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CHATHAM DESIGNATED “TREE CAMPUS USA” FOR 3RD YEAR

treecampus_usa_smallOf the approximately 9,452 institutions of higher education in the US, only 229 have been honored with the “Tree Campus USA” designation. For the third consecutive year, Chatham University is among them. We’re one of nine in Pennsylvania, and the only one in Western PA.

To become a Tree Campus USA, an institution must meet five criteria:

  1. Campus Tree Advisory Committee to help provide guidance for planning and outreach. Ours includes Mary Whitney from the faculty, Elise Richmond from the student body, Kirstin N. Spirl from facility management, and Lisa Ceoffe, City Forester for the City of Pittsburgh, as the community representative.
  1. Campus tree care plan that sets policy and clear guidance for planting, maintaining, and removing trees, communicating with the college community.
  1. Allocated funds for the plan. The organization recommends about $3 per full-time student.
  1. The campus must observe Arbor Day. This year at Chatham, this will coincide with University Day on May 1.
  1. Service learning project that provides an opportunity to engage students with projects related to trees. To fulfill this requirement, Chatham has one tree planting in spring, and another in fall. The 2015 spring planting will occur on University Day/Arbor Day (weather permitting).

collage-treecampus

With elements designed for the original Mellon estate by the renowned Olmsted Brothers, Chatham’s campus encompasses a 32-acre arboretum featuring 115 varieties of species, including Japanese Flowering Crabapple, River Birch and Kentucky Coffee tree.

EDEN HALL GEARS UP FOR FACULTY, STUDENTS, AND WINTER LEAFY GREENS

ehc_1600x645Note: This story appears in the Chatham University Spring 2015 Recorder alumni magazine. 

Two and a half years after its groundbreaking, Eden Hall Campus continues to grow into an epicenter of sustainability and culture in the North Hills. Student commons and residence halls are taking shape, and endeavors to officially move the Falk School of Sustainability from the Shadyside Campus to its new home on Ridge Road have begun to unfold.

The Lodge, once a summer vacation home for female employees of the Heinz factories, is undergoing internal reconstruction as the future home of the Falk School faculty offices. Plans were developed by veteran space and facilities planner Charles Craig, a LEED- certified architect who has worked with Chatham since 1993, and is also working with Chatham on some renovations to the Shadyside Campus.

Craig worked with Falk School of Sustainability faculty and staff to identify creative and functional ways to reinterpret the Lodge for a modern office space. The aesthetic being considered for the Lodge embraces natural light flow and the collaborative spirit of sustainability. Office furniture will be mobile and independent of surrounding architecture, allowing workspaces to be reorganized quickly based on the needs of faculty, staff, and students. These movable studio offices will encourage impromptu collaboration and promote a more flexible use of space.

The student commons and residence halls are underway in preparation for use this fall. Walter Fowler, Vice President of Finance and CFO, attends weekly walk-throughs of the construction areas, and attests to the state-of-the-art design and efficiency of the buildings. “The residence halls are being built to LEED Platinum standards and are tightly constructed” he says, “with wall insulation over twenty inches thick and unique sustainable design features such as panels that run through the ceiling and control the air temperature.”

HERE’S A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT MAKES THE RESIDENCE HALL EXTRAORDINARY:

Electricity: All power is provided by the solar panels on the roof of the residence hall. Eden Hall has over 400 solar panels across the campus that generate over 126,000 kilowatt-hours annually, easily enough to power more than 14 homes per year.

Water: Water in the residence hall is heated by solar thermal panels on its roof, and the toilet water is recycled from the the campus on-lot wastewater system. This system treats wastewater through a series of steps including constructed wetlands, a trickling filter, and a UV filter. Some of the water is dyed blue and used in the toilets in campus buildings, with the remaining being treated for irrigation on campus. The system treats up to 6,000 gallons of wastewater per day, and water quality will meet or exceed all State of Pennsylvania water quality standards for land application of treated effluent.

Heating and cooling: The residence hall is heated and cooled by Eden Hall’s geothermal system, which consists of just under 40 geothermal wells (mapped by GPS) across campus. These wells are about six inches wide and drilled 485 feet into the earth where two connected pipes are inserted into each well. A solution consisting of 75% water and 25% food grade propylene-glycol mix (which ensures that the water doesn’t freeze or harbor bacteria) is utilized within the pipes. The geothermal system uses the Earth’s temperature and energy storage capability to heat and cool the mixture, which is then pumped across campus into the buildings. In addition, a unique “heat loop” helps balance and share energy between the buildings as needed. In the residence hall, the geothermal-powered system runs the warm or cold mixture up into the ceilings of the rooms for a unique radiant heating and cooling system – the largest installation of its kind in the country.

Smart monitoring: A system that monitors energy use sends alerts to the facilities manager when it detects a change or inefficiency – for example, if a window is left open.

final interiorThe first Eden Hall student residents will live in single-occupancy  or suite-style rooms that foster a sense of family. A Wellness Community will support students as they transition to college life, offering a wealth of community-building opportunities and nature-focused activities in the spirit of sustainability.

The centrally located commons area will be the heart of the developing campus, and Fowler shared some intriguing news about its kitchen: “Eden Hall is a net zero campus, meaning we will produce as much energy as we use – except for the kitchen, which is an energy-intensive space due to its high heat needs,” he explained. “To counter this, we plan to run the appliances with microturbines that will generate that extra electricity the kitchen needs. They’ll first be run on natural gas, then switch to biofuels like methane once farm animals are added to the campus.” Even pots and pans are specially designed for this futuristic kitchen. The cooking range makes use of inductive heating, with the ability to almost instantly heat flat-bottomed cookware without losing heat to open air the way electric and gas ranges do. “Even if you removed the pan after cooking and felt the burner, it would be cool to the touch.”

While all of these highly efficient and modern technologies are said to dramatically reduce Eden Hall’s carbon footprint, where is the evidence? The commons building will have an energy monitoring facility in the lower levels to provide proof. Using a central software system, several flat screens will show real-time energy usage (and production) from each building on campus. Visitors will be able to see how the technology reduces energy use overall and adapts to different human uses.

In addition to construction and renovations that benefit people, plants are also being given extra support – lettuce, spinach, and Chinese cabbage to be specific. The Solar Hoop House, a structure designed to support young plants through the winter season, is already nurturing new life. Leafy green winter crops have been growing there since this January, tended by Chatham’s Master of Arts in Food Studies students. Operational since November of 2014, the hoop house can remain at 80 degrees even in the middle of winter. External solar panels heat water that flows in a closed loop system beneath the floor of the structure.

Traditional hoop houses without heating capabilities have been used at Eden Hall for the past four winter growing seasons, but cannot match the growing potential of a heated hoop house. Allen Matthews, a food studies faculty member active in local farming for over 40 years, said students were unable to grow the quantities they needed using that system. Now they support dining services at the Shadyside Campus with the produce food studies students grow, year round. Matthews says students can gain a real sense of the work needed to grow and successfully sell produce on a regular basis – a perfect example of Eden Hall’s living and learning mentality.

Chatham’s Eden Hall campus brings degree programming, continuing education and professional education classes, life-long learning opportunities and cultural events to the North Hills communities and surrounding region.  In addition to Falk School of Sustainability programming, Eden Hall now offers convenient evening, weekend and online classes for undergraduate and graduate programs in business, education, psychology and nursing.

stage

Following the success of last year’s Eden Hall Summer Series, this year’s Summer Event Series is set to run June through September and feature a few similar events as well as new programing. The series kicks off June 5th with a performance by the Pittsburgh Opera. A whole day will be devoted to celebrating the creativity of children with the KidsCan Festival in June, and more musical and theatrical acts for all ages are on the docket for the amphitheater. Sustainability workshops will return to the Field Labs and examine a new range of engaging topics. The popular Harvest Tasting Dinner will close the series in September, treating guests to farm-to-table fare grown by Eden Hall students.

Eden Hall is rising quickly with support from donors and students alike. Chatham hopes to create a balance of historical beauty coupled with cutting-edge technologies that show Western Pennsylvania and the world how to transition into the next era of human achievement that respects and supports people and planet.

CHATHAM STUDENTS HONORED WITH SCHWEITZER FELLOWSHIP

Tess Wilson provides writing workshops as a vehicle for building self-esteem and reflection.

In April, the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program (PSFP) announced the selection of its 2015-16 Fellows. Twenty-four graduate students will spend the next year addressing health disparities in Western Pennsylvania while developing lifelong leadership skills. Two of these students come from Chatham University.

Nicholas Bender (Food Studies, ’16) has been selected as an Environmental Fellow. Nicholas proposes a project working with seniors to help them improve their nutritional intake to combat chronic disease. He will focus on food labels, the importance of eating local produce and a balanced healthy diet.

Jason Lucarelli (Counseling Psychology, ’16) is a Traditional Fellow who will work with LGBTQ young adults. He will provide mentorship and counseling services to help promote a positive transition to adulthood.

Two Chatham students are graduating from the Fellowship as well. Hana Uman (Food Studies, ’15) and Tess Wilson (M.F.A. in Creative Writing, ’15 ) will graduate from the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellowship Sunday, May 3rd. We spoke briefly with them about their work:

What is your Fellowship project?

Hana: The site for my Fellowship is Community Kitchen Pittsburgh and the project is called the “Food Education and Empowerment Program.”  I have created a food education curriculum that I am teaching at Manchester Academic Charter School (MACS) at the Sarah Heinz House with 6-8th grade, and I run a cooking club at both MACS and Environmental Charter School (ECS) Upper School. I also work in the ECS Upper School cafeteria two days a week with the students who work on the cafeteria line (they help prepare and serve food along with the staff), and survey the students about their food preferences and cooking experience.

Tess: My program is a writing workshop for girls in traditionally underserved populations called Inside/Outside, and is hosted by libraries around the city. I began Inside/Outside in October of 2014 at the Millvale Community Library, and have since expanded to the Braddock and East Liberty branches of the Carnegie Library. I teach three classes a week and will continue those until the end of the school year. My hope is to continue at least one of them into the summer and take them up again when school starts in the fall. I’d like to see this class live past the length of the Fellowship.

How did you get the idea for your Fellowship?

Hana: I have a variety of experience working with kids, and when I started interning for Community Kitchen Pittsburgh, who provides culinary training for adults with barriers to employment, I was interested in bringing culinary and food education to a younger population. Community Kitchen Pittsburgh was also interested in having more youth programming, and it was good timing for both parties.

Tess: Being a girl is tough sometimes. There are constant reminders of social standards and expectations, and it can be harmful to keep those concerns bottled up. Each week at Inside/Outside, we read and discuss work that addresses social issues, women’s issues, or issues of the body. We then pick out some image, phrase, idea, or technique from the readings that intrigued us and write our own work. If we feel up for it, we share it with each other. Writing is a very powerful medium, and it can prove to be quite therapeutic.

The graduate students I’ve met through this opportunity are some of the most intelligent, most passionate, most empathetic humans I’ve ever known. We meet formally once a month and the electricity in the room is truly incredible. I always leave those meetings feeling inspired. It’s an honor to be a part of such a forward-thinking group that is so deeply focused on bringing good to the world, and to know that this network will transcend our time as Fellows.  – Tess Wilson

 

M.A. IN FOOD STUDIES STUDENTS PRODUCE NEW GINGER WHISKEY

product lineNote: This story appears in the Chatham University Spring 2015 Recorder alumni magazine. All photos by John Altdorfer.

Elizabeth Overholt was born in 1818. She was the fifth child of Abraham Overholt, owner of a prosperous whiskey distillery in Westmoreland County, PA. Romance did not seem to be in the cards for Elizabeth, but at 28, she fell in love and conceived a child with a man called John who worked in her father’s mill. A biographer writes: “It was a common surmise in the community at the time that Elizabeth’s parents would have preferred a more sedate and better established suitor than the impetuous, red-headed scion of the Celts and Burgundians, but as there was no withstanding her calm inflexibility, the wedding took place at the homestead on October 9th, 1847.”[1] Their second child was the industrialist, financier, and art patron Henry Clay Frick.

Three miles from the Frick Fine Arts Building and almost 200 years after Elizabeth’s birth, five M.A. in Food Studies students from the Falk School of Sustainability are gathered around a table at Wigle Whiskey, a local distillery that also offers on-site retail and tasting. With them is Wigle co-owner and Chatham adjunct faculty member, Meredith Grelli. Grelli teaches an intensive two-semester new product development course, and students have been working since the fall to develop—from ideation to market—a ginger whiskey that they plan to release around Valentine’s Day 2016. Why then? Because marketing will be tied to the love story of red-haired John (“ginger”) and distillery daughter Elizabeth (“whiskey”). The decision to pair whiskey and ginger was made before the team made the John and Elizabeth connection, but savvy marketers tell stories, and these are savvy marketers.

organic grains

The class finishes up a conference call about sourcing ingredients with a food scientist from Beam Suntory, maker of Jim Beam. Meredith asks the group—Maureen Gullen, Sam Mass, Erica Rabbin, Katie Walker, and Emily Gallivan—for their thoughts.

“The quality of ginger’s going to be really important,” says one. They had planned to source ginger from the greenhouse at the Frick Conservatory, but now they plan to grow it at Eden Hall. Grelli asks how they would deal with the lack of consistency given that they don’t know that the ginger will come from the same supplier.

The students have done their research and answer with confidence. “Consumers want consistency, but with an artisanal supplier, they’re willing to accept variation and even see it as a positive,” says Gullen.

“I think it adds to the consumer experience,” agrees Mass. “People who are into it like talking about the different deep cuts. It creates a culture and discourse that would never exist in a large company.”

The new product development course began to take shape when Grelli was approached by Food Studies Program Director Alice Julier, Ph.D, about taking on interns. “The Food Studies program sounded amazing, like a program I would want to be in,” says Grelli. “There are immense opportunities to bring education into the business of food, especially exposing students to new product development. I wanted the students to experience the whole process, starting with creating concepts, testing with focus groups, all the way through promotion,” she says. “We’re taking the path you’d take in a big food company, and jerry-rigging it for a small shop.”

Meredith2

Take a look at their first assignment, from last September: 1) visit a grocery store, liquor store, restaurant or bar, 2) identify two innovations, 3) think about what makes them “interesting, successful or flops”, and 4) create a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation on their findings. Two things jump out: The course is exceptionally thoughtful on one hand and participatory on the other. In fact, the degree to which it interpolates theory, research, and hands-on practice is extraordinary, especially considering the truncated time frame. Of course, the truncated time frame makes it an even better idea to assign such readings as “Making Group Brainstorming More Effective: Recommendations from an Associative Memory Perspective.” Everything fits together.

“We’re working together in a group in such a way that it functions like a business. Every week at least one of us presented something to the others,” says Walker. She and Gullen are co-leading production and consumer testing. Rabbin leads recipe development. Mass heads design and labeling, Gallivin is in charge of PR and planning the launch. Grelli has arranged an impressive array of speakers and visits, from a tour of the HJ Heinz Innovation Center from the director of research and development to a meeting with a Pennsylvania ginger farmer to a visit with a food journalist about how to build relationships with reporters. She calls it the new product class she wishes she had in business school.

production

The first Food Studies-Wigle new product development course was held last year, when eight students worked with Grelli to develop Pennsylvania’s first apple whiskey. They conducted a rigorous series of consumer research, worked with local grain growers, apple growers, and the Wigle production team to produce one of Wigle’s most successful releases of the year. In a textbook example of merging business and sustainability, the students made the decision that in terms of cost and marketing, it was more important that the apples be local than organic. Wigle Wayward, as the whiskey is called, is made from five kinds of apples from Soergel’s orchards in the North Hills. “The first year we started I thought “these are not business students, so I’m going to go business-lite,” laughs Grelli, who also co-facilitates the MyBusiness Startup program run by Chatham’s Center for Women and Entrepreneurship.“ But they just wanted more! So I was like, ‘all right’! We’re doing it!”

“I think Chatham is the best place to deliver this kind of program,” she continues. “It’s place-based and focused on community and entrepreneurship,” says Grelli.   “We’re thinking about how to further our partnership, perhaps collaborating on a series of seasonals. Next year’s class might do spring or summer whiskey, for example.”

“I feel like no matter what we do after this there will be an aspect of this class that will help us,” says Mass.

[1] “Henry Clay Frick the Man” by George Harvey, published 1928