SUST Graduate Troy Withers Promotes Wellness at Chicago Schools through the “Peace Diet”

Re-post from yesterday’s Sustainability Studies blog:

This story from The Chicago Crusader on May 3rd, 2014, profiles the work of Troy Withers, a recent graduate (BPS ’13) of RU’s Sustainability Studies program and current intern at Morrill Elementary in Chicago. We applaud Troy’s work as a advocate of community health, sustainable food production, good nutrition, and social justice. (Editor’s note: The text of the article has been modified slightly to refer to the May 6th Wellness Event in the past tense.)

As a new wave of gang and gun violence hits Chicago, a Roosevelt University intern at an impacted elementary school in Chicago is promoting a wellness agenda that includes a ‘Peace Diet’ that is meant to reduce youth aggression and violence.

Troy Withers, a 2013 graduate of Roosevelt’s Sustainability Studies program and a vegan, has long held the belief that diet can negatively impact behavior, particularly processed foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, refined carbohydrates and sugars.

That is why he organized a Wellness Day that was held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6 at the Morrill Elementary School, 6002 S. Rockwell, Chicago, just blocks from the scene of a recent shooting of a 2013 graduate of Morrill and the brother of a current Morrill student.

“It will be a day devoted to healing in which we will be discussing why so much violence is happening and how we can turn the tide against it,” said Withers prior to the event. He works part-time at the school as a peacekeeper helping students resolve conflicts using restorative justice practices in conjunction with an internship through Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation.

“We will be presenting some possible solutions to the violence epidemic, including providing information on the importance of having our kids eat better on a regular basis,” said Withers.

The event included a 4 p.m. Symposium on Inner City Violence where Withers introduced the concept of his Peace Diet, (which includes plant-based whole foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and essential micronutrients), as a tool for violence prevention.

Sample servings of the Peace Diet, including lentil sloppy joes, sweet potato fries seasoned with kelp and a leafy green vegetable, were served at the Symposium. Free-food giveaways, hip-hop music geared toward violence prevention as well as participation by community activists, including Ameena Matthews from the award-winning PBS documentary, The Interrupters, were among other activities.

A resident of Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, Withers is the founder of the Gahn Institute for Sustainable Solutions, a Chicago-based policy institute stressing sustainability, health and community wellness as a means to combat societal problems. He first began researching causes of violence last year as a Roosevelt student after learning of the highly publicized murders in Chicago of Hadiyah Pendleton and six-month-old Jonylah Watkins. During the research, Withers became convinced that there is a correlation between poor nutrition and violent behavior, and has been working since then to educate and engage communities, youths and their parents about the importance of eating healthy foods.

“Young people in this community are facing violence on a regular basis,” said Nancy Michaels, associate director of Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute, which has been working at Morrill since 2011 and at other Chicago Public Schools as well to support young people through the use of restorative justice practices, including peace circles.

“While there are many factors that can contribute to violence, we believe Troy’s ideas are worth considering as we look for ways to establish a more peaceful, positive environment for young people to thrive,” Michaels said.

The Wellness Day event was co-sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign, Morrill Elementary School and Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation. For more information, contact the Mansfield Institute at 312-341-2150.


CPS Prof Mike Bryson Writes about Fracking in IL in “City Creatures”

Mike BrysonCollege of Professional Studies professor Mike Bryson, who also directs RU’s program in Sustainability Studies, is a contributor to the urban nature book and blog project, “City Creatures,” one of many endeavors by the Center for Humans and Nature here in Chicago. The project integrates scientific, literary, and artistic perspectives in the analysis and critical engagement of human-wildlife encounters in Chicago and its suburbs.

In his City Creatures blog essay this week, Bryson takes two seemingly disparate topics — biodiversity here in the City of Chicago, and the impending threat of fracking for oil and natural gas in southern Illinois — and explores their many connections: political, ecological, and social. He notes that “even as I remember the pleasure of seeing a black-crowned night heron skim the waters of the Chicago River’s North Branch, I simultaneously consider the impacts of climate change upon the present and future biota of our city parks and neighborhoods; the role of fossil fuel production and combustion in accelerating climate change locally, regionally, and globally; and the contested political processes by which oil, gas, and mining companies create opportunities to extract raw materials from our state lands in order to profit themselves, in the process further driving the warming of our planet.”

For more information on the fossil fuel extraction process called fracking and how this environmental controversy is playing out here in the State of Illinois, visit this page on the Sustainability Studies at RU blog.

Professor Shares Research from Fulbright Experience

Professor Julian Kerbis Peterhans spent last year in Uganda after being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, where he trained African students in biodiversity survey techniques. During that time, four new mammal species were discovered, with three of them from a single unexplored ‘montane island forest’ in central Africa.


A collaborative international effort by Dr. Julian Kerbis Peterhans of the College of Professional Studies at Roosevelt University (Chicago), the Wildlife Conservation Society (New York), the Centre de Recherché des Sciences Naturelles (Lwiro, Dr Congo), and the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago) has documented multiple unique species in a remote forest overlooking the western shore of Lake Tanganyika in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The forest, known as the Misotshi-Kabogo Highlands, is located within an African biodiversity hotspot known as the Albertine Rift.

SUST Symposium on Student Research / Internship Experiences on Oct 17

Please join the Sustainability Studies Program at Roosevelt University next week for a special afternoon symposium on Thursday, Oct. 17th, from 4-5:30pm in RU’s LEED Gold-certified Wabash Building at 425 S. Wabash Ave. in downtown Chicago (room 1016). Three College of Professional Studies students in Roosevelt’s SUST program will share their recent internship and research fellowship experiences in a forum that is open to all RU students, faculty, and staff as well as the general public.

Come join us to learn about and celebrate these students’ work! This event is free — but kindly RSVP to SUST Program Director Mike Bryson ( your plans to attend. Hope to see you there!

For more details (and photos!), check out this post on the SUST at RU blog.

RU Hosts Great Lakes Bioneers Conference on Nov 1-3

The first weekend in November, RU will host a major event: Great Lakes Bioneers environmental sustainability conference at Roosevelt University‘s Chicago Campus. For three exciting days, Nov 1-3, participants will have the opportunity to join international, national and local visionaries in a program of presentations and interactive workshops interwoven with music, drama, dance, poetry and celebration. All RU students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend and participate in this special event.

Save the date GLs Bioneers 2013 at RUThe conference theme, Creating Resilient Communities, will bring together leading innovators from all walks of life to exchange ideas, build networks and experience the power of visions guided by a philosophy that the responses to our city’s most significant environmental, social and economic challenges must be in harmony with the wisdom and proven design of natural systems.

GLs Bioneers logo

Event Highlights

  • Keynotes by leaders in the environmental and social justice movements, including David Orr and Sandra Steingraber (on Friday Nov. 1), two leading voices of sustainability and environmental activism/education.
  • Professional Development workshops on food, water, waste, shelter, climate, and community using the World Café model.
  • Empowering, interactive panels and workshops.
  • Inspiring music, poetry and dance.
  • Youth-related workshops and activities.
  • Saturday Concert by the Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Choir.
  • Exhibit Hall showcasing Chicago’s change makers.

Roosevelt students and faculty are eligible for special registration discounts. Contact SUST program director Mike Bryson ( for special discount registration code, then visit the conference registration site. You can also volunteer for the conference to gain free admission that day!

Sustainability Studies Hosting Environmental Film: April 20

Sustainability Studies Program Chair Mike Bryson announced recently that RU will be hosting the acclaimed environmental documentary feature film, Living Downstream, on Friday April 20th, 2012. The film follows Sandra Steingraber’s journey across North America as she connects increasing cancer rates with the environment.

Kirsten E. Silven from offers this in her film review: “Herself a cancer survivor, Sandra reveals her private personal struggles and her public quest to shed light on pollution in the environment and it’s affect on the human body. During the film we observe how industrial chemicals flow through the ecosystem to deposit themselves in some of the most beautiful places on Earth, and how they enter the body . . . Sandra’s deeply personal exploration of her cancer and her journey across the continent shedding light on the environment coincide to produce this wonderful film that emphasises the importance of a healthy land.”

Date:  Friday, April 20th, 2012

Time:  6:00-8:30pm
Place:  Roosevelt University, Chicago Campus, Auditorium Building (430 S. Michigan Ave)
Room:  Congress Lounge (2nd floor)

This event is free and open to the public. A discussion with RU faculty will follow the screening, and refreshments will be available. Sponsored by the Sustainability Studies Program in the College of Professional Studies at Roosevelt University.

RSVP to Professor Mike Bryson at / 312-281-3148.

SUST Professors Discuss “Costs” in Loop Value Exhibit

RU’s Sustainability Studies co-founders Associate Professor Mike Bryson and Assistant Professor Carl Zimring both serve on the advisory board to the Chicago Architecture Foundation for the Loop Value exhibit, which opened recently in the CitySpace Gallery. The exhibit shares information about the real environmental costs of a variety of goods and services, including household items and even pets.

Here, Bryson discusses how much the “highly transformed” Chicago river costs and Zimring evaluates how much a cell phone costs, especially those that are “hidden.”

The exhibit is free, and open seven days a week from 9:30am-5pm.