The hometown hero

Have you ever wondered where you’ll end up after graduation?

Sustainability Studies Program Environmental Humanities major Nia Padilla did just that as she donned her RED cap and gown during graduation in May 2013.

But, before she received her diploma in the mail, Nia landed a seven-month job with the Student Conservation Association as an NYC Recovery community crew leader, a management position in which she helped supervise and execute crew operations cleaning up areas of New York City—and specifically her hometown of Staten Island—that were hit hard by 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.

“After graduation, I knew that I wanted a job that had a positive impact on others, something that I would look forward to everyday and love wholeheartedly,” said Nia. “That’s how I felt about the Sustainability Studies Program and I’m looking forward to finding that in a long-term career.”

Nia reports that her most memorable moment as a Sustainability Studies Program student came when she had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies Design by Nature Conference, at which she said she met some of her “sustainability heroes,” like Van Jones. She said that she is “thankful” for this and other “inspiring” opportunities she had in the program.

Currently, Nia works as a communications intern at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. When asked where she hopes to be in the future, Nia said she has no specific plans, but desires “to continue to help both people and the planet.”

“I just hope that I’ll be doing something in the areas of human rights, sustainability and the empowerment of women,” said Nia. “If I can find something that encompasses all of these things, I’d be very happy.”

Nia on SBU Graduation Day 2013, with Sustainability Studies Program Coordinator Ginny Clancy.

Nia on SBU Graduation Day 2013, with Sustainability Studies Program Coordinator Ginny Clancy.

An interview with Nia Padilla
Sustainability Studies Program ‘13
Environmental Humanities Major

Sustaining a dream

When I was young, I was always quite un-intrigued by the “life” around me. As I grew older, living in North Bellmore, a town characterized by small shopping strips and cul-de-sacs started to please me less and less. There was not much real nature to be seen. The only green that my family owned was a small front lawn. It wasn’t that I hated it, it was simply that I felt like I was missing something.

To compensate, I often found comfort in going to local preserves, my favorite being the Roosevelt Preserve, located on the border of Merrick and Roosevelt. I found it to be awe-inspiring. Trails taking twists and turns, forged by following natural openings visible amidst a sea of green. I took solace in being led to nothing but a tree or stream, where not a thing was spelled out for me, where opportunities to think or run free were as abundant as the vast natural scenery around me. It was where I could be myself and more importantly where I could find myself. It was blissful solitude in nature.

The Meadow Brook Stream and trees, Roosevelt Preserve.

The Meadow Brook Stream and trees, Roosevelt Preserve.

For years I did not think the experiences I had in the various preserves across Long Island could be replicated anywhere other than in another place of nature. However, my experience with the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program has proved that thought to be incorrect.

Acting just like a preserve or park, the program inspires thought not through a body of water or an open field, but through well selected readings via authors such as Emerson, Thoreau, Muir, Carson and many more. Classes within the program vary not only in their academic nature, but also in what aspects of “nature” they teach you about: how to protect it, why you should protect it, its history and even the scientific breakdown of the various organisms within it.

Think of any place where you can go and be truly happy. Now imagine millions had shared in enjoying the very same thing. Now imagine every documented thought or idea related to that place organized and presented to you. If it was really so meaningful to you, wouldn’t you take the time to learn all you could about it? This is what the program offers. It presents you with a plethora of courses covering all aspects of Sustainability Studies; a rare opportunity in today’s automated world; an opportunity I have long dreamed of having.

Walking through the Roosevelt Preserve I can think of dozens of instances where I just looked up at the trees and thought to myself, “I would really do anything to protect this.” As I walked alone in the woods thinking my deep thoughts, I probably thought that sounded pretty cool. But now that I think about it, it doesn’t. Take a walk, think some thoughts…that’s nice. But what has it done for you? What has it done for the world?

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Roosevelt Preserve in springtime.

Every day I spend as a student in the Sustainability Studies Program, I gain knowledge that allows me to be like a young tree taking in water and expanding its roots to stand firmer against the forces of the world. I’m learning that aside from being a form of life myself, there are things I can do to breathe life into the world. I’m learning about jobs I could do to help form a sustainable world. I’m entering into the realm of internships and volunteering and I’m not doing it alone. The program is constantly sending emails about various opportunities through internships, volunteer experience, scholarships, even knowledge via studying abroad trips.

The Sustainability Studies Program has formally introduced me to a world that for years I merely played with. I spent my adolescent years just wanting to escape from my mundane suburban surroundings and get to the nearest nature preserve. Now every step I take in my life is more meaningful, helping me create real positive change in the world. I now see that what is really behind that stream or tree that those initial abstract trails had led me to. That’s not pretty—but—really cool.

That’s the Sustainability Studies Program, and I’m glad to be a part of it.  

Chad Marvin, in Lake George, New York (Summer 2014).

Chad Marvin, in Lake George, New York (Summer 2014).

By: Chad Marvin

Living in an increasingly toxic world – Patti Wood to visit the Sustainability Studies Program, 11/11/14

It is our pleasure to invite you to an upcoming talk sponsored by our program and featuring Patti Wood, environmental advocate and executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education. She will discuss toxics, health, fracking and more.
Patti’s talk begins at 5:30 p.m. She will speak for about an hour, then we will break. The second part of this session is Dr. Heidi Hutner‘s undergraduate class meeting (co-teaching with Dr. Chris Sellers). Visitors are welcome to remain in Dr. Hutner’s class to listen in. The discussion will continue, but the class will be focusing on course readings (related).
Please see flyer, below, for details. We hope to see you there!
Patti Wood flyer 11-11-14

A partnership grows with Clearwater

Croton Point Park, one of the most scenic places in the Hudson Valley, and located on the Eastern bank at the widest part of the Hudson River, was the gathering place for the Great Hudson River Revival, A Music & Environmental Festival, organized by Clearwater this past June 21, the first day of summer. Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a dynamic advocacy organization founded and inspired by the late American folk music icon Pete Seeger, has become a friend of the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program thanks to program director, Dr. Heidi Hutner.

Dr. Hutner has seized on the parallel missions of her program and Clearwater as a bridge to turn theory into practice. Not content to simply get her students and fellow faculty aboard the Clearwater Hudson River Sloop for annual sails of the New York Harbor, Dr. Hutner has established a deeper working relationship with Clearwater that has engaged both Stony Brook faculty and students in the vital activism that has been the organization’s hallmark. The Croton Point Park event, which included Green Cities volunteers recruited by Clearwater from throughout the region, also included Sustainability Studies Program students, alumni and faculty. Upon graduating in May, program alumna Shameika Hanson was hired by Clearwater as volunteer coordinator and events supporter, paving the way for other Stony Brook University students to become more closely involved with Clearwater.

At Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival.

At Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival.

Under the management of Clearwater’s Environmental Action Director, the able and experienced Manna Jo Greene, Green Cities volunteers circulated throughout the festival gathering signatures on petitions for causes that ranged from the proposed retirement of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, to opposition to fracking, to stricter control of the transport of hazardous fuels carried by railroads, among others. At the start of the event Ms. Greene’s team members were introduced to each other and given an orientation to Clearwater’s political objectives, an agenda near and dear to Pete Seeger and friends. Together, the volunteers ran an information table and tent. Along with the Green Cities and other tents provided for festival attendees, the public education agenda was complimented by delicious food, fun crafts, spirited music and dance. The whole 508-acre park seemed to teem with the event’s positive energy.

For those who wished to spend the entire weekend at the festival, there were a variety of lodging options available. Hundreds of tents and campsites could be seen throughout the park’s designated camping areas. Folding lawn chairs, portable BBQs, random Frisbee games and separate small gatherings of musicians gave the assembly a party atmosphere as people of all ages could be heard laughing, playing and singing. Vehicle license tags revealed an amassing of folks from a widespread geography. Amidst the fun and festivities though, serious discussions about people and the planet were had. All those who love Pete Seeger and his music could take heart in knowing that Pete’s memory and legacy were at work. Those volunteers with clipboards circulating among the crowds were regularly reinforced by the enthusiasm of those wanting to sign their names.

Thousands of signatures were gathered at the event and the petitions containing those signatures were forwarded to New York’s Governor Cuomo and other leaders in Albany. I had the great privilege of serving as a Green Cities volunteer at Clearwater’s festival. It was an especially great day for me; I attended the festival with my son, who had just graduated from college, and got the opportunity to revisit a much-loved place of my childhood (I was born upstate by the Hudson River, in Troy, and grew up in Nyack and Haverstraw on the opposite side of the river).

Dr. Quigley hoists the sails aboard the Clearwater sloop.

Dr. Quigley hoists the sails aboard the Clearwater Sloop.

The latest event in the Sustainability Studies Program’s growing partnership with Clearwater took place on Friday, September 26. Students, alumni, faculty and friends of the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program took another cruise around New York Harbor aboard the 106-foot, single-mast Clearwater Sloop. For those who have tried it, there is something nearly magical about helping to hoist the sails and man the tiller while learning more about our river ecosystems aboard this marvelous “floating classroom.”

Lecturer and Director
Sustainability Studies Program


Five reasons to join the Sustainability Studies Program

Did you know that Stony Brook University offers more than 200 academic programs, from English to Electrical Engineering?

Students’ choices of majors and minors are virtually endless!

How can you narrow down your selection? 

Consider joining the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program! Our program offers a selection of five unique majors, six minors, plus a graduate certificate program!

Check out the following five reasons why YOU should join the Sustainability Studies Program here at SBU:

1. Benefit from our small class sizes.

Unlike some other programs on campus, Sustainability Studies Program classes tend to be small. Many classes are conducted seminar style, with more of a discussion-type arrangement, fostering deep thought and meaningful conversation. Students and professors work together closely, forming tight bonds that endure long beyond graduation.

2. Gain hands-on experience.

Sustainability Studies Program students are afforded access to incredible research opportunities, both in and outside the classroom. Just a few examples include Dr. Sharon Pochron’s Earthworm Ecotoxicology Lab, the Chemistry for Environmental Scientists Lab course led by Dr. Aubrecht and Dr. Hoffmann, as well as field trips to top sustainability hubs like Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.

3. Find your passion.

 Sustainability Studies Program students have heart! If you care about people, animals, plants or the world at large, our program can provide you with an education in a field that you truly care about. Check out our majors, minors and graduate certificate program. Also, see the FAQ on our program offerings, here.

4. Our grads get jobs.

Green jobs are growing, say the latest market reports. And that must be true, because our grads are landing their dream jobs in sustainability! Grads of our program now work for organizations like Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, GMO Free NY, the Student Conservation Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Please visit our “Resources” link to read more about green job opportunities, graduate programs and more!

 5. Our students make change.

Our students’ passion and dedication to making the world a healthier, more sustainable place translate to real change being made in policy, innovation, thinking and more. Students’ successes just keep coming!

Interested in pursuing your Sustainability Studies Program education? Contact program director, Dr. Heidi Hutner for more information on how to get started!

2014's crop of Sustainability Studies Program students graduate in May and move on to amazing things!

2014’s crop of Sustainability Studies Program students graduate in May and move on to amazing things!

-Sustainability Studies Program at SBU-

Digging for answers

Have you ever heard of “earthworm ecotoxicology?”

Earthworms are one species of animal greatly affected by the “stuff” put onto/into the Earth…since they live in “earth” itself!

Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program students and others who are interested have the awesome opportunity to take part in an ongoing hands-on research project headed by Dr. Sharon Pochron.

The project entails taking a look at the effects of potential toxins on the health and survival of earthworms, and conducting experiments to find the answers to a variety of questions, including:

  • Does acid rain kill earthworms?
  • Does Roundup cause earthworms to lose weight?
  • Does the use of fertilizer cause infertility in earthworms?
It’s dirty work, but someone’s gotta do it!

It’s dirty work, but someone’s gotta do it!

Dr. Pochron takes students on who would like to earn one to three research credits, or just serve as project volunteers. Students have the opportunity to select, research, and present their own experiments to the public during Earthstock and to URECA.

In addition, students could potentially get their work published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal! Contact Dr. Pochron if you are interested in being a part of this awesome research!

Can you dig it?

sharonsxegall1Sharon Pochron, Ph.D.
Professor and Earthworm Ecotoxicology Researcher
Sustainability Studies Program