Thursday, October 23, 2014

CAUSES: Where the Community is our Classroom

By Dr. Sabine O’Hara, Dean of CAUSES and Director of Landgrant Programs 

CAUSES has grown with tremendous speed over the past three years. Key to our success has been our mission: to offer research based academic and community outreach programs that improve the quality of life and economic opportunity of D.C. residents. This worthwhile mission calls for the integration of our academic and landgrant programs. Landgrant universities have always sought to be relevant to the needs of their communities by focusing on research that makes a difference in the lives of local people and by offering education both on their campuses and in local neighborhoods. We receive direction for our work through the USDA that sets broad goals for the nation's Landgrant Universities, while fostering creativity, teamwork and innovation. 

Our current goals address challenging issues like improving food security, food and water safety, mitigating climate change, alternative energy, and combating childhood obesity and other food related health problems. Finding solutions to these big challenges requires collaboration across academic disciplines, hands on work, and perseverance. For us here at UDC it also requires a very unique focus, namely on urban food security, urban food and water safety, urban food related health problems etc. After all, our own community is exclusively urban. The District of Columbia does not have any wide expanses of farm land, and our forests extend to Rock Creek Park. This urban focus sets us apart from all the other landgrant universities in the United States. And what a great focus it is! It links people and the environment, and creates unusual alliances like urban agriculture, and urban sustainability.   

But why would urban agriculture and urban sustainability be such a great focus for our work? Are they really relevant to the District of Columbia? The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines Food Security as "Access by all people at all times to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life.” Low food security refers to a diet of reduced quality, variety or desirability for some populations. To achieve food security, food must be (1) readily available at all times to all people, and (2) be high in nutritional value so that it can sustain health, wellness and energy. Our food system is vulnerable on both scores.

UDC Pilots “Flicking CO2” Wall Sticker Campaign

That's not just a cool design, it's a wall sticker that will be installed above UDC light switches. The sticker will serve as a reminder to turn off the lights before leaving an empty room.

The “Flicking CO2” Wall Sticker Campaign is a campus initiative created by Green Impact Campaign and Hu2 Design, focused on encouraging UDC students and faculty to turn lights off through a highly-viral and visual behavior change program. During the course of the pilot, 250-350 light switch wall stickers will be placed in pre-approved buildings and locations determined by UDC staff. Expected to be included are residence halls, academic buildings, administrative offices, and other campus facilities.

"This campaign is in line with our pledge to Sustainable DC Plan," explained Dr. Kamran Zendehdel, assistant director of CAUSES Center for Sustainable Development. "It will not only help UDC reduce our energy consumption and CO2 emissions, we hope it leads people to also changing their behavior at home." 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Save the Date: Urban Ag Symposium Oct. 24-25

ARI: All About the UDC Architectural Research Institute

The Architectural Research Institute (ARI) provides cross-disciplinary research and service to support livable, sustainable, global cities. As the clinical arm of UDC’s Department of Architecture and Community Development, ARI is tasked with the community service component as part of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences, home of the District’s landgrant programs. As such, ARI collaborates on joint ventures with other local government agencies to fulfill its service to the community and to the residents of the District of Columbia. ARI offers programs in construction, architecture, and planning, providing students and faculty with opportunities to combine research and fieldwork. Distinguished Professor Clarence Pearson has led ARI since it’s inception.

Mr. Clarence Pearson, FAIA, has 40 years of varied experience in architecture, construction and investment in real estate property. Mr. Pearson has extensive experience in the design and management of residential, commercial, civil and institutional structures, and was a principal in the firm of Pearson, Johnson, Brown and Associates. He has served on the faculty of UDC as a professor in the Architectural Program, and as its Chairman for more than 18 years. His experience has made him an invaluable resource for the educational process in the Architecture Program. Mr. Pearson has won numerous awards for his outstanding contributions to a variety of professionals, civic and social organizations. For his extensive work in education he has been elevated to Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture; and for his years of service to the University Mr. Pearson has been elevated to Distinguished Faculty. 

“There are no open doors to success. Everyone must prepare for the future. It is you who must create the opportunity, not luck or chance,” said Prof. Pearson. 

ARI: Collaborations with Dept. of Housing and Community Development

ARI was founded through a collaboration between the University of the District of Columbia and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Homestead Preservation Program. The Homestead Preservation Program is now the Property Acquisition Disposition Division (PADD) and Single Family Residential Rehabilitation Program (SFRRP). DHCD has been ARI’s primary client for the past twenty plus years. This collaboration provides comprehensive architectural services allowing for the reclamation of the city’s vacant, boarded and run down housing, rehabilitating them for low- and middle- income residents, thus giving them the opportunity to become homeowners. Since its inception in 1987, ARI has provided architectural services on the renovation and rehabilitation of more than 606 homes and apartments at a cost of more than S90 million, positively impacting thousands of District residents in all eights wards of D.C.

PADD acquires and disposes of vacant and abandoned property and has three main functions:
  • Encourage property owners to rehabilitate and/or occupy their vacant residential property.
  • Acquire vacant, abandoned and deteriorated properties through negotiated friendly sale, eminent domain, donation or tax sale foreclosure when owners are unwilling or unable to maintain their properties.
  • Dispose of properties in the PADD inventory by selling the properties to individuals or developers to be rehabilitated into high quality affordable and market-rate single-family and/or multifamily housing in District neighborhoods. 
Project Description: PADD Vacant lot development. ARI Services Provided: Field inspection, code and zoning analysis, site plan development. (Above)

ARI: Service to the Community

Whether it’s to community organizations or residential assistance, ARI has helped to make a difference and an impact around the city.

“Our mission in Architecture is not just to develop Architects but to create good citizens in the community who have learned to give back and be an example to those who follow,” explained ARI head, Prof. Clarence Pearson.

As the clinical arm of UDC’s architecture program, ARI provides services that include:
      Analyzing existing buildings to determine the feasibility of rehabilitation.
      Documenting the condition of existing structures.
      Preparing schematic designs.
      Preparing construction documents.
      Obtaining construction building permits.
      Reviewing construction proposals.
      Weekly monitoring of construction process until final completion.

These projects enable the city to become a “ working model” in which students of the university are able to confront (and find solutions to) the many issues that impact our urban environment.
Saint Paul Community Church. Credit: Wanda Briscoe

ARI: Service to UDC

UDC Phase I Studios. Credit: Sarah Mousavizadeh 
Not only is ARI instrumental in rehabbing older buildings around D.C., they also lend a hand right here at home at the University of the District of Columbia. The Architectural Research Institute has been awarded several contracts to provide the University of the District of Columbia with architectural support on a variety of campus projects, providing many services to the University. ARI has worked with campus services in all aspects of project activities including meetings with contractors, architects and OPM regarding a variety of projects.

“As is the practice in many Universities, the Department of Architecture provides the expertise to assist in surveys, scopes, design concepts, production drawings and consultation to improve the infrastructure of the campus,” explained Prof. Clarence Pearson. 

ARI: Student Intern Program

As the clinical arm of UDC’s Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, ARI combines real world experience with education. Both staff and students engage in solving real architectural and design problems. This offers students valuable experience in what working for an architecture firm entails with experience in pre-design, design and project management; all important skills architecture firms look for when hiring qualified candidates. Internships with ARI are limited to top performing 4th year and graduate UDC Architecture majors and are governed by land grant program criteria and availability. 

CAUSES research assistant, Arielle Gerstein, sat down with two former Architectural Research Institute (ARI) interns, Yoftahe Woldemariam and Sarah Mousavizadeh to ask about their experiences in working with the Institute. Their projects focused on low-income residences in the District. Eligible, low-income District residents may apply for housing assistance through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DCHD). A team of interns work on each project. The students start by evaluating their sites - speaking with the homeowners, taking measurements, and putting their data into Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. They also learn how to create scope of work and cost estimates.

HarvestFest and Senior Day at the Farm

On Friday, Sept. 26, the UDC Muirkirk Research Farm welcomed nearly 100 guests to celebrate the first ever CAUSES HarvestFest. The farm has experienced unprecedented growth over the last two years, and what better time to show it off than a sunny, fall day? HarvestFest offered the opportunity for UDC staff, students, friends and community partners to see the farm in all of its [growing] glory. 

"We are honored you've taken the opportunity to visit. This isn't your average farm, given all of our innovative tools and techniques," Dean Sabine O'Hara said, welcoming the visitors. "There is so much to see and we hope you leave instilled with a sense of pride. We also hope you leave with plenty of produce to share with your friends and family!"

The stars of the day were definitely the aquaponically-grown Tilapia. Raised in one of the hoop houses, the nearly two-pound fish were harvested for the first time ever on the evening before the event. Freshly cooked samples were prepared by CAUSES Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health's Chef Herb and Chef T. The chefs also prepared "Firebird Salad," using farm-grown greens and vegetables. High marks all around for the nutritious and delicious treats! 

"After months of tending to the aquaponic tanks around-the-clock, it's finally time to taste the fruits (fish) of our labor!" stated long time UDC professor Tom Kakovitch, whose Flo-vex aeration device is at the heart of the system, which can potentially grow 500 pounds of fish and 5,000 pounds of fresh produce each. 

"This isn't just our farm, it's your farm. It's D.C.'s farm. You should be just as proud of it as we are. We also invite you to come out and volunteer anytime," director of Urban Agriculture and farm manager Che Axum encouraged the guests. The farm only has three full time staff members to handle the two dozen acres worth of operations. And with at least another 10 acres of land slated to be cleared in 2015, volunteers are always welcome to come out and lend a hand. 


Here's what's been happening around CAUSES!
  • CAUSES Welcomes Lorraine Weller Clarke
  • Nutrition student Leah Fahey: from China to Boston
  • Yao Afantchao Honored by the Cameroon American Council
  • Prof. Ralph Belton Selected Professor of Architecture of the Year
  • Chef T honored by Marguerite's Place  
  • City Orchard Celebrates first Harvest
  • Dean Sabine O'Hara participates in Leipzig, Germany's Degrowth Conference

CAUSES Welcomes Lorraine Weller Clarke
Dr. Lorraine Weller-Clarke recently joined CAUSES as the new Project Specialist for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education. She obtained her PhD. from the University of California, Riverside, where she conducted research on why are people planting certain species versus others. Her research areas of interest include urban agriculture and urban ecology, specifically on biodiversity and urban systems – the idea that people plant and manage biodiversity to fulfill certain needs. She is excited to be of the CAUSES team, in her dual role of outreach and teaching. She can be reached at

Nutrition student Leah Fahey: from China to Boston
A participant in the Nutrition and Dietetics Program, Leah Fahey worked in Shanghai, China at an international medical center called JJ Premier Medical Services, where she worked with the kitchen and analyzing the food that they were giving to their patients. She also attended seminars and meetings with nutrition groups throughout Shanghai learning about different diets and how it all affects the growing chronic illness rate in China, and studied the change in diet from when Americans move to Shanghai. But Shanghai was not her only adventure. Leah also worked in Boston in the wellness and prevention unit of the Department of Public Health under a registered dietitian where she is researching school wellness policies in Massachusetts and the models that are given by the National Alliance for Nutrition Activity, Massachusetts Association for School Committees and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Her research will be used to formulate a tool and/or training for school officials in Massachusetts so that they can implement, evaluate and monitor the school wellness policy. Keep up the good work, Leah!

Yao Afantchao Honored by the Cameroon American Council
Mr. Yao Afantchao, Specialty and Ethnic Crop Specialist, was honored last month by the Cameroon American Council (CAC) in collaboration with the DC Public Library and the Congressional African Immigrant Caucus Institute at the DC African BazaarFest. Each fall, African immigrants are recognized as part of National African Immigrant Heritage Month, where this month's theme was Africans and Agriculture: Careers, Conservation, Culture and Cuisine. Mr. Afantchao was bestowed with the "George Washington Carver Award for African Food & Agriculture Justice," recognized  for his collaboration with the CAC on various African food and agriculture programs, as well as your stellar work experience getting African food into the greater D.C. community.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Upcoming Events

Weed Warrior Training - October 11
Urban forestry specialist Mary Farrah will be co-leading the DC-CWMA Weed Warrior training with partners from Rock Creek Park and the District Dept. of the Environment from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. This training will certify you to become a DC Cooperative Weed Management Area volunteer and includes a 1.5 hour classroom session followed by a 2-hour field session. The class runs from 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. at the Fort DuPont Activity Center (3600 F and Minnesota Ave., SE Washington, DC 20019), and the field session will be at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (1550 Anacostia Drive NE Washington, DC 20019) from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. For more information contact Mary Farrah at

Agroecology Day - October 16
Taking place at the UDC Muirkirk Research Farm, this all-day event follows in the tradition of previous agricultural fairs, but with a specific focus on sustainable food systems. The 2014 event is offered to 9-12 graders attending schools in Washington, DC. Participation by invitation only. Contact  Marshelle Hailstock for more information.   

4-H Bully Prevention - October 17

Bullying is an issue that runs prevalent among today’s youth, impacting them like never before. The UDC CAUSES Center for 4-H and Youth Development has launched a campaign to bring more attention to the issue. On October 17, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., UDC will host the 2014 4-H Bully Prevention Summit on Dennard Plaza, featuring a program full of youth-oriented events. More

Stormwater BMP Inspection and Maintenance Training - October 22-23
Learn how to mitigate stormwater runoff. Communities must manage rainfall that runs off roads, streets and parking lots. To manage stormwater, treatment devices known as BMPs, have been built. These devices include: wet retention ponds, bioretention areas, swales, stormwater wetlands, permeable pavement, rainwater harvesting systems, proprietary devices, and level spreaders. BMPs must have annual, and sometimes more frequent, inspection and maintenance to perform as intended. The training will be hosted at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, with partner NC state. Click here to register or contact Dr. Dwane Jones for more information. More

Urban Agriculture Symposium – October 24
The Urban Agriculture Symposium will bring together thought leaders to discuss critical components of today’s food economy - from urban food production to preparation and distribution. Featured speakers include Steve Moore, a lecturer of environmental studies and agroecology at Elon University, North Carolina, and Philson Warner, an applied scientist at Cornell University Cooperative Extension, New York, and also the founding director of the NYC Hydroponics, Aquaculture, Aquaponics Learning Labs, located at the Food and Finance High School in NYC. Register online.

Urban Agriculture Farm Tour and Workshop – October 25
Following the Urban Agriculture Symposium, gain hands-on experience from Symposium keynoter Steve Moore and Che' Axum, UDC CAUSES Director of Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education. The Saturday morning workshop will be offered from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Space is limited. Register online.

Stormwater BMP Inspection & Maintenance Training - Oct. 22-23

Photo credit:
Communities across the Chesapeake Bay must manage rainfall that runs off roads, streets and parking lots. This runoff is called stormwater. To manage stormwater, many treatment devices, called BMPs or SCMs, have been built. These devices include: wet retention ponds, bioretention areas, swales, stormwater wetlands, permeable pavement, rainwater harvesting systems, green roofs, proprietary devices, and level spreaders. BMPs/ SCMs must have annual, and sometimes more frequent, inspection and maintenance to perform as intended. Maintenance includes hydrologic and water quality function, landscape functions, and consideration of impacts on human health and safety. 

Many communities across the Bay and surrounding regions are now requiring annual inspection, and if called for, maintenance of BMPs. BMPs are not managed as standard landscape features, as they are water quality treatment devices, and specialized training is needed to perform inspection and maintenance activities. BMP Inspection and Maintenance also presents a business opportunity for inspection by licensed professionals such as engineers and landscape architects, and maintenance by landscape and other green industry professionals. Those attending this course will:
  • Understand stormwater, how it affects water quality, and regulations associated with it.
  • Understand stormwater management devices used in the Chesapeake Bay and how they function.
  • Understand inspection and maintenance requirements of each stormwater practice.

NCR Water Resources Symposium - Call for Abstracts

Hosted by the AWRA-National Capital Region Section and the University of the District of Columbia, the 2015 National Capital Region Water Resources Symposium: Urban Water Management and Resiliency in Uncertain Times will be held April 10, 2015, at the UDC Van Ness campus.

This one-day symposium will bring together experts from governmental agencies, academia, the private sector and non-profits to present and discuss challenges and opportunities for water management and resiliency in the region, as well as national and international scope. The program will include a keynote address, invited panelists, and breakout sessions featuring submitted oral and poster presentations. Dr. Daniel Zarrilli, Director of the Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency for the City of New York has been invited to present the keynote address.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

4-H Bully Prevention Summit - Oct. 17

Bullying is an issue that runs prevalent among today’s youth, impacting them like never before. The Center for 4-H and Youth Development of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences of the University of the District of Columbia has launched a campaign to bring more attention to the issue. On October 17, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., UDC will host the 2014 4-H Bully Prevention Summit on Dennard Plaza, featuring a program full of youth-oriented events.

As defined by the U.S. government, bullying is: “Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” The behavior may include making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and exclusion.

Partnering with ArtLife, Inc. the Center for 4-H and Youth Development will embark on a national campaign that includes the youth in sending the message across the country that being a bully is a very bad choice. At the heart of the campaign is the “These Bullies Can’t Hold Me Back” shirt.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sept. 26: HarvestFest at MuirKirk Farm!

You’re invited to visit the UDC Muirkirk Research Farm on Sept. 26! The tour will cover our:  
       - Greenhouses
       - Aquaponic facilities
       - Hydroponic facilities
       - Solar well and pump
       - Fruit Orchard
       - Microgreens and ethnic crops
        - Photos of the farm are available on our Facebook page!

For those in need of transportation, a bus is being arranged that will depart the UDC Van Ness campus at 1:45 p.m. Please RSVP to to secure a seat.

PS – Don’t forget to bring a reusable bag to take home produce!