overall Ecosystem of the North Branch of the Chicago River
- North Branch River Food Web
Environmental Law & Policy
This course is an introduction to the laws and policies pertaining to issues such as population, energy, pollution, land management, waste disposal, economic growth, and ecosystem management, as well as some of the theoretical underpinnings of how economic and ecological burdens and benefits are distributed within society. Students will consider historic and modern common-law mechanisms for managing land use, and modern environmental statutes including federal land management regimes, consumer protection statutes, pollution prevention regimes, and the intersection of energy regulation and transportation law with environmental laws. Using the National Environmental Policy Act’s Environmental Impact Statement process as an organizing principle, students will consider a variety of environmental issues, statutes, and case law concerning environmental regulation in the United States.
- A Legal Scenario – How a Small Town Could Achieve an Injunction against Fracking through Anticipatory Nuisance Law
Environmental Leadership & Community Involvement
This course will examine theories of leadership, group and community dynamics, grassroots and community organizing, and methods of dispute resolution. Students will first examine historic social conflicts and the mechanisms that ultimately resolved those conflicts, with particular focus on the labor, consumer, and environmental movements, and international differences in the ways such movements played out in disparate political and social systems. Through extensive use of case studies and simulations, students will compare traditional methods of resolving disputes (from violence to litigation) to Alternative Dispute Resolution processes (negotiation, mediation, arbitration, etc.), and analyze decision-making by parties, judges, policy-makers, and neutral third-party decision makers.
- CATAPULT Food Deserts in Chicago
- A Community-Based Approach Could Overcome Obstacles in the Remediation of the Fisk and Crawford Sites
Students in this class will begin by researching private foundations, public grants, and other grant-making funding sources, and determining application opportunities and requirements. Students will then practice drafting proposals to a variety of grant-making institutions, with focus on statements of need, program descriptions, and budgets. Finally, students will focus on grant-related maintenance strategies, including tracking implementation guidelines and match requirements, drafting grant reports, and monitoring multi-year or multiple-partner projects.
Through readings and online discussion of communication theory, audience and rhetorical analysis, and persuasion in the mass media, students will identify mechanisms and professional practices required to communicate environmental and science policy issues. Case studies of key environmental issues in various bioregions and organizations will provide a sampling of communication models, including informational and public policy reports, objective and persuasive media reporting, and advocacy campaigns. Students will research and conduct an environmental communications campaign that incorporates public policy and planning processes, assessment of scientific data and claims, and audience analysis. This project will incorporate a pre-campaign analysis of audience and core concepts; the authoring of a coordinated body of messages, publications, and media; a timeline and budget; and an assessment process to evaluate the campaign’s success.
Sustainable Agriculture Theory & Practice
Premised upon a basic understanding of food system dynamics, bioregional impacts upon food production, and the historical emergence of the current paradigm, this course will provide an historical overview of the theory and practice of sustainable agriculture in the U.S., with an emphasis on soil health, farm systems, crop and livestock selection, animal husbandry practices, natural and synthetic chemical use, energy resources, mechanization options, and genetic manipulation. Driven by a constant interplay between science and values as they respond to a series of historical problems in agricultural practices, sustainable agriculture will be explored as a field in flux, constantly challenged by the inherent difficulties of manipulating natural ecosystems for the production of food.
Contemporary Food Systems
The complexities of the food system are enormous, and the tools for understanding the system and its dynamic historical shifts are interdisciplinary. This survey of local, regional, national, and international food systems will provide students with a basic understanding of how to analyze individual elements of the systems and their interrelationships and how to begin assessing the “sustainability” of those food systems at different scales and in different bioregions.
Professional Writing and Advocacy
Media publications and advocacy messages are key tools for communicators who create campaigns supporting environmental advocacy, social justice and sustainability. In this workshop-focused course, students develop expertise in a range of advocacy communication tools, including research, writing, editing, media production and strategic communication analysis. Topics are drawn from bioregional issues and global issues with local impact. Writing and media assignments support a variety of genres and publishing contexts, including presentations, audio/video scripts, media releases and commentary/opinions/blogs. A student’s final portfolio will feature informational and persuasive publications that support civic engagement, sustainability marketing, and advocacy campaigns.