Susan Jacobs’ Piece for The Aldo Leopold Foundation

Susan Jacobs, the DePaul MALS/IDS associate director, academic advisor and a writing instructor contributed a wonderful piece for The Aldo Leopold Foundation’s website and blog.  The whole piece can be read here:

Bringing Interdisciplinary Sources to the Table: Urban College Writers Meet Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac


Even in Chicago’s grid we see examples of urban farming

Leopold was a prominent environmentalist, conservationist, ecologist, and scientist in the first half of the 20th century who wrote with great passion on many environmental topics, especially the field he founded: wildlife management.  His seminal work, A Sand County Almanac, advocates for a land ethic and conservation.

Susan’s post does a great job of bridging Leopold’s work and ideas to Chicago’s urban life for her freshman students to see a greener world and write with a better voice when they channel Leopold’s direct observational writing style.  To read Susan’s piece follow this link and for other great material from the Leopold foundation, please click here.

A Short Drive to Fresh Air, Open Minds, and Professional Development: The Aldo Leopold Land Ethics Conference, Baraboo WI, 8.12.2015

By Susan Jacobs

We like to let our readers know about promising events and opportunities to stretch our interdisciplinary reach, such as the Aldo Leopold Land Ethics Conference, Aug. 12-15, 2015. This multi-disciplinary conference provides an excellent opportunity for DePaul University’s faculty and students to learn about Leopold’s Land Ethics, share “best practices” across the disciplines, and participate as presenters. I personally am very excited about the opportunity, but realize that some simple questions might need answering to generate interest. Where’s Baraboo, WI, and how close is it to a water park? Who was Aldo Leopold? What’s a Land Ethic? My 2011 blog entry describes my first experience at the Leopold Center.

Simple answers first: Baraboo WI is about 200 miles northwest of Chicago, in southwest Wisconsin. The small town hugs the outskirts of some of the midwest’s most treasured outdoor gems: Devil’s Lake State Park, The Wisconsin River, the Baraboo Range — all places that the State of Wisconsin was wise enough to designate as important wilderness places. Hikers, paddlers, bikers, artists, photographers, scientists, and residents conserve and share places like Parfrey’s Glen, Pewit’s Nest, Natural Bridge State Park, and miles and miles of Wisconsin’s Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Devil's Lake State Park, WI. Photo by Jeff Jacobs

Devil’s Lake State Park, WI. Photo by Jeff Jacobs

Baraboo is about a 30 minute ride to the Wisconsin Dells (yes, you’ll find waterslides there!) and about 40 minutes north of Madison. Better yet, this area is rich with surprises carved by glaciers thousands of years ago—- behind the Baraboo Walmart, through a cornfield, around the bend down a county road, a short hike leads to Pewit’s Nest, a most wondrously carved set of bluffs and waterfalls. Come summertime, the natural pools and waterfalls make a joke out of Walmart’s tentative concrete lease on the land… A winter hike up the iced-over falls lets hikers feel and hear the deep thrum of water flowing far beneath the thick ice; it sounds like the rocks are singing…

Frozen Falls at Pewit's Nest, Baraboo, WI. Photo by Susan Jacobs

Frozen Falls at Pewit’s Nest, Baraboo, WI. Photo by Susan Jacobs

The area surrounding the Leopold Center out on Levee Road alongside the Wisconsin River, has been designated as an “Important Bird Migration Area.” April through November welcomes thousands of migrating sand hill cranes, January now brings hundreds of nesting eagles, and as you drive up to the Leopold Center, you might be lucky enough to hear whooping cranes flying two miles overhead… It’s not just about the birds. Leopold’s humble Shack tells a huge story about who Leopold was and why this conference represents an amazing convergence of interdisciplinary interests and good thinkers.

Leopold's Shack, Baraboo, WI. Photo by Susan Jacobs

Leopold’s Shack, Baraboo, WI. Photo by Susan Jacobs

 Leopold, born in 1887, was one of the first rangers to join the US Forest Service in 1909. In 1924, he became the director of the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, WI, and in 1933, UW Madison created a chair of game management for him. He was the first US professor of wildlife ecology. During his lifetime, he created core definitions and practices of conservation; and putting his observation-based beliefs into practice, he bought a played-out farm along the Wisconsin River in 1935. Leopold, his wife Estella and their five children set to the challenge of rebuilding the health of the land. They first restored an aging chicken coop, the only building remaining on the property. Using “The Shack” as a basecamp, the family spent weekends and family vacations working on restoring the land. Each spring they planted 3,000 pine seedlings to conserve the soil and provide wildlife habitat. The Shack, a National Historic Landmark, stands as the heart of the Leopold family’s deep commitment to the understanding of land stewardship— the belief that we are all part of a biotic community, and must use the tools of every discipline to preserve and foster the health of the whole living organism.

Leopold died in 1948, fighting a grass fire on a neighbor’s farm. His major work, A Sand County Almanac, was published the year after his death. The short work, made up of a year’s worth of written natural observations and Leopold’s drawings, changed the thinking and behavior of so many people on so many levels that’s it’s almost impossible to quantify or describe.

That’s why this conference is so important— Leopold’s impact is best experienced by walking through his family’s trees, sitting outside the shack, and listening to the life surging around the river banks— but just as profitably, by entering the rich conversations this conference will surely generate.

MALS and IDS encourages all of our students, faculty, and DePaul friends to take a look at the conference materials—please consider presenting or attending the many fine talks and activities that can enrich our extended DePaul community. *For help with registration and conference fees, please check out Student Professional Development fund options from DePaul’s Adult Student and Veteran Services.

Aldo Leopold Center 8.2011 015

Land Ethics Training Participants contemplating the Baraboo Range, WI. Photo by Susan Jacobs

Bluff at Pewit's Nest, Baraboo, WI. Photo by Susan Jacobs

Bluff at Pewit’s Nest, Baraboo, WI. Photo by Susan Jacobs

MALS Dissertation Reading & Presentation by Vesna Lazar


MALS & IDS would like to congratulate Vesna Lazar on her dissertation reading and presentation. The event brought together students and faculty from various departments. Lazar read three travel essays from her dissertation and presented eight drawings. As a culmination of her time in the MA program, her work reflected her critical thinking,  while introducing audiences to her astute and plentiful encounters abroad. We wish Vesna the best of luck with her future endeavors. Please feel free to check out photos from the event (see gallery bellow).

Photos courtesy of Caelin Niehoff, Student Assistant

Attending the AGLSP Conference

We’ve been posting information in this blog about the upcoming 2013 AGLSP Conference, taking place October 10-12 at Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel. If you haven’t attended an academic conference before, we can give you an idea of what to expect and, hopefully, an idea of why you should consider participating in this exciting opportunity. We encourage graduate students and faculty to consider presenting and/or attending our interdisciplinary conference, which will focus on “Urban Gateways: Immigration and the Global City.” Go to for specific Conference paper presentation and registration details.

Academic conferences are always devoted to whatever unifying mission brings the member organizations together. In the case of AGLSP, the association brings together graduate liberal studies programs from universities around the US and Canada. Most participating programs involve interdisciplinary studies in more or less traditional Liberal Arts graduate programs. Each year, the university that hosts the AGLSP Annual Conference selects a theme that draws from that university’s areas of specialization, some unique cultural or geographical entity, or some social phenomenon associated with that school. For instance, in Oct. 2012, Reed College in Portland, OR, focused on the history and future of the book; last year, Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, explored the importance of water across the disciplines; the year before, Rollins University in Orlando, FL, focused on the interaction between technology and the imagination. When AGLSP comes to DePaul, our theme will explore Urban Gateways: Immigration and the Global City. Watch for Calls for Papers to learn more specific presentation details.

AGLSP conferences begin with a Preconference Workshop day on the Thursday of the event. These workshops are geared towards MALS program directors and administrators, and topics include subjects like curriculum-building, dealing with administrative challenges, program marketing, new trends and innovations, incorporating social media as a community-builder, and so on. Participants share best practices and examine program areas in need of improvement. As the Workshop activities conclude, other participants begin to arrive to the conference hotel, getting ready for the Opening Reception that evening. The hosts and association directors welcome everyone to the conference, which leads into a presentation by a keynote speaker or panel of speakers to officially kick off the conference presentations.

The presentations begin early on the Friday of the conference. The day starts with breakfast at 8, followed by multiple 90-minute Concurrent Sessions that usually run until around 5 pm. These moderated sessions usually bring together several subject-related speakers who share their papers with interested participants. Presenters include students and professors from many universities and sometimes professionals in related fields. Many of the presenters use PowerPoint presentations, and some bring handouts and other ancillary materials. The host, along with AGLSP, works hard to create stimulating combinations of related speakers; lively conversation between panelists and audience is always encouraged. Participants enjoy the flexibility of moving from presentation to presentation according to their interests; details about each presenter and their materials are included in the conference programs each participant receives upon registration.

After a day full of presentations, participants take a break and then gather for the association Banquet. Once everyone has enjoyed what is usually a quite lavish meal, the association presents Faculty and Confluence Awards, which are sometimes then followed with entertainment. In Portland, after the awards, we were treated to a terrific juggling act and a view of some of Portland’s “Extreme Bikes” brought by several students.

Saturday begins with breakfast, a short Annual Business Meeting for the AGLSP member administrators, and then one more Concurrent Session that runs from 10:30 – noon. The Conference then adjourns, and many guests take their leave; but the activities don’t end quite yet. The host institution offers an afternoon excursion that may or may not relate to the conference theme.

This year in Portland, participants were invited to take a 6 hour tour of the Royal Gorge area along the Columbia River, led by two Reed College Science professors. Last year at Skidmore, guests were treated to a tour of Saratoga Springs’ actual springs, and we tasted many varieties of the natural spring water that have drawn people to the area for hundreds of years. We’re not sure yet what DePaul’s excursion will include, but given the fantastic ethnic diversity of Chicago, we know we will focus on specific neighborhoods and their culture. We will also find a way to show off our Lincoln Park campus to interested participants.

We’ll be holding our conference in the beautifully restored Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Ave. But participants are not held hostage; in all of the conferences we’ve attended, folks take time to get out and explore on their own. In Portland, the Governor Hotel was across the street from about a hundred food carts covering several city blocks. We were just 3 blocks from the famous Powell’s Books and a bit beyond that, one of the world’s biggest and most varied farmer’s markets. You can be sure that when people travel, they satisfy both their intellectual and cultural hungers to enjoy the best of the local offerings. We are certain that our guests will explore the many walking-distance attractions of downtown. They’ll be able to visit Millennium Park, the Museum Campus, the Art Institute, the Spertus Museum of Judaica, and many of the neighborhoods they’ll learn about. Our office will be preparing transportation and neighborhood guides so that our guests will find their ways around the city.

We’ll be counting on our fascinating MALS and IDS students to participate as presenters, volunteer to organize the sessions, and to act as impromptu city guides throughout the conference. You are our most valuable and interesting assets, and your enthusiasm and expertise will go miles in welcoming our 2013 AGLSP Annual Conference guests to Chicago and DePaul.

by Susan Jacobs, Associate Director

DePaul’s MALS/IDS Programs to Host AGLSP Conference in Oct. 2013

DePaul’s MALS and IDS Programs have enjoyed a long and productive membership in the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs (AGLSP). This professional association draws MALS programs from throughout the US and Canada, and provides a vibrant consortium where universities share best practices and provides a forum for graduate student publication and presentation. DePaul’s MALS/IDS Director, Dr. David Gitomer, has acted as President of the AGLSP for the past two years. His leadership brings the AGLSP Annual Conference to DePaul for the 2013 meeting. DePaul’s MALS and IDS Programs will host the 2013 AGLSP Annual Conference at the beautifully restored historic Blackstone Hotel, from Oct. 10-12, 2013.

We are very excited and proud to host the conference, which will showcase DePaul students and faculty and Chicago; more importantly, our MALS and IDS students will take leadership roles in building what promises to be a most excellent conference. The theme of our conference is “Urban Gateways: Immigration and the Global City.”

Since all AGLSP members work from interdisciplinary platforms, our call for papers will encourage a wide range of interdisciplinary participation from graduate programs throughout DePaul and member universities. We expect papers to cross the curriculum via explorations of immigration and subjects including communication, politics, socio-economics, geography, art, literature, architecture, religion, and of course, since this is Chicago, food. A Call for Papers is posted at, and we will actively invite proposals and student volunteers through our office communications. Current students and alumni are all encouraged to participate not only in the conference, but throughout the year by submitting papers to Confluence, the AGLSP Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies. Winners of the Confluence Writing Award will be honored at the conference.

To give an example of previous conference themes, the October 2012 AGLSP Conference at Reed College in Portland, OR, featured “The Crisis of the Book: Worlds of Opportunity, Worlds of Change.” Reed offers an active book-making program, and Portland is home to an incredible variety of thriving bookstores, including the famous Powell’s Books. The keynote speakers included Michael Powell, owner of Powell’s Books, Molly Raphael, former president of the American Library Association, and Xan Arch, collection development librarian at Reed College. Concurrent presentations, which ran throughout the conference, included panel discussions on the history of print, new theories for literature in the digital age, social media as the new scriptorium, digital media’s influence on gender and power, and examinations of how technology has changed the shape of human narrative. Participants at AGLSP conferences enjoy the stimulation of workshops, presentations, and related excursions throughout the host city.

So, friends of MALS and IDS, save your papers and plan to take advantage of this excellent opportunity. We’ll be calling on DePaul’s incredibly varied interdisciplinary community to introduce our guests to Chicago’s fascinating global convergence of neighborhoods and DePaul’s thriving nucleus of inter-related urban studies. And we look forward to showing off the excellent work of our current and past MALS/IDS students and faculty.

by Susan Jacobs, Associate Director