Film & Speakers Series

Fall 2019 Semester Recap

As the winter begins to thaw, and re-freeze, Vasudha awakens from a brief hibernation. To celebrate our emergence from the deepest parts of winter we’d like to recap a busy fall and introduce our community to we’ve been developing for this spring.

Vasudha would like to first thank all the speakers who came to Brandon’s Nature/Society class, spoke at an STS colloquium, came to Nason Hall to host a workshop, or allowed Vasudha students to come visit their organization. We had a phenomenal series of speakers this Fall semester, all made possible by the Vollmer Fries Fund.

Our first speaker was Dr. Allison Kenner, a graduate of RPI’s own STS PhD program and Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at Drexel University. Kenner presented ethnographic work from her new book, Breathtaking: Asthma Care in A Time Of Climate Change, to a mixed crowd of STS scholars, graduates, and undergraduates interested in environment. She wove together themes of engaged activist scholarship, studies of the built environment, and ethnographic data on the perception of climate change by marginalized communities in Philadelphia.

Another excellent colloquium speaker Vasudha worked with was Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm. She compellingly spoke about on the relationship between land ownership, and food apartheid and justice, drawing on passages and experiences she wrote about in her book Farming While Black. Leah also graciously hosted a community farming day at Soul Fire which some Vasudha affiliated folks attended. Be on the lookout for a future trip to Soul Fire for a community farming day in the spring!

Lindsay Poirier, another graduate of RPI’s STS PhD program and Assistant Professor at U.C. Davis, spoke to Nature/Society students about data infrastructures in New York City’s resilience planning for climate change. Lindsay then answered questions from students on data, large infrastructures, and the relationship between sustainability and resiliency.

Local designer and project manager John E. Johanson also came to Nature/Society to give a talk to students about climate change. John covered a variety of topics, continually probing at the relationship between the built human environment and ecological systems. He also outlined a wide variety of careers that could contribute to understanding and  tackling climate change.

Aside from bringing in speakers to talk to students, faculty, and the RPI sustainability community, Vasudha brought speakers to campus to conduct hands on workshops with students. We’d like to thank all of our collaborators who came to campus and invited us to their spaces!

The first workshop was run by Dara Silberman of Second Street Farm. Dara took students out of the classroom to get their hands dirty and minds working tactilely in the Nason Gardens. Dara took questions from students and demonstrated how to work with a variety of plants. Later in the semester Dara generously invited Vasudha to 2nd Street Farm, where students eagerly assisted in a variety of sustainable urban farming practices, specifically huegel culture.

Scott Kellogg, another graduate of RPI’s STS PhD program and co-operator of the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany, ran a hands-on aquaponics workshop with students. Teaching not only the basic chemical knowledge necessary to work with technological aquaponics systems, but also variety of ways to configure and use an aquaponics system in sustainable projects.

Josh Coletto, owner of Nighthawks (a farm-to-table restaurant in Troy), gave an amazing workshop on cooking and living with a plant-based diet. With the help of farmer Schuyler Montgomery-Nassif Gail, students were treated to a satisfying, and entirely plant-based meal. The two took questions from the students on the challenges of running a truly farm-to-table restaurant, and how to eat in-season.

Vasudha did hold some events outside of speakers and workshops. A vegetarian Welcome Back BBQ was held near the Nason classroom early in the semester. Using ingredients acquired from the Troy Farmers market with students, and a rented grill, Vasudha grilled up a variety of foods for sustainably-minded students, and other denizens of RPI.

While Brandon attended the Drawdown Climate Conference, Vasudha students, concerned members of the community, and even city council members came to Sage Hall to enjoy Defazio’s Pizza and a thrilling discussion on climate change and what can be done on a local or regional level. After the discussion the remaining students and viewers watched the opening plenary of the Drawdown Climate Conference.

Vasudha and students from the Sustainability by Design class also held a weekend apple cider + vermicomposting workshop. Students explored “vermicomposting” by learning about the role of earthworms in the production of compost. Students brought snacks, and assembled outside of Nason Hall. The event was joined by a variety of spontaneous friends who were walking nearby.

To wrap up the fall semester, after Scott Kellogg spoke about aquaponics to students and other interested parties, Vasudha hosted a Thanksgiving Potluck with pizza, pasta, and for the broader sustainability-minded community at RPI..

Spring Semester Update

Below you’ll find recurring and one-off Vasudha-related events that are open to anyone. The Vasudha calendar (containing only events that have already been scheduled of course) can be found here. Some of the events listed below are still awaiting final dates (and we’re looking for your feedback on the best dates for some events in the surveys below!) so please return to this living document regularly to see updated events.

An important survey:

Gauging interest in Vasudha Reading Group (open to anyone, once every two weeks, on wide-ranging sustainability issues, hosted by Vasudha TLA Bucky Stanton).

Essential Vasudha Contact Information

Feel free to get in touch and let us know what you’d like to see happen this year! We have a budget for workshops, trips, speakers, and all kinds of other things. Just say the word and we’ll do what we can to make it happen!

Vasudha TLA: N. Bucky Stanton, (will see on phone whenever) or (will see only on laptop), 484-888-2828

Vasudha Director: Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn ,

Recurring Events and Series:

Sustainability reading group (see survey above)

Sustainability Careers lecture guests, all are welcome. Tuesdays & Fridays 12-2 Sage 2701

Link to schedule which has more information and links related to each speaker

  • 2/15 “Taste of Sustainability” Natural Upcycling
  • 2/22 Steve Pierce from the Sanctuary for Independent Media
  • 2/26 John Johanson on Climate Change
  • 3/1 Kristin Diotte, Director of Planning, Zoning + Community Development for the City of Schenectady, on Cities and Climate Change
  • 3/26 Laura Weiland, Director of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living and creator of the Ecological Literacy Immersion Program
  • 4/9 Marina McCoy, Event (i.e. festivals) Sustainability and “How to turn your passion into a career. The ups and downs, what you should prepare for.”

Sustainability Education

Welcomes additional volunteers (every Tuesday, 4-6pm, Sage 2411, education, justice, climate change with 4th – 10th graders). Contact Brandon if you are interested.

Monthly green chats series

Sponsored by Sodexo, “Taste of Sustainability,” organized by SSTF. This series kicked off February 15th with a talk with “Natural Upcycling”: Talks are 12-2 upstairs in Sage Dining. March will be dedicated to the green career fair (March 29th) and stay tuned for a Taste of Sustainability event in April.

Be on the lookout for DFA (Design for America) events circulated. For more information contact Raffie:

Capital Roots Spring 2019 Garden Classes: Including seed starting success (March 7th), mastering mulch (April 6th), tomatoes 101 (April 25), composting made easy (starting in April), lasagna/layered composting (June), root to step cooking workshop (May 14th), and more!

One-off events:

We are still scheduling some of these events, if interested please click on the survey link above and let us know when would be good for you!

  • March 16-17 HackRPI event – “Why not code the world?” Register ASAP! 2019 themes include Environmental Awareness and Sustainability, Data Privacy, and Accessibility in Education.
  • Green Career Fair (March 29nd – Friday 1-4) upstairs in the banquet room at Sage Dining Hall
  • Astra Taylor (filmmaker) on Democracy, April 24th. Interview here [more information to come]
  • Dahr Jamal (April 16th), speaking on his new book The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption at 7pm. Potluck and community meeting beforehand (starting at 5:30pm). And before that (4pm) a joint meeting, on climate change, of the RPI Eco Ed Young Researcher Program and the Sanctuary for Independent Media NATURE Lab group.
  • April 16th – April 22nd RPI Earth Week (organized by SSTF, Green Havens, Food Recovery Network, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Vasudha)
  • All the Nature Lab stuff! [will update specifics when provided Sanctuary schedule]
  • Radix Ecological Sustainability Center Trip [Late March, Early April]
  • Biking, Walking, Canoeing, and Kayaking Trip @ Peebles Island in April [planning]

Thanks and keep in touch!