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Mar 14 14

Alex Santiago: The Eco-biz Extraordinaire

by ericarunsamerica

Hey Stony Brook!

This week I would like to feature a tenacious, hardworking–and just plain awesomeStony Brook Sustainability Studies Program alum, Alex Santiago!

An Environmental Studies (ENS) major here at the Brook, Alex declared a minor in Environmental Humanities (EHM) during her senior year, after realizing that many of the classes that she had enrolled in “for fun” would count toward the minor–classes like Dr. Heidi Hutner‘s Ecofeminism (WST/EGL 372) course. Alex quickly realized the benefits of studying the interdisciplinary curricula that is the Stony Brook University Environmental Humanities Program. She graduated last year in the spring of 2013.

I had the great privilege of taking an Environmental Humanities course (Dr. Hutner’s Ecology and Evolution in American Literature AKA SBC321–which I HIGHLY recommend!) in which Alex was a TA. Her fierce passion for the environment, creative mind, and super-motivated attitude became readily apparent after just a few class sessions. Alex was always there to help edit and refine students’ ideas or to hook us up with amazing events, people, and internship or job opportunities.

Recently, I asked Alex if she could highlight some of her experiences as an ENS major and EHM minor, and also to update us as to where she is now as a Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program graduate. Excerpts from our conversation follow.

Erica Cirino (EC): Hey Alex! First off, going back a bit, could you please share with us two highlights from the time you spent here in the Sustainability Studies Program? Let’s say…your favorite project?

Alex Santiago (AS): My favorite project had to be SBC 401: Integrative Collaborative Systems Studies at Sylvester Manor. The small capstone class acted as a consulting board to a nonprofit/community farm in Shelter Island called Sylvester Manor. Students came up with individual projects to help Sylvester Manor further their mission. I developed a market analysis of East End restaurants to determine whether they were interested in partnering with a historical farm and if their business would be interested in purchasing local and organic produce. The project allowed each student to take ownership of their work and apply their skills to an actual problem (and hopefully provide a solution!).

EC: Awesome! It must have been great to apply your passion for both business and the environment in your very own project. How about another memorable moment, please?

AS: As far as my most memorable moment goes, Attending the “Design by Nature” Sustainability Conference at the Omega Institute with Dr. Heidi Hutner’s class. The conference was incredible and students had the privilege to personally meet sustainability leaders like Josh Fox and Majora Carter– people we read about and discussed in class! The entire experience was a blessing and I’m grateful I had to opportunity to learn from some of the world’s most progressive and innovative activists/movers and shakers.

EC: An great perk to the Program! I too, so enjoy meeting the real-life environmental heroes that we learn about in the classroom. Speaking of the classroom, how have you applied what you learned in class to what you are now doing in the “real world”?

AS: At the moment, I am freelancing at four different positions in order to explore a number of my different passions and develop additional skills (while having some fun!).

Firstly, I am Events Coordinator at Green Spaces, a co-working space in NYC that is home to a number of small social enterprises and startups This opportunity allows me to interact with entrepreneurs on a daily basis and gain a better understanding of the grit, hustle and tenacity it takes to run a business.

Secondly, I am Events Coordinator of Body Local SocialsBody Local is a startup whose mission is to provide better visibility for local wellness/health resource for consumers as well as connect the NYC health and wellness community.

Third, I serve as Community and Engagement Fellow at Imperative, a career services platform that seeks to help people discover, connect and create with their professional purpose. I help create partnerships with organizations and recruit/market to new users.
Lastly, I am a Research Assistant to Dr. Malcolm Bowman and the Stony Brook Storm Surge Team, and I assist with managing database, media requests, publications and more.

EC: You are a busy lady! How do you think the EHM minor and Sustainability Studies Program, as a unique interdisciplinary program, helped  prep you for these numerous eco-biz gigs?

AG:  I believe the combination of studying the environment through both a scientific lens and artistic/social aspect allowed me to develop a very thorough, critical and empathetic understanding/perspective of today’s major environmental challenges. I believe the amalgamation of science and art provided the opportunity [for me to] develop as a stronger leader.

EC: Well-said! What are your goals for the future?

AS: Next year, I am starting a 2-year MBA in Sustainability Program at Bard College.

My dreams include:

- Start several of my own social enterprises with my best friend revolving around healthy lifestyle options
- Create a movement in University settings that allows students to gain greater access to organic produce/healthy food choices
- Travel to new countries to research nutrition, health and lifestyle (and have fun!)
-Much, much more to come that I can’t even predict!
Alex's life is all about business...and having fun!

Alex’s life is all about business…and having fun!

Alex, we are SO proud of you and cannot wait to see what is to come! 
With her business-savvy, unrelenting drive, positive attitude, practical knowledge, and love for the environment, Miss Santiago is sure to go far. I think she has achieved a very well-deserved #supergreenstatus, how about you?
Yep. Totally well-deserved.
Think green. Think smartBe Real.
See how far a degree in the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program will take YOU.
peace. love. run.
Feb 16 14

Nicole Grein: Radical Environmentalist, scuba Diver, and Savior of Sharks

by ericarunsamerica

Hey Stony Brook!

Since we’re midway through the first full month of classes this spring semester, I thought it was about time I feature another outstanding Sustainability Studies Program student as a part of my running “Student of the Month” blog feature.

For February, I am pleased to present to you a dedicated student who possesses a knack for writing, SCUBA diving, and shark saving…

Nicole Grein!

Nicole Grein, Savior of Sharks!

Nicole Grein, Savior of Sharks!

Nicole, who was born in Asheville, North Carolina, lived in the southern US for most of her life, save for a few years in which she and her family resided in Germany. Tucked deep away in a verdant forest on a mountaintop, Nicole’s current home is an environmentalist’s paradise: gorgeous views, quiet, and endless opportunities for hiking and exploring nature.

Although Nicole spends much time in the woods when she’s in the South, she reports that, of all the places in the world, she has “never felt more at home [anywhere else] than…under water in the ocean.” Nicole began scuba diving while still in high school, and has “since decided to spend more time in the water than on land.”

Nicole feels more at home under water than in her actual "home" on land.

Nicole feels more at home under water than in her actual “home” on land.

When in 7th grade, Nicole and her family visited Belize. On the final day of the trip, after hours of swimming, fishing, and snorkeling, Nicole lingered in the water to intently watch a school of fish that was ravenously feeding on some of the family’s leftover fishing bait. Suddenly, the fish scooted away, and Nicole, confused, spun around to find out where and why the fish had fled…

Soon, she saw her answer: two enormous bull sharks! While most would be scared beyond consolation, Nicole thinks it was her “pure fascination [of the sharks] and [her] comfort in the water” that allowed her to stay calm while the two “curious” sharks investigated the area around her family’s boat. It was in that moment that Nicole realized her passion for sea animals, especially sharks…and marks the beginning of her role as an “Environmentalist.”

From then on, she dedicated herself to the never-ending task of researching all-things shark and/or marine. She is so grateful to have found the Sustainability Studies Program here at Stony Brook University, as the curriculum has “broadened [her] entire perspective on life,” beyond issues related to just the world’s oceans. As Nicole puts it, as Sustainability Studies Program student, she learned that ”each system in the environment depends on another, therefore saving one [part of the environment] but sacrificing another would ultimately change nothing.”

And Nicole is all about change. As an Environmental Humanities major and Marine Biology minor, this savior of sharks is working toward a law degree after receiving her undergraduate education, so that she can make changes and influence policies to protect her “beloved sea and its inhabitants.” And, as far as making change goes, Nicole suggests a “radical” approach:

I think the key to change is awareness, the more everyone knows and understands then the more progress can be made. We need to become, as corny as it sounds, ‘one with nature.’ We cannot, [as humans,] cement ourselves in place on this pedestal of dominance we have sat on for so long; instead we must equalize ourselves with the environment. We are a species just as a snake and a sea cucumber are a species, we each have a purpose and ours as humans is not to destroy, but to live alongside of everything else. I may be a bit radical for some but the truth is that being radical is what has brought us to exploiting almost all of our resources on Earth. Why not try being radical in the opposite direction and saving our resources and environment?

Well said, Nicole, well said.

With her energy and hung-go attitude, we have little doubt that Nicole Grein will go far in her sea-worthy endeavors! #supergreenstatus achieved.

Till next time…

peace. love. run.


Feb 10 14

Leading is Believing

by creed

For students who want to be leaders: 

Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” -John D. Rockefeller

When it comes to leadership at Stony Brook University, I believe anybody can do it. There are so many resources on campus to help any student, a freshman or senior, to acclimate and lead the community.  An awesome link to check out is: From Undergraduate Fellow to Orientation Leader to RHA Member, these opportunities are open to anybody who seeks them.  With a lot of effort and focus, anyone can become a leader.

The first step is to reflect on your experiences and see what you have learned about yourself already.  If this is your first thought about leadership, then you may need some help along the way.  You might want to talk to someone in the “Getting your foot in the door” program: or even to someone who you admire as a leader.  The Stony Brook community is very friendly and definitely loves to help any student achieve the goals that they shoot for.

For students who are experienced leaders:

As an experienced leader myself, I remember trying very hard to get involved and it allowed me to learn more about how I am as a leader and a member of SBU.  The problem with being an experienced leader is that you often take on too many leadership opportunities.  If you are an experienced leader and want help managing stress and your time, I think the best policy is:

[...] to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”  -Nelson Mandela

I believe what Nelson Mandela is saying is that sometimes leaders need to take a step back – not to take all the opportunities available or to receive all the credit; being a leader is an exercise in teamwork and community, so for experienced leaders…try to take a step back and help to grow other students into the leaders of tomorrow.

Feb 1 14

Environmental Media and Earth Awareness at Stony Brook!

by ericarunsamerica

Hey Stony Brook!

First off, I hope that your Spring 2014 semester is off to a fantastic start!

My semester surely started with a bang; somehow, I am currently juggling three internships, one independent study, an honor’s research thesis, three jobs, and I am training for this year’s NYC marathon! I’ve never been busier, but I am truly happy doing what I love: studying and solving the world’s environmental problems, so that I can help educate others on how live greener, cleaner, and more healthy lives.

This year, I’ve been lucky enough to snag a position as a Teaching Assistant in Dr. Heidi Hutner‘s SBC325: Environmental Writing and Media course for the second year in a row!  Though the course–peppered with environmental field trips and events, visits from talented authors and speakers, and fascinating course content–is already awesome, this year’s class is sure to be even more exciting than ever before…

That is because this semester’s class is receiving instruction from talented two-time Emmy Award winning filmmaker (think, ER, Third Watch, and Studio 60) and environmental advocate Dave Chameides aka “Sustainable Dave.” Dave, who visited Stony Brook University in Fall 2013 (see my coverage of his seminar on waste), is donating his valuable time to teach the class filmmaking in our modern digital age. With Dave’s help, students will produce their own short environmental films!

In addition to producing their own movies, students will also be viewing and critiquing others’  films as to better refine their filmmaking strategies and practices.

In fact, the Sustainability Studies Program is hosting our second “Sustainable Film Series,” a series of feature-length environmental flicks to be shown right on campus! Join us in Chemistry Room 370 almost every week this semester for showings of environmental films spanning a wide variety of different topics, from animals to nuclear waste. You will learn A LOT.

We hope to see you there!

peace. love. run.


See the flier, below, for details on the film series:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.56.35 PM


Dec 16 13

Five Tips to a Fabulous Finish with Finesse!

by ericarunsamerica

Hey Stony Brook!

This post is geared mainly toward my fellow Seawolf Seniors (Spring Class of 2014).

To make sure you’re NOT stressing in April, weeks before graduation, here are five handy tips I’ve learned from other students–and from my own experiences–on how to see success come Commencement Day!

1. Check your University email and Blackboard…OFTEN.

All too often I hear classmates complain, “WHEN did THEY tell us THAT was due?!” (“THEY” being administration and “THAT” being one or more of myriad online forms, paper documents, or other materials necessary to graduate). Many times, students neglect to check, or simply miss the important messages that pop up in their SBMailbox or on Blackboard Announcements. In these final months of your SB career, keep on top of everything! An easy way to do this is to set your SBMail (which is set up on Gmail) to forward to your personal email address. You’ll never miss another important message again!

2.  Keep a calendar with important deadlines.

This tip goes hand-in-hand with tip #1. Again, I recommend that you harness the incredible power of technology and keep an electronic calendar. That way, you can easily update upcoming tasks with the click of a button. Gmail and Apple both offer great electronic calendars where you can use various colors to indicate different types of tasks. This is a great way to keep track of all sorts of things, from reminding you when to return your textbook rentals to when scholarship applications are due.

3. Update your résumé.

Ok so nearly four years have passed since you first began your college career. Time to remove certain items from your résumé (as much as you loved scoring free slices, chances are your future employer could care less about your stint working in a pizza parlor) and add others (think exciting internships, cool jobs, and hefty research projects). You get the idea: Be your own best advocate!

4. Set goals.

Some keep their goals written on a “to-do” list style piece of paper. Others record their aspirations on Facebook or Twitter so others can hold them accountable to actually go after those goals. I keep a whiteboard on my bedroom wall right next to my bed so that I can write down things I think of that I want to accomplish (best ideas usually come first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night). Visually seeing your dreams get checked off is one of the best feelings in the world! Goals can be anything: be a nicer person, get healthy, win a race, ace a test, nab a job interview… Once you set your goals, get out there and get ‘em! 

5. Immunize yourself against the dreaded SENIORITIS!

Ok, so we’ve all been there in high school. You know, those days where you’d rather be grabbing some egg sandwiches and coffee at the deli with friends than be sitting in your morning class. Unfortunately, much of the same thing happens in college. Make it a point to keep up your GPA during senior year. It is hard, but you can do it! Go to class, and pay attention (no texting or thumb-twiddling or sleeping allowed). Your hard work and attention will pay off in the form of good grades, and can also sometimes mean academic accolades! And, chances are, your AM professor will let you eat your egg sandwich (or, if you’re a CSH alum like I am–your classic CSH Deli “egger“) and drink your coffee in class (sweet!).


Be good eggs, Seniors ’14!

All for now! Good luck to those taking finals this week. And, remember seniors: YOU CAN DO IT!

peace. love. run.




Nov 30 13

Justin Fehntrich: The South Shore Surfer and Steward of the Seas

by ericarunsamerica

Hey Stony Brook!

So, it’s the last day of the month: you know what that means…

Time for another Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program Student of the Month Feature: November Edition!

This month, it is my pleasure to introduce you to a classmate of mine, one with a passion for preserving the local environment, namely, the myriad of marine ecosystems that make Long Island the diverse and unique place that it is…

Justin Fehntrich!

I first met Justin last year, in Dr. Heidi Hutner‘s SBC 325: Environmental Writing and the Media course. My first impressions? By the skateboard propped up against his desk and his copious use of “rad” and “dude” and similar words which he peppered throughout his sentences, I immediately labeled him:

But, after befriending Justin The Friendly Surfer and reading/listening to his thoughts on the environment and its problems and viewing his breathtaking photography (which is pretty much always focused on oceans, beaches, wildlife, or surfing) I knew there was more–Justin is truly a Steward of the Seas!

Justin grew up in Bayshore and South Brentwood right here on the Good Old Island, just about a stone’s throw from the Robert Moses State Park and the mystical Fire Island National Seashore. From a young age his surroundings made a big impact on his values in life, and Justin reports harboring a lifelong love of the shore and sea, “spending [his] summer days building sandcastles and learning how to swim in the bay and ocean.”

Later, Justin got into skateboarding, which eventually led to surfing. Surfing was Justin’s way of escaping–if only momentarily–the frantic and fast-paced “New York State of Mind” kind of life, as Justin puts it. Surfing connected Justin to nature and soon it became his de-facto way of life:

Surfing sort of has this way of creeping into your life where soon everything you do revolves around whether or not there are waves. You start to wake up at the crack of dawn and drive to your favorite beach to see if you can surf before class or work, you avoid making plans on Saturday mornings in the event the waves will be good, and soon you save up some money to buy winter surfing gear because the thought of actually not surfing for 6 months sounds more ridiculous than paddling out in 40 degree water and 32 degree air, while it’s snowing, completely covered in head to toe in 5mm of neoprene.”

Justin had finished school for a few years and had been yearning to return to the classroom, but wasn’t sure what he wanted to study.  Sitting on his board pondering such a notion during a frigid January surf session a few years ago at Lido Beach, something funny happened: a young harbor seal surfaced close by and began barking and diving and swimming gleefully. A few weeks later, Justin saw more of these slick gray spotted creatures while surfing at another Long Island beach. Justin was left feeling inspired by the numerous seal encounters…he had never before, in his lifetime of beach-going and years of surfing, “come face-to-face with a wild seal.”

Why now? Justin wondered. He played out all of the possible reasons why he had never before seen the seals but then had suddenly seen so many in the past month: Improved water quality? New marine protection legislation? Justin was sure “that there had to be something happening here, that in [his] opinion was having a positive effect on local marine life.” Whatever was happening with the seals and the sea, Justin felt a calling to play a part in the restoration and conservation of Long Island’s marine habitats. That’s when he decided to come to Stony Brook to major in Coastal Environmental Studies.

Last spring, Justin worked collaboratively on a film and public education project with a few other students (Isabella Bartoloni, Bryan Flynn, and Troy Petrignani). The group created–among other works–a powerful documentary detailing the causes, ongoing effects, and implications of Hurricane Sandy: a nine-minute-plus feature dubbed “Islands Made of Sand.” Justin and his group mates debuted their findings at Earthstock 2013.  This coming spring, Justin will flex his filmmaker talent, extending his advice to others and sharpening his own skills as a TA for Dr. Huter’s Spring 2014 SBC 325 course (of which fellow Sustainability Studies Program students Chelsea Moccio and I will also serve as TAs!). This year, the course will feature environmental filmmaking, and students will work with two-time Emmy Award winning filmmaker Dave Chameides aka “Sustainable Dave” aka the man who kept a year’s worth of garbage in his basement (but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

Besides surfing and filmmaking, Justin also connects to nature through photography, something which he admits wasn’t something he quite intended to become involved in. As he says, “I sort of just like taking pictures.” Fancy equipment? No…he uses his iPhone! Hard to believe once you take a look at some of his incredible work.

Justin’s favorite subjects to photograph are landscapes, subjects which he feels perfectly preserve the place and time that he experienced outside of the camera. To him, landscapes are spiritual, and he believes that the natural beauty of the outdoors is essential for a person’s mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. His mission?

Maybe if I can take a picture of a really gorgeous sunset, or a picturesque beach with not a person in sight, I can influence somebody else to become more environmentally conscious.  These days there is a lot at risk with rising populations and energy demands. We have our work cut out for us as Sustainability Studies Program students here at Stony Brook.  I’d rather live in a world with blue skies, beautiful oceans and diverse wildlife, as opposed to a world with smoggy air, toxic brown sludge, and garbage laden oceans complete with dead animals covered in oil. The Earth has so much beauty for us to just sit back and enjoy. As my mother always said: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Justin, you have earned #supergreenstatus and more! Keep up the amazing work.


peace. love. run.


Nov 24 13

Kat Furey: The Food Fighter

by ericarunsamerica

Hey Stony Brook!

In my quest to track down and find the most awesome of all the awesome Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program alums, students, and professors to interview, this week I bring to you a more nontraditional student-now-graduate who is working hard to help transform the way in which people choose, obtain, and eat food.

I bring you…

Kathleen (Kat) Furey!

On one recent evening (6:30pm California time, 9:30 E.S.T.), I spoke with Kat on the phone at length…our conversation was about an hour and a half…and we could have kept going for hours more! We discussed GMOs and their implications on human and environmental health, as well as Kat’s past and future goals. Highlights from my initial interview with Ms. Furey follow:

Erica Cirino: Good evening! Alright, so standard question here: Major? Minor?

Kat Furey: I didn’t have a minor in the Sustainability Studies Program, but my major was Environmental Humanities, with a concentration in food sovereignty, studies, and policy.

EC: Though many of our readers may have not met you, you are a non-traditional student, am I correct?

KF: That’s right; I’m a baby-boomer! I had been long enjoying a fun and successful career in the entertainment industry…but the twists and turns of life led me from California to Long Island, specifically, Southampton. I heard incredible things about Stony Brook Southampton, so I decided to follow my heart to help people and the planet…I enrolled, with the encouragement of friends and loved ones…and I got in!

EC: Great! We do have many students like yourself currently attending classes at the University. What inspired you to enroll in the Sustainability Studies Program in particular?

KF: During my first semester at Stony Brook Southampton, I was a little shy, I wasn’t used to taking classes at a University. But, I made friends quickly, and became so excited by the important topics we were learning about: fracking (which I had never heard of before), urban development, coal, nuclear powerfood… I heard about the Environmental Humanities major from former Stony Brook Professor Heather Dune Macadam. It was truly a perfect fit for me. When the Southampton Campus closed, I came to West Campus for  two more years to finish my degree.

EC: We all have to eat, but what made food so important to you?

KF: As a child, I grew up in Ohio in farm country: you would go to one farmer for cheese and milk, another for your grains, another for fruit, another for vegetables, another for meat…I would literally walk outside and watch the farmers plough, then seed, then tend to and harvest their fields. My mother would cook such healthy, balanced meals with wholesome ingredients… The foods that most Americans eat today are VERY different from those that I was exposed to in my youth. These foods are literally making people sick! And they are horrible for the environment.

EC: I know the implications of that first-hand, as one who suffers from adult-onset food allergies! And the culprit; probably GMOs. You have certainly accomplished a lot in the area of GMOs since you graduated in 2012. Could you give us a description of where you are now? And where do you hope to be?

KF: Certainly. Just a few hours ago, in fact, I was appointed to the position of Education and Media Director of the Label GMOs California Grassroots (the National Labeling Coalition)! In addition, I serve as the Education and Media Director of GMO Free NY. Besides just GMOs, I am working as Senior Media Producer at Augustwolf Productions, a California-based media production group, helping head up their “Energize Schools” statewide [California] campaign. You can even see a promo film clip about the campaign, in which I am featured. It’s all very exciting! My mission in life is to make the world a cleaner, healthier, and happier place for generations to come.


Kat: 2013 Earth Day Lecture in Grand Central Terminal.

11-21-13 Legis lobby Day Sac Capital CROP

Thursday, 11-21-13: Sacramento Capital GMO Labeling Legislation Day Team (left to right) Kat Furey, Pamm Larry, Jessica Denning, Michael Greene, Bob Saunders, and Diana Rude.











EC: Congrats on the new job! We are so proud of your accomplishments here at Stony Brook! If you have anything to say to students now enrolled in the Sustainability Studies Program, and Stony Brook students more generally, what would you tell them?

KF: Where do I begin? Well, first off, communicate with your professors: they are such a caring, creative, and intelligent bunch! Think of your professors as your allies; they can help lead you to where you want to be. For instance, when I was enrolled in the program, I did an independent study with Dr. Quigley in my third year for two semesters with Plate to Politics…I also got to do research for Jeff Smith’s film “Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives” (my name’s in the credits!). Also, contact the companies and people you want to work with; it will pay off if you are persistent enough. 

EC: I am loving your energy! Thank you for the fantastic discussion! Any last words of advice?

KF: Yeah. Go for what you really freaking want…and you can get it!

Kathleen Furey is currently Director of Education and Media for Label GMOs California Grassroots Coalition and GMO Free NY. She also works as Senior Media Producer at Augustwolf Productions. 

Kat, I would say you have earned #supergreenstatus. Way to represent your fellow Seawolves!


peace. love. run.


Nov 17 13

Nia Padilla: Hometown Hero (An Interview)

by ericarunsamerica

Hey Stony Brook!

Ever wonder where you’ll end up after graduation?

Environmental Humanities major Nia Padilla found herself wondering the same thing as she donned her RED cap and gown during graduation this past May.

Nia, always one to extend a hand to others (here at Stony Brook, as well as abroad…she helped to build clean water infrastructure for needy people living in Honduras this past winter!), left Stony Brook with the desire to help others, and the planet.

Just six months following graduation, Ms. Padilla has already accomplished so much! Recently, I conducted an interview with this superstar Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program alum.

Erica Cirino: I spy…you eating with bamboo utensils…you must be involved in the Sustainability Studies Program here at Stony Brook! All jokes aside, when and why were you inspired to join the program?

Nia Padilla: I have always loved the environment, especially the ocean and marine mammals. I started college at Stony Brook Southampton where I was originally a Marine Vertebrae Biology major, but soon I switched to the Environmental Humanities program. I knew that I wanted a career that had a positive impact on others, something that I would look forward to everyday and loved wholeheartedly. That’s how I felt about the Sustainability Studies Program and I’m looking forward to finding that in a career.

EC: Freezing your toes off and screaming your lungs out at the 2013 Forward on Climate Rally in DC, breaking a sweat and getting some blisters building clean water infrastructure in Honduras, working on a Global Water Brigades project, relaxing on a tranquil boat trip on the Hudson aboard the Clearwater sloop…what would you consider as your “most memorable moment” here as a student in the Sustainability Studies Program?

NP: My most memorable moment was going to the Omega Institute with my fellow classmates and Dr. Heidi Hutner. We went to a Design By Nature conference and had a really wonderful weekend there. I can’t wait to go back!

EC: Sounds awesome! Have you worked on any interesting projects while enrolled in the program here?

NP: I’ve had a lot of eye-opening assignments and projects but my favorite would have to be the Aesthetic Inventory visual mimicry project I had in Dr. Marc Fasanella‘s EHM 201: Eco-Aesthetics in Art class. It was incredibly tedious at times but I was really happy and proud with how it turned out. It’s now hanging in the halls of the Sustainability Studies department!EC: I saw your Aesthetic Inventory project; you really did an amazing job on it. Yes, tedious would be a good word to describe that project…I am taking Dr. Fasanella’s Eco-Aesthetics course this fall, and I have just completed the assignment. But, like you said, it is a great project…we learned so much! So, now we know your favorite project…what was your favorite class?

NP: I can’t pick just one! Two of my favorite classes would have to be Dr. Heidi Hutner’s SBC 325: Environmental Literature and the Media class and WST102: Introduction to Women’s Studies class I took with Professor Ula Klein. In Heidi’s class, I had never read so many books in such a short amount of time; and it was challenging, but I enjoyed every single one. We also went on really amazing trips and met incredible people. The connections I made between that class and my women’s studies courses were astonishing. So many connections between the oppression of women and how we devastate the environment. I only wish that I could have taken more classes. I never knew how easy work could be when you really loved the material. Highly recommend dabbling in both!

EC: Agreed! Both topics are so incredibly interesting. But, now that you’re done with school, here’s the big question: where are you now?

NP: Right now I am finishing up working with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) for the season doing Hurricane Sandy recovery work in Staten Island, my hometown. I also work as a server at a local restaurant on Staten Island.

EC: Working in your hometown! That’s great. I remember when we were both in Dr. Jim Quigley‘s SBC 308 Environmental Politics class last fall learning about the SCA and their job opportunities available to students. And working at a restaurant? Busy lady! So cool to see things working for you. Do you have any other plans for the future.

NP: I don’t really know where I hope to be. I just hope that I’ll be doing something in the areas of human rights, sustainability, and the empowerment of women. If I can find something that encompasses all of these things, I’d be very happy.

Way to go, Nia. #supergreenstatus achieved.

See where the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program can take YOU.

peace. love. run.



Nov 14 13

You Don’t Have to Go Far to Enjoy the Arts

by creed

Isn’t it great that you don’t have to leave Stony Brook to see new Movies, Operas, Comedies, Film Festivals and more!  So where do you go to see these films and events?  The answer is: the Staller Center!

Don’t graduate from Stony Brook without first taking a peak inside this great center for the arts.  If you are a freshman or transfer and you have not used your “first on us ticket” yet, you should do so as soon as possible.  I remember my first time going to a Staller show (and I even used my “first on us ticket”!).  I went to see Cirque Eloise – an acrobatic show that was great for the entire family and was very similar to Cirque du Soleil – and I was able to get the tickets for half off!

Be on the look out for cool movies and events – every student can get discounts on tickets purchased.  Why wouldn’t you go to the Staller Center? You can see people like:  Midori, Bill Cosby, The Emerson Quartet, Wynton Marsalis and even more famous people (and you don’t have to be a music whiz to recognize their names).

For those of you that need to take a class over the summer or you are just looking for something fun to do – be on the look out for CCS 204 which is offered every year during Summer Session II.  CCS 204 is a Film Festival class and meets to watch all the films during the 10-day film festival held at the Staller Center as well as meeting times for midterms and finals.  The class consists of: watching films, talking about films, writing about films, and you get 3 credits…so what’s not to like?

There are so many great things to go see at the Staller Center and do (if you are into Theatre, Music, or Art) it would be silly not to go. So take advantage of the Staller Center before you graduate…the discounts only last while you’re a student!

Nov 9 13

Fighting Our Environmental Battles: Words and Action!

by ericarunsamerica

Hey Stony Brook!

This past Thursday, the Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program in conjunction with the Humanities Institute held their latest lecture in the series of incredible talks scheduled for this fallDr. Sandra Steingraber‘s discussion of the environmental and health implications of fracking, which she dubbed: “Chemical Exposure and Human Health.” Steingraber‘s talk proved to be one of the most highly anticipated and highly regarded events of the entire lecture series, which features a variety of esteemed environmental speakers.

By the time I had arrived at a quarter after 4pm, Humanities 1006 was PACKED! Eager to hear from Dr. Steingraber, I hurriedly located a desk, flipped open my MacBook, and exchanged a few waves and “hellos” to friends who happened to be seated in my vicinity. Then, Dr. Steingraber walked in; the crowd (and I) hushed.

Introduced by Dr. Heidi Hutner; the Director of Environmental Humanities and Sustainability Studies here at SBU, as “The Rachel Carson of Today,” Steingraber launched into her talk with the disclaimer that she does not use PowerPoint slides; citing the reason that they do not facilitate open “discussion” between her and her audience. Instead of speaking at usDr. Steingraber included us in a powerful, dynamic conversation about environmental awareness, meaningful action, and the power of words.

Steingraber, an acclaimed environmental author and ecologist, (as well as, I learned, mother, runner, activist, and one-time jailbird) used her incredible mental acuity, environmental experience, and prowess with words to provide the audience with detailed, yet easily digested descriptions of the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and other methods used to extract the “unholy trinity” of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) from beneath the earth.

Did you know, for instance, that approximately 4,000 New Yorkers die each year from the extraction, transpiration, and/or combustion of fossil fuels? That methane–a greenhouse gas which is a principle component of natural gas (the stuff companies want to frack) as well as coal, solid waste, farm manure, rice farms, wastewater, and biofuel consumption, amongst other sources–has 34 times the climate-warming effects than carbon dioxide (another by-product of fossil fuel use; the stuff that comes out of many smokestacks and tailpipes) over a decade? That 30% of the natural gas extracted from the earth is NOT used as fuel, but to make plastic “stuff”: your water bottle, the siding in your car, fleece jackets, synthetic wood, your iPhone case… I could barely type fast enough; Dr. Steingraber was coming at us fast and furious with many such alarming environmental facts.

But, Dr. Steingraber said, there is a problem: Well-informed Futility Syndrome, a phenomenon first observed by a German psychologist during the Vietnam War. The principle is simple: The more you know about a problem (or problems) in which you feel as though you have no agency over, the more likely you are to ignore the problem(s). Instead of taking action, you feel rage, guilt, and grief. Alas, there is hope! Dr. Steingraber revealed a solution to overcoming these ill feelings which cause inaction: Instead of a trickle of information about environmental issues, people need to be INUNDATED. They need to feel obliged to help. The problems our earth is facing are truly that enormous.

Dr. Steingraber strives to accomplish this task with words. Being an ecologist, but also a humanist, Dr. Steingraber writes (and speaks) in a way that commands attention, dispenses big chunks of pertinent information, yet is easily understandable–and is enjoyable to read (or listen to/engage with). She urged us–students, in particular–to use words and action to spread the messages of our earth’s most prescient environmental problems to others. Last year, she created a website called  , which was used by thousands to write 204,000 letters protesting the inadequate regulations on fracking proposed by the New York State Department of Environmental Regulation (DEC). The 204,000 individual letters were hand-delivered (on paper!) to the NYS DEC office last January by Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Steingraber, and others. Thousands came to the office in protest of fracking! The mass of letters successfully delayed the DEC in passing any ruling on the dangerous and dirty practice!  

Currently, Dr. Steingraber is almost exclusively working on fighting fracking from her home upstate in the Finger Lakes. She attends rallies, writes for major environmental publications such as Orion Magazine, and makes public appearances to spread the word about the power of words. She is also a caring mother to her son, Elijah, and daughter, Faith; working to ensure that their future is toxin-free. Diagnosed with cancer at a young age, Dr. Steingraber successfully battled her illness, which only makes her more determined to make the world a cleaner, healthier place to live. As Steingraber put it, “Cancer is not a gift; it is a massive waste of time,” that we MUST stop the deadly flow of chemicals into the environment so that our health is preserved and so that we as humans may thrive. She is the author of myriad books written about the implications of toxins and their effects on human health, focusing especially on cancer-causing chemicals, known as carcinogens. Dr. Steingraber is also an avid runner, citing her afternoon jaunts as a peaceful time of day in which she “gets some of her best ideas.”

What can you do? Write! Currently, there is a proposed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) import/export station and pipeline, which is to be built about 15 miles from the South Shore of Long Island: Port Ambrose. Given the dangers surrounding LNG (including one accident in which a giant explosion at a Staten Island facility killed 40 workers), and the fact that there is also a safer, cleaner wind farm proposed for the same location, we must take action! Like the regulations she detailed on fracking on  , Dr. Steingraber makes the information surrounding the LNG regulations easy to understand, alongside an accessible and clear online form in which you may compose and send your comments!

What else can you do? Unite! Join the anti-fracking rally planned for January 8, 2014! Governor Cuomo will be delivering his annual State of the State Address in Albany at one PM. Stay tuned to the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages, as upcoming posts will provide more information on buses leaving Long Island/NYC and going to Albany! As Dr. Steingraber explained, there is strength in numbers. we must take action if we are to stop the “toxic trespass” of harmful chemicals from fossil fuels and industry into our environment and our bodies!


(from left) Sustainability Studies Program students Jayme Liardi, Kim Diamondopol, and Sustainability Studies alum Nia Padilla catching up with Dr. Steingraber and Dr. Hutner after the discussion!


What Dr. Steingraber does is incredible; I’ve always loved writing, but never had I heard about the power of words as being so remarkable. It is clear that, although our planet is up against a lot, together WE can make a difference.

All for now. Remember to visit Dr. Steingraber’s website and make your public comment heard!

peace. love. run.