Tags Posts tagged with "environment"


SCSU Project Blue photo of kelp underwater

Southern students in a kelp innovation class successfully combined their idealism with real-world applications to take home several awards recently at the 23rd Connecticut Business Conference and Competition administered by the Entrepreneurship Foundation.

While the judges generally listen to in-person presentations at this competition, the coronavirus pandemic changed the format so that students instead developed 60-second video “elevator pitches.” For Southern, this involved novel products made from sugar kelp grown in Long Island Sound, according to Colleen Bielitz, associate vice president for strategic initiatives and outreach.

Bielitz and Patrick Heidkamp, chairman of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences Department, created the kelp innovation class as part of the Project Blue Initiative. Kelp is a large, nutrient-rich, brown seaweed.

“For the majority of students, this class was the first time they were exposed to an innovation perspective to sustainability,” Heidkamp said. “I am incredibly proud of what the students accomplished—especially considering the course had to pivot from an on-the-ground, hands-on learning environment to a fully online course due to COVID-19.”

Heather Cushing placed first in the Blue Economy Pitches category for her proposal of a Shoreline Kelp Festival, a kelp-centric event that would feature music, kelp food and beverages, and a week-long restaurant week that includes a three-course kelp meal experience.

“I was quite surprised and excited to learn I had won, as there were some really great ideas for kelp products,” Cushing said. “Kelp has many benefits, both environmentally and nutritionally. A festival is a way to foster interest and knowledge towards Connecticut’s emerging kelp industry.”

Cushing conceded her festival idea will not happen immediately because of the coronavirus pandemic. But she is hopeful it can happen when things improve.

“The interest is there,” she said. “It’s just a matter of organizing and putting it all together. Late spring would be the ideal season to hold the event as that is when the kelp is harvested.”

Kelly Kingston placed second in the same category for her plan for Kelpie, a vegan, nutrient-rich, kelp-based egg substitute. Larissa Anderson finished third for her pitch of Kelpon, a 100-perent biodegradable tampon made with only organic cotton and kelp.

Meanwhile, the team of graduate student Louie Krak and undergraduates Maeve Rourke and Gia Mentillo won the Mobile App category. They developed an app called “Oceans of data at your fingertips,” which delivers real-time ocean data to seaweed and shellfish ocean farmers in Long Island Sound and beyond.

“The customizable data hub provides water quality parameters vital to crop health and bounty at the touch of a button, eliminating the guesswork and inconvenience of daily self-collection,” Krak said. “I could not be prouder to win alongside the outstanding and indomitable Maeve Rourke and Gia Mentillo.”

“The competition provided invaluable experience for all kelp class participants as a handful of their projects will undergo continued development this summer,” Bielitz said.

A CTNext Grant will provide a total of $75,000 for those projects to help convert the ideas into reality.


sustainability major

A new major at Southern will enable students to not only learn the science behind environmental issues, but to understand their societal complexity and offer practical, real world solutions.

A Bachelor of Science degree in environmental systems and sustainability studies will be offered starting next fall. Three concentrations will exist within the major – environmental systems, coastal marine systems, and environmental policy and management.

“It really is going to be an exciting program,” said Vincent Breslin, a professor of the environment, geography and marine sciences who helped organize the major. “It takes a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to environmental and sustainability issues.

“As an example, let’s take climate change. Sure, the solution sounds simple – eliminate the use of fossil fuels. But realistically, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. So, what are our options? What steps can we take? The students will look at those options and the social and economic consequences they could have on society.”

Breslin said the program will emphasize critical thinking, system thinking and problem solving.

“There is a need for professionals who understand the complexities associated with environmental problems and solutions,” he said. “This program will provide our students with the knowledge and skills to help Connecticut face a rapidly changing future.”

Breslin said the Connecticut coastline is an example. Since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, he said coastal communities have been more sensitive to the potential damage caused by major storms and hurricanes, as well as rising tidal waters and other consequences of global warming. “I could envision a time when each community, or group of communities, has its own sustainability coordinator,” he said.

Steven Breese, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said the quality and health of the environment is being challenged every day.

“And with this challenge comes a pressing need for our students and our culture to develop a deep and broad understanding of the complex interactions between human and natural systems,” Breese said. “Not only will this new program teach our students about this critical interaction, it will empower them to devise sustainable solutions that will impact our collective well-being now and for generations to come. It is a timely program and one that, we believe, will attract new students to Southern while offering our current students new educational opportunities.”

The environmental policy and management concentration within the new program would be ideal for someone who wanted to pursue environmental law, according to Breslin.

The program will require students to take about 40 credits in their major, differing slightly based on their concentration. The coursework includes foundation classes – such as an introduction to environmental and marine studies; an introduction to the principles of sustainability; and a research methods course. Students also will complete an experiential component, such as an internship, research experience or participation in a seminar.

In addition, each concentration will require four core courses and three electives, as well as a social science and humanities course.

Breslin said the major incorporates various disciplines – including biology, geography, earth science, environmental studies, marine studies, public health, political science and business management.

(For additional information about the program, please contact Vincent Breslin at (203) 392-6602 or at breslinv1@southernct.edu; Jim Tait, professor of the environment, geography and marine sciences, at (203) 392-5838 or at taitj1@southernct.edu, or Patrick Heidkamp, chairman of the Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences, at (203) 392-5919 or at heidkampc1@southernct.edu.)

Once again, Southern goes for the green!

For the third year in a row, Southern has been named one of the 361 most environmentally responsible colleges by The Princeton Review (www.PrincetonReview.com). The education services company known for its test prep and tutoring services, books, and college rankings features the university in the 2016 edition of its free book, The Princeton Review Guide to 361 Green Colleges.

Published October 4, the 160-page guide can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide.

The Princeton Review chose the schools for this seventh annual edition of its “green guide” based on data from the company’s 2015-16 survey of hundreds of four-year colleges concerning the schools’ commitments to the environment and sustainability.

The profiles in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 361 Green Colleges provide information about each school’s admission requirements, cost and financial aid, and student body stats. They also include “Green Facts” about the schools with details on the availability of transportation alternatives at the schools and the percentage of the school food budgets spent on local/organic food.


Suzanne Huminski, SCSU sustainability coordinator, says, “The SCSU community should be proud of this rating, because it is a hard-won reflection of the effort by our campus community.” Huminski points to Southern’s long and strong leadership record with energy efficiency, green building design, waste reduction and recycling. The university is also recognized for sustainability in curriculum, research, student involvement, and community outreach, and finding symbioses among all of these elements to strengthen the campus community and surrounding neighborhoods.

Southern’s focus on food security has been an important contributor to these kinds of connections. Huminski explains that student volunteers collect excess food from Conn Hall and campus retail locations and deliver it to soup kitchens and pantries in the New Haven area, primarily St. Ann’s soup kitchen on Arch St., near Southern’s campus.

“This project could never happen without a strong partnership and collaboration with our administration, dining services staff, management, and students,” Huminski says. She credits public health and geography faculty and students with research in the area of food insecurity. In addition, CARE [Community Alliance for Research and Engagement], newly arrived on the SCSU campus, is integrally involved with reducing hunger in New Haven, establishing food security as a priority at New Haven City Hall, and developing a network of non-profits that have streamlined goals and communication. Multiple student organizations organize food drives and donations, and for Southern students experiencing food insecurity, the SCSU Office of Alumni Relations coordinates campus visits from a mobile food pantry.

“There is a great deal of potential to further align and unify these campus-wide efforts, and together we’re working on this,” says Huminski.

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The Princeton Review first published its green guide in 2010. It remains the only free, annually updated downloadable guide to green colleges.