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Campus Community Profile: Mary Beth Mannarino

Mannarino blog[2]

Title: Associate Professor of Psychology
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Hobbies: Yoga, bicycling, reading, traveling, spending time with family
Joined Chatham: 2001

What is your main area of research interest?
I focus on connections between environmental health and sustainability and the health and wellbeing of people and communities.

What are some of these connections?
I’d say the connections show up in at least two main ways. The first is that climate change, pollution, and other factors are increasingly affecting mental and physical health. They can cause stress directly, if you’re living in certain areas, such as on a coast, or indirectly, as when air pollution affects health which affects stress. This is becoming such a large issue, yet most health professionals aren’t exposed to information about it unless they actively seek it out. Our program is really on the vanguard with this.

How so?
Since our psychology doctoral program began in 2009, we’ve offered a course in environmental psychology and sustainability. It’s mandatory for the PsyD students, and offered as an elective for master’s students. There’s interest in it across disciplines, too –we’ve had master’s students in Landscape Architecture and Food Studies take the class.

What does the class cover?
We talk about what climate change means globally, where we see effects in the US, and also how it impacts Pittsburgh regionally. For example, in the US, we see how drought affects the economic wellbeing of farmers and their families, and how this trickles down to affect food prices and food availability. So it’s not just “we have a drought,” but what does that mean? In most of our work, we emphasize social justice, because it’s often the people least able, due to limited economic means and education, to bounce back who are affected most seriously. Regionally, we talk about reliance on fossil fuels. Air quality is a concern. We look at how it affects children’s health in different parts of the city. It’s usually poorer kids who miss school, and get even further behind, and parents have to miss work to take them to the doctor, and so forth.

How else can connections between sustainability and psychology be made?
We stress sustainable considerations in clinical practice. For example, we think about mental health in terms of wellbeing, not just pathology. So we teach students to ask clients and patients what gives them pleasure, where they find relaxation in their lives, and how much of that they’re engaging in right now. We focus on change that persists well into the future. And we train students to consider environmental components in the treatment plans that they recommend.

What does that look like?
They might ask a client what their typical day is like, and what their work setting is like. Research has shown that access to nature and pets do a good job of supporting wellbeing, and can often be incorporated into treatment in a way that’s low cost and has no side effects. Community gardening can help with loneliness and depression in older adults. It’s not a cure-all, of course, but it can be quite powerful.

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What are your hopes for the upcoming year’s Global Focus on Climate Change?
Sustainability demands that you think and work across disciplines, and the nature of academia is such that it’s easy to stay in a silo of your own field. We’re hoping that the Year of Climate Change will get people talking to each other about what they’re working on, and about how we can collaborate across disciplines. It’s very exciting.

We’ve also been authorized by the American Psychological Association to offer psychology continuing education programs for credit. For Chatham, this means we can offer continuing education related to climate change and other sustainability issues to psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals. This is something we at Chatham really are uniquely positioned to do. We’ll be offering such a program during a conference that’s part of the Year of Climate Change in the spring, and bringing in activists and other people from the community.

Dr. Mannarino served as Director for Chatham’s Graduate Psychology programs from 2009-2014. She blogs about issues related to health, wellness, and sustainability here.

 

 

Undergraduate Student Christina Austin Awarded Research Fellowship

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“My mom is a Chatham alumna,” says Christina Austin ’17, “but that didn’t factor into my decision to come here. Chatham was actually one of the last schools I looked at. But when I came to visit, I saw that I could connect with people and have a close mentorship with professors in a way that I might not be able to do at a larger university.”

Austin, who is majoring in Biology, had hit the nail on the head. It was an email from one of those professors – Dr. Pierette Appasamy – that would lead to Austin pulling in research dollars, a feat that’s not always easy for faculty members to accomplish, let alone an undergraduate.

It started this spring when Dr. Appasamy learned of a research internship with the Allegheny Health Network Lupus Center for Excellence from the Office of Career Development. Dr. Appasamy forwarded the information to Austin, then a student in her Cellular and Molecular Biology class. “I immediately thought of Christina Austin when I heard about the internship opportunity,” says Dr. Appasamy. “It seemed perfect for her interests in hands-on work in biomedical research.”

Once Austin was accepted into the internship, the program director suggested that she might be a good candidate for the Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship Program, which funds students to conduct medical research under the guidance of a mentor. She was.

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For eight weeks, Austin worked in the lab, isolating white blood cells from blood samples that had been collected at West Penn Hospital. She stained the cells with substances that, when run through a machine, turn fluorescent where a certain protein is present. The goal of the study was to compare how this protein appeared in patients with lupus, with other autoimmune diseases, and in a control group of healthy individuals. Austin’s work may one day be used to help diagnose lupus, today an arduous process that often takes years.

Austin’s internship primarily focused on research, but she also worked on the clinical side. “I was trained to obtain consent from study participants,” she says. “I went through the IRB (Institutional Review Board) packet with them, and if they consented, we drew their blood that day. I liked that aspect of the internship a lot.”

In fact, Austin – who plans to go to medical school – liked it so much that she is considering seeking out a clinical internship for next summer. “I’d love to travel abroad and work at a clinic of some sort,” she says. “I’ve talked to classmates who worked in hospitals in Belize or Puerto Rico and had really good experiences.”

Outside of the lab, Austin is a Chatham Scholar, Vice President of Communications for the Black Student Union, a R.I.S.E Mentor, and starting this fall, she will also be a resident assistant. She offers this advice for incoming students: “Make sure you go to recitation and go to all the study groups before a test. They can be a lifesaver when it’s a topic you don’t understand. And get to know your professors and let them get to know you. They’re looking out for you, throughout your time here.”

She knows whereof she speaks.

 

Urban Planning and Political Ecology (SUS 606)

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“Urban Planning and Political Ecology” course participants. © Michael Finewood

Last fall, graduate and undergraduate students in Chatham University’s sustainability program participated in Urban Planning and Political Ecology (SUS 606), taught by Dr. Michael Finewood. As part of the course, they worked in teams on a community-based project with the Borough of Millvale, producing proposals for two projects that contribute to Millvale’s goals to become more sustainable.

Project #1 – The Hillside Food Forest
Team: Carmen Adamson MBA ‘15, Cassie Guerin BA ‘15, Julie Morris MSUS ‘16, Kayla Scherr MSUS ‘15, Christopher Seamon MSUS ‘15, Ezra Welsh MSUS ‘16, ILona Weyers BS ’17.

Challenges facing Millvale include unstable hillsides, water contamination, and the fact that it is a food desert. The Hillside Food Forest team addressed these concerns through a proposal to convert a hillside into a food forest. The proposal includes a comprehensive site analysis with design scheme, property acquisition strategies, and listing of potential partners as well as information about soil types, plant orientation, and low cost/ low maintenance management. The project highlights how a food forest—designed by and for community members—can strengthen community resilience and help strengthen Millvale’s local food network. Download the final report.

Project #2 – The Bicycle Park-and-Ride Project
Team: Scott Carter, MSUS ’16; Jared Haidet, MSUS ’16; Joshua Lewis, MSUS ’16; Carla Limon, MSUS ’16; Kimberly Lucke, MSUS ’16; Jessica Tain, MSUS ’15; Joshua Zivkovich, MSUS ‘16

Pittsburgh Port Authority owns a parking lot in Millvale that has largely gone unused since the bus route was shut down. The Park-and-Ride Project team developed a proposal to convert it into a multi-use space. The three main objectives of the project were to establish green infrastructure for stormwater management, develop plans for a bike corridor that connects to the riverfront park (see map below), and create a public space that would help change community perceptions of a nearby creek, Girty’s Run, from a risk to an asset. The proposal includes site analysis with water runoff calculations, comparison of the efficacy of various types of green infrastructure, plans for implementing a bike-and-ride infrastructure, and a list of potential community partners and grant opportunities. The project highlights how green spaces can create multiple community benefits while contributing to the reduction of combined sewer overflows, a requirement of the Clean Water Act. Download the final report.

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This map illustrates the biking distance and time from Millvale to various sections of the city. The Park-and-Ride proposal articulates ways multi-modal transportation can connect Millvale to the broader region in efficient and sustainable ways. © Kim Lucke & Joshua Lewis

Chatham Honors Elsie Hillman 1925-2015

Elsie-Hillman

It is with great sadness that the Chatham University community learned of the passing earlier today of Elsie Hilliard Hillman, the nationally renowned and admired Pittsburgh philanthropist, civic leader, champion of political engagement and moderation, and tireless worker on behalf of causes of great importance to her – including the rights of women, minorities and gay community.  Her passing is not just a loss for the Hillman family, her many friends, and the political world, but a loss of a piece of Pittsburgh’s heart as well.

Elsie and the Hillman and Hilliard families have enjoyed a long and close relationship with Chatham.  Her late brother Tom Hilliard was for many years a Chatham Trustee before becoming an Emeritus Trustee, a position he held until his passing last year.  And Elsie’s grandson, Henry Simonds, is currently a Chatham Trustee, carrying on the Hillman and Hilliard families’ legacy at Chatham.

Chatham President Esther Barazzone; Elsie Hillman; and the 2015 Elsie Hillman Chair, Cokie Roberts
Chatham President Esther Barazzone; Elsie Hillman; and the 2015 Elsie Hillman Chair, Cokie Roberts

Elsie’s and the Hillman family’s generosity to Chatham includes endowing the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, a leader in the effort to engage more Pennsylvania women in the political process, as well as the Elsie Hillman Chair in Women & Politics, which brings women leaders of national and international stature to Chatham.  Elsie is also an honorary Chatham alumna, having received an honorary Doctor of Public Service from Chatham in 1993.

Elsie Hillman and Chatham students
Elsie Hillman and Chatham students

Elsie was also personally engaged with Chatham – and especially with Chatham students – on many fronts.  One of Elsie’s great joys was meeting and interacting with young people, especially Chatham students.  If one looks back at all of the pictures of Elsie posing for photographs with past Hillman Chairs and Chatham undergraduates over the years, it is never quite clear who is having more fun: the students or Elsie!  Just this past spring, Elsie took part in the Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics New Leadership program, which prepares college-age women from around the state for leadership roles.  Earlier in the spring, she participated in the campus visit by newswoman Cokie Roberts, whose lecture and appearance on campus was made possible through the Hillman Chair.

Natural Resources Leadership course

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Muddy Creek, part of the Cheat River watershed

Pittsburgh is a city of three rivers, in a county of 263 abandoned mine sites. If you appreciate water as a recreational resource, this is cause for celebration. If you’re savvy about pollution, it’s cause for concern.

This spring, Chatham launched a Maymester course designed to heighten both of these responses and show students ways to act on them. Natural Resource Leadership was taught by the Falk School of Sustainability‘s Michael Finewood and Sean McGreevey, Assistant Dean for Career Development. The course focused on acid mine drainage, with a side of whitewater kayaking on the Cheat River.

Acid mind drainage
An abandoned coalmine eventually fills up with groundwater. This water absorbs minerals from the coal that makes it very harmful to fish and wildlife. When it escapes the mine—and it does—it’s known as acid mine drainage or abandoned mine drainage (AMD).

After two centuries of mining in Southwestern PA and West Virginia, we sit on billions of gallons of this acidic water. The main pollutant of surface water in the Mid-Atlantic region, AMD is an enormous environmental challenge.

The process of treating AMD to make it safe is called remediation. Remediation may be active (e.g., chemical) or passive (constructed wetlands, which use natural functions of vegetation, soil, and organisms to clean the water). Both passive and active remediation are used at the Cheat River watershed.

Cheat River
The Cheat lies about two hours south of Pittsburgh, in West Virginia. In 1994, AMD buildup blew out the side of the mountain, turning the river orange for miles, killing fish as far away as 16 miles downstream.*  In response, an organization called Friends of the Cheat was formed, and has implemented fifteen remediation sites in the area.

Natural Resources Leadership (SUS 407/507)
The course met for three hours per day, four days per week, for three weeks. Here’s what happened.

Week 1:
Each day, class included lecture and discussion about leadership, water challenges including acid mine drainage, and contemporary water policy. Because whitewater kayaking is significantly more challenging than kayaking on still water, classroom time was followed by whitewater kayaking training in the pool at Chatham’s Athletic Fitness Center.

Week 2:
Students practiced their whitewater kayaking skills on Pine Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny, and spent time at two local remediation sites:

  1. Wingfield Pines in Upper St. Clair is a local park designed to filter metals out of water by circulating the drainage (which is fluorescent orange to start) through a series of ponds and into a wetland, where native plants remove the last of the sediment before the (now extremely clean) water flows into the Allegheny River. It’s a nice habitat for ducks, and for dog-walkers.
  1. The group also visited Emerald View Park, an urban park-in-progress in Mt. Washington. Emerald View is being created partly to restore the hillside after 150 years of mining, settling, vacating, and serving as a dumping ground. It’s in the early stages of becoming a site for AMD remediation, which means constant monitoring of water quality. “They need to monitor for about 1 1/2 years before they can develop the appropriate mediation techniques,” says Dr. Finewood.

Week 3:
Equipped with kayaks, sleeping bags, and a newfound understanding of water resource challenges, the group then headed to the Cheat. They met with members of Friends of the Cheat, with whom they spent mornings doing volunteer manual labor, including planting grass, rebuilding a dam, and rolling about 25 tires up a hill and out of the canyon. They also discussed acid mine drainage.

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In the afternoons, the group set societal concerns aside in favor of whitewater kayaking. The Cheat is known for tremendous kayaking, with beautiful scenery and interesting challenges for all levels. And even though each person is in his or her own boat, kayaking is very much a group experience, and requires significant skills in communication and envisioning.

One major goal of the course was to investigate how small non-profit community organizations can affect significant environmental issues. In the future, it may address issues other than water, such as ecosystems, biodiversity, and air quality. Course participants included Master of Sustainability students Josh Zivkovich, Ezra Welsh, and Kurt Lindsey, and undergraduate Chatham seniors Jennae Rekken, Erin Smith, and Nicole Werwie.

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 *Video and commentary about the blowout by bystander Randy Robinson is available here, here, and here.

Christine Bullock ’05 named finalist for Women’s Health’s “The Next Fitness Star”

Christine Bullock '05
Christine Bullock ’05

Christine Bullock took off the year following high school graduation to pursue her dream of becoming professional ballerina, a skill she’d been honing since she was three years old. It was only when she entered Chatham in 2001 that she shifted her focus and discovered that her passion for health and fitness could turn into a full-time career.

While she began Chatham as a ballerina, she was soon certified as a yoga teacher; and as an RA, she taught students yoga in a residence hall living room. Christine recalls being one of the only people lifting weights in the old Chatham gym, and was a ribbon-cutter for the 2004 dedication of the new Athletic and Fitness Center. As a student, she ran through Chatham’s campus to Carnegie Mellon’s, weaving throughout Squirrel Hill neighborhoods and back again down Woodland Road. This routine was where she blew off the stress of a heavy Chatham course load.

She credits her psychology professor and academic advisor, Tom Hershberger, with sparking the flame which ultimately lead to her tutorial, a study of the effects of yoga on psychological and physiological wellbeing. “I taught yoga and then tested the cortisol levels and mood of each participant,” explains Christine. Upon her 2005 graduation, she left Chatham and eventually landed in California where she cemented her passion for fitness into not only a career, but also a way of life.

Christine believes the key to a sustainable healthy lifestyle is to find what you enjoy and focus on the kind of activity you look forward to – mentally, physically and emotionally. In her role as a fitness instructor, she promotes short, effective workouts and metabolism boosts like colorful veggies, smoothies and soups – “Healthy food isn’t just tofu and sprouts,” she asserts. “If you have trouble sticking to a nutrition or exercise program, something has to change, something is not right. Don’t be afraid to mix it up to keep things interesting,” Christine says.

But perhaps the most exciting development in Christine’s professional career is being named as one of five finalists for Women’s Health magazine’s “Next Fitness Star” competition. She’s featured on the July/August issue cover, along with the five other finalists, each competing for a workout DVD contract. The winner will be chosen by a panel of celebrity judges, as well as fans. People may vote once daily until Aug. 3rd with the winner being announced live on NBC’s Today Show.

Christine credits her time at Chatham for making her the woman she is today. “It was such a tremendous time in my life. The small classes and the intimacy of the school developed who I was. It’s where I established my character,” says Christine. She considers women like her Chatham classmates when developing her fitness videos, “My videos are prop-free. They’re perfect for busy women and can be done in small spaces, like dorm rooms. All you need is a yoga mat and a pair of tennis shoes!”

“I’m so lucky to have the Chatham support system to lean upon. They are such amazing women. From business leaders, to full-time moms, to experts in every field. I’m thankful to be a part of this group of exceptional women.”

To take-on Christine’s weekly workouts and vote daily, visit http://thenextfitnessstar.com.

In Memoriam, Dr. Helen Faison

Dr. Helen FaisonThe Chatham University community mourns the loss of Dr. Helen Faison, who passed away on July 16th, and extends our deepest sympathy to Helen’s family and many friends.

Prior to joining the Chatham faculty, Dr. Faison was a trailblazer during her long and distinguished career as an educator and administrator with the Pittsburgh Public School District.  In 1968, for example, she became the first woman and first African American to hold a high school principal position in the District.  In 1983, as deputy superintendent, she became the District’s then-highest ranking woman.

In 1994, Dr. Faison arrived at then-Chatham College as a Distinguished Professor of Education. Her high educational standards, effective leadership style, and devotion to her students led to her appointment as Chair of Chatham’s Department of Education in 1996.  As Department Chair, Dr. Faison secured Pennsylvania Department of Education authorization for expanded teacher certification offerings and for the environmental education, special education, and physics subject areas.  A driving force behind the creation of these new programs was the difficulty experienced by the Pittsburgh Public Schools in their recruitment of qualified teachers in such specialties, particularly in physics.  In response, Dr. Faison created a groundbreaking physics certification program, in which Chatham certification students were instructed in their physics content area by the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).  This collaborative certification program was the first of its kind to be granted in Pennsylvania.

As Chair, she also guided the development of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program, one of Chatham’s first masters programs.  Because of her belief in the importance of integrating technology into urban schools, Dr. Faison implemented a special project to bring instructional technology education to teachers already working in the schools.  The Center for Excellence in Technology-Based Teaching and Learning, supported by a grant from the Eden Hall Foundation, provided instructional technology workshops, a resource center, and mini-grants for teachers in urban schools to develop technology-based curricula.

Under Dr. Faison’s leadership, Chatham, in partnership with CMU and the Pittsburgh Public School District, was selected in 1998 as one of only four sites nationwide to receive an implementation grant, which led to the establishment of the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute (PTI) at Chatham University.  As Director of PTI, Dr. Faison helped make Chatham a leader in supporting and improving Pittsburgh’s public schools.  The Institute strengthened teaching and learning in the local schools and, by example and assistance, in schools across the country.  The Institute offered seminars in the humanities and sciences led by university faculty members in response to the needs and interests of local school teachers.  The faculty and school teachers, or Fellows, worked collegially to explore a variety of topics that Fellows then used to write curriculum units they used in their own classrooms and, potentially, in the classrooms of other teachers.  Dr. Faison’s efforts provided 77 seminars to nearly 1000 of these teachers.

Dr. Faison left Chatham during the academic year 1999-2000 to assume temporarily the responsibilities of Interim Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, becoming the first African American to lead Pittsburgh’s schools.  She returned to Chatham and her post as Director of PTI in September 2000.  In 2010, Dr. Faison retired after fifteen years as the Director of PTI.

Prior to retiring from Chatham, Dr. Faison participated in a film project of Jessica’s Labyrinth by the late Chatham faculty member Bob Cooley (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjNjmWrptq4). Dr. Faison is the first person to enter and the last person to leave the labyrinth during the piece.

At Chatham’s May 1998 Commencement ceremony, Chatham’s Board of Trustees recognized Dr. Faison for her exceptional service and dedication with the Trustee Distinguished Service Award.  In August 2007, shortly after Chatham College had been granted university status, Chatham selected Dr. Faison to receive the first honorary doctorate award to be awarded by Chatham University.

 

solar cooking

cooking with hot dogs

Grilling. Each summer, millions of people look forward to rethinking cooking—to stepping out of the kitchen and onto the grass, patio, or beach. Now you’re cooking with gas, as they say. Or with charcoal. With a non-renewable resource, anyway—as we do whenever we cook.

But what if you could cook with a renewable resource? Cook with the world’s first fire, and cut out the middlemen? That is the promise—and increasingly common practice—of solar cooking. Solar cooking works by using curved and reflective surfaces to concentrate the heat of the sun on a small surface area, where the food is placed.

In some places, it’s huge—literally and figuratively. The Solar Bowl in Auroville, India is 45 feet in diameter, and can cook two meals per day for 1,000 people.

Solar Bowl at Auroville
Solar Bowl at Auroville

But most solar cookers are quite portable, and inexpensive. They save cost by requiring no fuel, and reduce environmental damage produced by the use of fuel. And—with the right model—they can do anything from grilling meats and vegetables to making soup to baking bread.

Intrigued? Join us for an overview of all things solar cooking, plus demonstration and food tasting, on Saturday, July 18 from 9:30am – 1:00pm at the Field Lab at our Eden Hall Campus, in the North Hills. The event—which is free and open to the public—will include a tour of the campus, where you’ll see some of our 400+ solar panels. They generate enough energy to power 14 homes for a year, but can cook a hotdog only indirectly. Learn more and sign up today.

Health science students engage in poverty simulation

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Note: This story originally appeared in the Chatham University Spring 2015 Recorder alumni magazine.

Good news: you have only a bank account. Bad news: there’s $200, and you don’t get paid until next week. Good news: you have a bus pass, so you can get to work. Bad news: you also have to take your child to day care, which is not on the way, and requires an additional bus pass, which you do not have. Good news: this is not real.

Well, not for you. Not right now. You’re in class. Welcome to the Community Action Poverty Simulation, a role-playing initiative that Chatham’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies program has begun using with its students.

“We had been seeing that when our students went out on clinical rotations, they often interacted with people with different backgrounds,” said Gabrielle Strong, remote site development manager and simulation facilitator. “There was sometimes a lack of understanding of how to deal with those situations, so we decided to bring poverty awareness under the umbrella of cultural competence.”

IMAG0283When Strong runs the simulation, as she has done four times at Chatham, between forty and sixty participants are randomly assigned the identity of a person living with poverty – family members, young or elderly persons, many of whom may live in a household headed by grandparents or a single parental figure. Each family unit starts with a sheet detailing their circumstances – descriptions of family members and health, behavioral, or major life issues, a breakdown of bills they owe, their housing situation, income, etc. And you have some resources to start with. “Some families start up with a few bus tickets, or some cash, or a bank account. Others do not,” says Strong. “You might have a job, a TV, a young child, someone who can watch that child so she or he doesn’t need to be in day care. Or, again, maybe not.”

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Also in the room are volunteers who represent services in the community – bank, supermarket, pawnshop, school, employer, day care, utilities and mortgage offices, social security office, and social services agency. When possible, Strong likes to involve people from the Pittsburgh area who have had firsthand experience working in a social services office, such as the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. “They can play their roles from a more authentic standpoint and speak to students afterward about what they saw and how they think it reflected reality,” she says. “One volunteer had experience working in rental properties, and her take was ’You paid your rent, but you never got a receipt. Therefore it didn’t happen.’ These are the realities that unfortunately happen to people,” says Strong. “You have to think of all the ways you have to protect yourself. It’s very eye-opening.”

The challenge is to use what you have at hand – your resources and the community services in the room – to meet your basic needs, for four 15-minute periods, each of which represents one week. As in life, there are rules. Children must not be left alone. If you’re not at work on time, you may be fired. You must feed your family – the supermarket clerk knows how much it costs to feed your family, and will cite you if you don’t spend that amount. There’s a jail, and a juvenile delinquent center. And as in life, things happen: You might be robbed. You might be illegally evicted. You might have a sudden windfall.

Through it all, you must continue to meet the basic needs of you and your family, week after week. “It’s really high energy and exhausting,” Strong says. “Students don’t always know where to get the information they need. But sometimes poverty happens very suddenly, and you have to figure out very quickly what to do. And people in the community may or may not be helpful.”

“Poverty is complex,” she continues. “Some things that we see as simple choices may or may not be actual choices. What we find is that as students are put under more and more stress, it gets harder and harder to meet their basic needs, and they would forget about things. Children would be left at daycare. They’d forget to feed their families.”

After the simulation, Strong has students write a reflection about what they were feeling, how it affected them, and what it made them think as a healthcare provider.

“The poverty simulation taught me a lot about the anxieties that poverty can cause as well as situations poverty can cause. I realized that even in a room of future healthcare providers, once money was enough of an issue we made decisions based on it and not on health,” says one.

“As a future healthcare provider, I need to be aware of the resources in my communities for my patients that may need a helping hand. If I don’t ask what they need help with I won’t know how their life/finances may be affecting their health,” says another.

Strong views the poverty simulation as an important educational tool, and has most recently run the simulation for an inter-professional group of nursing students (including a cohort of nurses from China), counseling psychology students, and faculty. “Students who are going into medicine may find themselves working with people whose situations are complicated. My goal is to expose students to these ideas, to some facts around it, and to be able to see a little bit from an emotional standpoint, which you do when you take on the identity of an individual.”

The Community Action Poverty Simulation was created by the Missouri Association for Community Action.

harvesting rainwater at Eden Hall Campus

ThinkstockPhotos-99234163_v2In January, Governor Jerry Brown called a drought State of Emergency in California. Five months later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released data showing that May was the wettest month on record in the contiguous U.S. with an average precipitation total 1.45 inches above average. While these are two very different problems, they both point to “two sides of the same coin:” how we must manage water more effectively in our changing climate.

Pittsburgh is rainy: We get an average of 146 days of precipitation compared to a national average of 100 days. On those days, excess water – water that is neither collected nor absorbed by the ground – flows into storm drains. Underground, the stormwater system joins with our sewage system, and sewage and water travel together to be treated at the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) wastewater treatment plant, which processes up to 250 million gallons of wastewater daily.

This system worked fine when it was built at the turn of the century, and it still works in dry weather. But the population has grown, and now whenever it rains more than ¼ inch, the system becomes flooded, and ALCOSAN must close its gates. Sewage flows into our rivers, streams, and creeks, carrying debris, chemicals, bacteria, and animal waste.

At Chatham University’s net zero Eden Hall Campus, we are modeling both innovative and age-old techniques around water management, including rainwater harvesting for collecting and using rainwater. For his thesis project, Master of Sustainability alumnus Tony Miga ’14 designed and implemented a rather large-scale rainwater harvesting system for Eden Hall. On a Friday in May 2015, it was used for the first time.

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Barn and underground cistern tanks

Here’s how it works: Rain falls onto the roof of the storage barn, runs into the gutters, and is piped into three 1500-gallon underground cisterns, where it’s stored for use for irrigation. Overflow from the cisterns waters a nearby rain garden.

“Debris from the rooftops gets mixed in there,” Miga notes, and water is filtered six times, starting with fine mesh screens that fit over the gutters and ending with a UV filter that eliminates pathogens and other contaminants. “It’s probably overkill for our purposes,” he acknowledges. “We’re only using it for irrigation. There’s very little risk. We’re not spraying it, or bringing it into buildings. “

The state of the gutters before being cleaned

When the system is turned on, water runs from the cisterns, underneath a road, and into the moveable high tunnel and hoop house on the other side, where it’s used to water crops. It’s not the only source of water there – a line for municipal water was added for flexibility, back up, and research. Miga says that it allows them to experiment with using different types of water for growing. Harvested rainwater will also be used to irrigate the agriculture field.

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The moveable high tunnel and the hoop house

Miga anticipates that the rainwater harvest system will provide 35,000-40,000 gallons of water annually. He’s also proud that the project makes use of an existing structure, rather than calls for new construction. “We inherited this property, and we’re making an effort to use what is here,” he says.

At Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus,  rainwater harvesting is combined to manage stormwater runoff with permeable surfaces, natural drainage, 22,027 sf of infiltration galleries (small pipes in gravel that collect water when it rains), and almost 30,000 sf of rain gardens. Rain gardens feature deep-rooted native shrubs, perennials, and grasses that receive runoff from roofs, sidewalks, streets and parking lots, and hold the water in a shallow depression as it slowly infiltrates into the ground.

Eden Hall will also treat wastewater on-site, using a six-step system that can handle up to 6,000 gallons per day. Once disinfected, wastewater will be used for toilet flushing and irrigating land. Water quality will meet or exceed all State of Pennsylvania standards.

Learn more at chatham.edu/edenhall.