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Building Community Spirit, Loaf by Loaf

Shauna Kearns shapes a loaf of bread.

This story, by Ray Werner, originally appeared in the Summer 2014 Recorder

Catch the 61B bus from Regent Square to Braddock and you just might catch a whiff of pungent-sweet sourdough bread, on its way to a brick oven.

Benjamin Franklin would approve. You recall he was seen with a loaf of bread under each arm as he strolled along Market Street in Philadelphia. No doubt Ben’s bread was also baked in a brick oven similar to one run by Chatham University student Shauna Kearns.

A student in the Falk School of Sustainability’s Master of Arts in Food Studies (MAFS) program, Shauna has a ready smile and her eyes light up like arctic stars at the mere mention of bread. On her lap is a plastic container of several pounds of sourdough rising to the occasion and ready to be baked in Braddock’s community brick oven. It’s a trip she makes two or three days a week. While she shapes her bread, she is also helping to shape the new community spirit that is a catalyst behind all the good things happening in this comeback town. Their newest community brick oven will be built this July next to the new and much anticipated Superior Motors restaurant.

“With the addition of Shauna and our new oven,” said Mayor John Fetterman, “Braddock’s fortunes will certainly continue to rise.”

Shauna’s passion has deep roots. “I grew up in Toronto in a family that treasured the outdoors and loved to cook with locally grown foods. The first time I made bread, I just fell in love with it.”

That love landed her an apprenticeship at Tracebridge Sourdough in England.

“This incredible couple, Katie Venner and Gordon Woodcock, run a small-scale bakery in Somerset. They have a brick oven they made from reclaimed materials. With their weekly pizza nights, they bring people together with food and music and community spirit. I learned so much from them.”

Shauna brought a jar of Tracebridge sourdough starter back to Toronto from the UK, which she still uses for her bread. Then, she apprenticed at St. John’s Bakery, a nonprofit next to a mission that trains the unemployed. This will be the model for the bread-baking training program Shauna plans for Braddock.

These past few summers, Shauna has also led canoe trips on the Ravensthroat and Coppermine Rivers in the Arctic, and she’s going back this summer, along with her sourdough starter, to paddle the Keele. Yes, she bakes bread in the Arctic wilderness. Much like the Klondike miners did during the gold rush in the late 19th century. But Shauna mines a different kind of gold.

Hands flattening a loaf of bread.

“These canoe trips in the Arctic are little communities,” she says. “They’re nomadic, self-sufficient. We eat only what we catch and carry. Baking bread in a small portable Dutch oven every day in the middle of the nowhere encourages a community spirit. It’s the same kind of spirit I discovered in Braddock.”

Shauna received one of the initial Falk Sustainability Summer Fellowships, which will help her participate this summer in an oven-building workshop at Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, Pennsylvania, and to serve as an apprentice at their oven- use workshop in September.

For Shauna, it’s all about what bread from a brick oven can do to bring people together – to learn, to share, to develop a skill and give something back to the community.

Shauna putting loaves in a brick oven.

“Bread sales from the Braddock oven,” Shauna says, “have always gone back into the project. The Falk Fellowship helps ensure this can continue. Imagine, 100% of our bread sales goes right back into it – to buy flour and support the construction of the oven. It will be for sale Saturdays at the Braddock Farm Stand beginning in June.”

So, while breaking bread, Shauna is also breaking the mold. What comes out of the community oven in Braddock is extraordinary. But what comes out of her community spirit is changing people’s lives.

Under Shauna’s leadership, Chatham will be building  a community bread oven at Eden Hall Campus in the summer of 2017. In spring and summer 2017, Chatham will be hosting food-related workshops–including bread baking with Shauna–at Eden Hall.

Chatham’s Master of Arts in Food Studies in the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment emphasizes a holistic approach to food systems, from agriculture and food production to cuisines and consumption, providing intellectual and practical experience from field to table.


Eden Hall Campus: A Hub for K-12 Sustainable Education Efforts

Eden Hall Campus was envisioned as a beacon for current and future generations who wish to work toward a more sustainable way of living. Today, Eden Hall Campus delivers this vision through bachelors and masters-level programs and an unparalleled range of opportunities for sustainability-themed experiences for K-12 students in the Pittsburgh area.

Powered by grants made possible by both the Grable Foundation and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Kelly Henderson, LEED AP O+M, is finishing her second year as Eden Hall K-12 Education Coordinator, and the Sustainability Leadership Academy Director.

“Our hope is to empower and inspire students to create real change in their schools and communities by exposing them to new ideas and technologies, connecting them to the natural world, and making what they are learning in school come to life with purpose,” said Henderson.

With these programs, Chatham University aims to help students and educators become confident in their passion for sustainable initiatives and less overwhelmed about the question, “where do I start?”

One of the places students can start is the upcoming Seeds of Change: Igniting Student Action for Sustainable Communities conference scheduled to take place at Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus on Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 from 10am – 1:30pm.  The conference will feature up to 100 students from 20 local schools sharing their work on an ongoing or current project that is helping to make their school or community more sustainable.

The Eden Hall K-12 Education program includes field trips, K-12 educator programming, special projects and overnight programs.

FIELD TRIPS TO THE EDEN HALL CAMPUS have been incredibly successful with more than 2,000 visitors from school districts in the tri-state area over the past 2 years. Field trips are designed for fourth through eighth grade students and ninth through twelfth grade students and include exploring topics in sustainability through activities involving:

Built Environment

  • Rain barrels and green infrastructure
  • Wastewater filtration
  • Passive solar design challenge
  • Solar thermal design challenge
  • Materials, products and air quality

Sustainable Agriculture

  • Aquaponics
  • Integrated pest management
  • Mushrooms
  • Food products
  • Farm service


  • Biodiversity survey
  • Watersheds and macroinvertebrates
  • Geocoaching

Through Eden Hall’s K-12 EDUCATOR PROGRAMS, teachers can experience the pedagogy and practices behind Project Based Learning (PBL) through partnership programs.  They will also discover how they can take those same principles of sustainability content into their classrooms to create opportunities for student-driven learning through meaningful projects in their communities.

Pine Richland, South Fayette, Fort Cherry, Falk Lab School, Pittsburgh Schiller STEAM Academy 6-8, and others have produced or are in the process of creating school and community-based, student-driven projects. These projects range from school recycling and compost system overhauls to designing and installing micro-scale renewable energy systems to launching awareness campaigns to get teachers to utilize existing outdoor spaces on school grounds during class time.

At Pine Richland’s Eden Hall Upper Elementary, among the many ongoing projects the school is developing in collaboration with Chatham, the Sustainable Architectural Design Challenge, facilitated by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, has been a popular one with their past two years of sixth graders. This year, students were asked to create a model (using a 1/2-inch scale) showing how a storage barn on Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus can be converted into a place where kids their age could come in the summer to learn about sustainability.

“This project allows students to get a first-hand perspective and application in a real-world setting of sustainable and meaningful architecture and daily living,” said Eden Hall Upper Elementary’s Joanna Sovek. “The project ties into all parts of our curriculum: math, science, ELA, social studies, and art – which fully encompasses our district’s vision of the STEAM initiative.”

The work that begins in the elementary years continues through high school and right into college with the SUSTAINABLE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY (SLA). The SLA is open to rising 10th, 11th and 12th graders, as well as students who have just finished 12th grade. Participants become immersed in a robust hands-on experiential learning program for a full week with faculty in the field where they explore Pittsburgh during day-long guided tours of the city’s sustainable highlights, meet local leaders in sustainability and green building, develop the leadership skills needed to be a change agent, and make like-minded friends from across the country.

“Participating students discover a world of opportunities, not the least of which is that they’re meeting people with shared interests, passion and commitment to global health,” said Henderson.

High school students interested in sustainability also have the ability to apply for the RACHEL CARSON HEALTHY PLANET AWARD, which will be awarded to one deserving student nominated from each high school and community college throughout the United States, who embodies the spirit of Rachel Carson in his or her dedication to sustainability and community development. Healthy Planet Award recipients will also receive preferred consideration for the RACHEL CARSON SCHOLARSHIP, a full-tuition scholarship to attend Chatham University.

With more than 100 programs completed, work in the realm of K-12 education is continuing at Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus, creating a new hub for sustainability education.

“With the Eden Hall Campus K-12 programs, I anticipate our students taking away a more dynamic view of sustainability in terms of understanding what it encompasses; the impact of sustainable systems on a regional, state, national and global level; and an appreciation of the resources available in our region,” says Dr. Trisha Craig, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at Fort Cherry School District.

“I hope that the opportunity presents to them a more diverse viewpoint of sustainability. Students need to see that there is more beyond their backyard and local community.”

chatham resettles new residents

close-up of rainbow trout
Photos courtesy Tony Miga

It was an overcast Wednesday morning, but spirits were high as Eden Hall Campus welcomed its newest residents.

Over 20 people—including reporters from KDKA and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette—were on hand to greet the newcomers: 500 rainbow trout, non-native to Pennsylvania, here to be permanently resettled in their new homes: three fiberglass tanks, each standing about five feet tall and containing 500 gallons, in Chatham’s aquaculture laboratory.

The fish were briefly retained in buckets while last-minute logistics were worked out, but soon they were released, transported to their new residences in green, traffic cone-sized nets by Aquatic Laboratory Director Roy Weitzell, PhD, and his research assistant, Master of Sustainability student Samantha Harvey ’18.


Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), are native to the West Coast of the US. “They are relatively hardy, certainly as compared to our native brook trout,” says Weitzell. “My plan is to use the experience we gain with rainbow trout to culture the native brook trout.” Rainbow trout are stocked widely throughout the northern and eastern US, and widely used in aquaculture globally.

“You can’t ask for a more photogenic fish,” notes Sarah Hamm, Social Media Manager at Chatham University.

“Rainbow trout are one of the most widely studied aquaculture species, so we know a lot about their biology,” Weitzell continues. “We’re confident that we can successfully raise them in our system. This should open the doors for any number of research projects dealing with culture and conservation of the trout native to Western PA.”

The 5-to-6-inch collaborators, who declined requests for an interview, were delivered by Laurel Hill Trout Farm, in a hatchery truck with tanks outfitted with temperature control and supplemental oxygen. The fish had lived their whole lives at the farm.


The aquaculture lab is used in undergraduate and graduate courses and projects led by Weitzell and colleagues at the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment, including Sustainable Aquaculture, Aquatic Ecology, and Basic Agroecology. It’s also regularly used for a variety of K-12 outreach efforts, including aquaponics workshops for students and teachers.

The Falk School of Sustainability & Environment is a wellspring for leadership and education dedicated to addressing sustainability challenges across a range of environments. Through hands-on experience, assistantships, summer immersion programs, community engagement, and a robust academic foundation, students emerge as professionals that will transform thinking in the fields that comprise sustainability. 


Board Decision on Sanctuary Campus Petition

To the Chatham University Community,

Last fall, Chatham students organized a march in support of all marginalized students and designating our campus a sanctuary.  Subsequently, over 76 Chatham faculty and staff petitioned President David Finegold and the Chatham Board of Trustees, expressing support of our students, requesting that we investigate the possibility of our campus serving as a sanctuary, and asking that Chatham be prepared to resist any government actions that contravene certain principles that Chatham stands for.

Since the march and receiving the petition, we have given it the careful thought and consideration that our campus community, and the serious and sometimes complex issues involved with this subject, deserve.  Among those we consulted were staff and administrators at Chatham and other institutions who work closely with undocumented and DACA students; Chatham’s legal counsel; as well as publications on this subject.  On the last note, we found the recent American Council on Education (ACE) Issues Brief (Immigration Post-Election Q&A) to be very helpful in laying out the most salient issues; we recommend it to any interested campus community members.

Although the petition did not use the words “Sanctuary Campus,” the march and the petition likely stemmed from concerns for the future of students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and other undocumented students at Chatham and in colleges and universities across the country.  (The DACA program, created under an Executive Order from President Obama, reflected the Obama administration’s priorities for immigration enforcement; it made college students enrolled in DACA, generally individuals who came to the US as children, a low priority for federal deportation enforcement.)  As you may recall, at the time of the march and the petition there was speculation that the incoming Trump administration might modify or terminate current policies governing undocumented and DACA students.

While we researched and considered the issues, we took a series of actions to support any undocumented and DACA students in our Chatham community, and to express our institutional support of the current laws and policies that protect them:

  • President Finegold directed the administration and staff to reach out to any DACA or undocumented students in the Chatham campus community to ensure they are apprised of their rights and obligations under current laws and policies; to reiterate the many ways in which Chatham supports them within the framework that those laws and policies provide; and to provide such support and counseling as they may need in light of the uncertain nature of their situation.
  • The Board authorized Chatham to join over 600 colleges and universities that have signed a letter, originated by Pomona College, signaling our support for continuing to educate students (e., “Dreamers”) covered under the DACA policy. The Board also authorized Dr. Finegold to join other Pennsylvania college and university presidents in urging US Senators Toomey and Casey to support the BRIDGE Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow for “provisional protected status” and a reprieve from deportation proceedings for many children brought to the United States by their parents.  The leader of the Pennsylvania delegation, Haverford College President Kim Benson, was able to meet with both Pennsylvania senators to present these arguments and felt they gave them careful consideration.
  • Last month, President Finegold joined leaders from higher ed institutions around the country and from the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (PCHE) institutions in asking the administration to reconsider President Trump’s Executive Order banning current visa and green card holders from seven countries.

We write now to share the Board’s findings and decision – after careful thought, discussion and reflection – concerning the sanctuary campus petition.

Board Findings & Decision
Since its founding, our nation has been sustained and enriched through the contributions of immigrants from around the world.  For much of that time, higher education has served as a pathway for immigrants to achieve their personal and professional dreams and to contribute to the nation’s continued success.  Chatham views the education of all students, including DACA and immigrant students, as a matter of national importance, and as being in keeping with Chatham’s longstanding commitment to providing access and opportunities for students seeking to improve themselves, their families and their communities.

In keeping with our institutional values and history, Chatham has endeavored to provide an environment where all students, including immigrant, DACA and undocumented students, can feel safe, included and supported while pursuing their personal and professional dreams.  With respect to members of our campus community who are immigrants, Chatham:

  • treats undocumented and DACA applicants no differently than any other applicants;
  • makes no distinction between undocumented or DACA students when awarding institutional financial aid;
  • affords undocumented and DACA students the same protections under Chatham’s Non-Discrimination policy that protect every other member of the Chatham community;
  • like the City of Pittsburgh, has directed our police officers not to inquire about a person’s immigration status unless it is necessary to an investigation involving a criminal activity, nor to detain any individuals on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a purely immigration issue; and
  • assists international faculty with visa and immigration matters.

With respect to the declaration of Chatham as a sanctuary campus:

1. Chatham University will continue to treat every member of the campus community, including DACA and undocumented students, according to the same values and principles that make Chatham such a welcoming and supportive environment to learn, work and live. Like the City of Pittsburgh, however, Chatham will not declare itself a “sanctuary”.

There is no consistent or agreed upon definition of what “Sanctuary Campus” or “sanctuary” means.  The Board is reluctant to declare Chatham a Sanctuary Campus or sanctuary when neither conveys a clear sense of what the institution has committed itself to doing, and when both are open to interpretation.

Moreover, declaring Chatham a Sanctuary Campus could harm the University and its students.  For example, state and federal officials have threatened to terminate funding or aid to any higher education institution that declares itself a Sanctuary Campus.  While it likely will be up to the judicial process to determine whether the state or federal government can withhold funding simply because a higher education institution has declared itself something which is not defined, resolving that issue will take time.  In the meantime, the Board cannot place the University or its students in a position where any student who receives governmental financial aid could possibly lose their state or federal financial aid as a result of the University declaring itself a Sanctuary Campus.

2. Chatham University will not commit to resisting state or federal laws applicable to undocumented or DACA students.

No one can predict how or even if the Trump Administration might change or eliminate current laws and policies.  Any changes to existing state or federal laws governing undocumented or DACA students are merely speculative at the present time, and we cannot pledge to resist something that is as yet unknown.

3. Chatham will continue its efforts to reach out to and provide support to our undocumented and DACA students during this period of uncertainty.

As noted previously, President Finegold has directed University staff members to reach out to undocumented and DACA students who may be uncertain about their future.   Chatham will continue to provide these students with the support they need to continue to succeed in the midst of what must be a period of great uncertainty for them.

4. Chatham will ensure that members of the administration and staff who assist undocumented and DACA students understand what they can and must do pursuant to current and any future changes in state and federal laws and policies.

One of the chief takeaways from our investigation is the need to ensure that those Chatham staff members and administrators who work most closely with undocumented and DACA students understand what they can and cannot do when interacting with the government officials and agencies that enforce our nation’s immigration laws and policies.  Many of those laws and policies, in their current form, provide protections to DACA and undocumented students, just as they provide certain rights to the government officials charged with enforcing them. It is important that Chatham staff members who interact most closely with undocumented and DACA students understand what the law provides with respect to these students, and understand what the law provides with respect to the state and federal officials who enforce those laws.   The Board has charged the Vice President of Enrollment Management and the Vice President of Academic Affairs with continuing to monitor the policy and legislative landscape governing undocumented and DACA students.  The Board has asked the Vice Presidents to apprise the Board of any significant changes to those policies or laws in the future, and to recommend how the University should respond to any such changes.

Chatham has taken, and will continue to take, many steps to support all students within our campus community, including immigrant, DACA and undocumented students, in keeping with our institutional values of inclusivity, mutual respect, civility, tolerance and social justice, among others.

The Board wishes to remind the campus community that our institutional values and principles also include civic and community engagement of the kind that Chatham has undertaken by signing the Pomona letter, the letter in support of the BRIDGE Act and the letter from PCHE institutions.  In that spirit, the Board encourages any members of the Chatham community who wish to change or improve the laws and policies that impact marginalized, undocumented and DACA students to reach out to your state and federal legislators, and work to persuade them to improve or change those laws and policies.

Higher education institutions and campus communities can do everything in our power to support the DACA and undocumented students on our campuses and to work collectively and individually to make our views felt on the benefits of continuing to enable them to study in the U.S., but in the end we are subject to policies and laws which only our democratically elected officials and the courts have the power to change and interpret.


Jennifer T. Potter ‘66                                     David Finegold, DPhil
Chair, Board of Trustees                               President


Five Questions with Steve Karas, PT, DSc, CMPT

Name: Steve Karas
Title: Assistant Professor (PT, DSc, CMPT)
Joined Chatham: Jan 2009
Born & Raised: Pittsburgh, PA
Interests: Cycling, Running, Travel, Hemingway



1. What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

My first PT job was at Shadyside hospital. I worked with athletes, patients after joint replacements, patients in the hospital, and those receiving cardiac care. I learned that although medicine tends to compartmentalize, having experience in several areas will strengthen your personal discipline and ability to think and reason.

2. What aspect of your life before teaching best prepared you to do so?

My mom was a teacher, and even when she came home she worked on lesson plans and creative ways to teach. She taught at a lower-income schools with disciplinary issues, but she loved to teach and would talk about the successes of individual students, some of whom were first to attend college in their family. Watching someone who loves what they do played a role in my decision to teach.

3. What makes teaching at Chatham special for you? 

I graduated from the first PT class. I was able to come back to be a teaching assistant, then help in class, and when the faculty position was offered to me, I was very grateful. I felt like it was my opportunity to influence the next generation of physical therapists and work among a very impressive faculty. I feel bad for people who don’t like their job, because I love mine.

4. What is your favorite thing about working with Chatham students?

 The moment I realize they know more than me.

5What one thing would your students be surprised to know about you?

I am jealous of them. They are learning at a time when information is readily available and the world is smaller than ever. They are all in a position to change the world.

Steve Karas is an assistant professor in the Physical Therapy program.  When he’s not working, he’d rather be watching the sun set over Grace Bay with a San Pellegrino and lime.