April 18, 2012

Forums set for sustainability coordinator finalists

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Four finalists seeking to become the sustainability coordinator for Southern Illinois University Carbondale will be on campus in the next few weeks.

The candidates are Johanna Haas, assistant professor of geography-geology at Illinois State University; Katherine T. Hellgren, program coordinator at SIU Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center; John Brophy, currently serving on the Illinois Electric Vehicle Advisory Council; and Kris Schachel, fellowship and scholarship coordinator for the SIU Carbondale College of Science.

Each candidate will participate in an open interview session.  The session gives members of the University and area community the opportunity to meet each candidate, and to hear their vision for sustainability on the SIU Carbondale campus.

All open interviews are in the Center for Environmental Health and Safety Conference Room.

Haas’s open interview is at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 20.  Currently a faculty member at Illinois State University, Haas has teaching experience at The Ohio State University, and served as a residence hall director/academic resource center coordinator at Davis and Elkins College.  She also worked as a law clerk at the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.  She holds a doctoral degree and a law degree from The Ohio State University, and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University, where she graduated summa cum laude.

Haas notes that “sustainability is the key connector” through her educational background.  Her legal studies focused on environmental, property and public service law.  At Illinois State University, she serves as adviser for several sustainability-based student organizations, and she teaches courses on sustainability, and serves on the “Green Team,” which is the university president’s advisory panel on campus sustainability.  She said she understands the “issues surrounding physical plant sustainability,” and “will bring both a clear sustainability vision and a familiarity with the workings of a university to SIUC’s campus.”

Hellgren’s open interview is at 2 p.m. on April 25.  Hellgren has been part of Touch of Nature Environmental Center since 2005.  Prior to that, she was a planning team coordinator for the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Oklahoma State University, and director of education for the Payne County Audubon Society in Stillwater, Okla.  She holds a Master of Science degree in wildlife science from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and a bachelor of arts in biological science from Mount Holyoke College. 

Hellgren noted her early career work in education with the then natural history museum at Texas A&M-Kingsville, and her more recent work at Touch of Nature to create an environmental education program.  She described her role in the development of Eco U, a month-long summer nature camp for school children; and in the expansion of professional development workshops for educators and eco-adventures for school groups.  “SIUC is poised to enhance its image as a university that is current in its emphasis on sustainability initiatives,” she said.  “It would be a privilege to facilitate SIUC’s movement toward sustainability.”

Brophy’s open interview is at 2 p.m. on April 27.  Brophy represents the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries on the Illinois Electric Vehicle Advisory Council.  He also serves as transportation committee chair in Chicago’s 49th Ward Participatory Budgeting Project, and helped created the Chicago Electric Vehicle Consortium.  He holds a Master of Science degree in environmental management and sustainability from the Illinois Institute of Technology-Stuart School Of Business, and Bachelor of Science in political science from Boston College. 

Brophy referred to his experience in political campaigning and in school administration, noting that he has helped organize groups, including student groups, to help them navigate the political system in order to best present their concerns, including drives to register more young voters.   He has worked with I-GO Car Sharing in Chicago, and while there pursued grants to expand an electric bike program.  “I see a great deal of potential in the Southern Illinois University sustainability community,” he said.  “My goal is to help make SIU the national leader in sustainability.”

Schachel’s open interview is at 2 p.m. on May 3.  A two-degree SIU Carbondale alumna, and currently in the University’s doctoral program for environmental resources and policy, Schachel is a member of the SIU Carbondale Sustainability Council, and a past member of Southern Illinois Community Food Assessment.  She also works with the Southern Illinois Center for a Sustainable Future, Inc., which she has done, in various capacities, since 2001.

Schachel noted that the position of sustainability coordinator was much anticipated by the Sustainability Council, and expressed her personal delight at its creation.  She described her efforts, particularly since her arrival in Carbondale, to support environmental programs.  She served as executive director for Keep Carbondale Beautiful for several years, and also introduced the “Read for the Environment” program into Carbondale schools.  She was also coordinator for Southern Sustainability, and organized the annual Heartland Bioneers Conference.  Schachel noted that her inside understanding of the sustainability movement at SIU Carbondale contributes to her qualifications for the coordinator position.  “I believe SIUC has much to brag about regarding sustainable practices, but I can also envision exciting new initiatives that would benefit existing students -- and likely attract new ones,” she said.

The sustainability coordinator will be responsible for assessing campus sustainability, and overseeing and coordinating the distribution of the student-paid green fee.