RU Neighborhood Environmental Symposium

Campus plant closeup
Friday, April 21, 2023 - 3:30pm to 8:30pm
Arrupe Hall room 114

The Rockhurst University Office of Community Relations and Outreach will present a day of presentations highlighting community-based solutions and perspectives on environmental sustainability in Kansas City's neighborhoods. This symposium is co-sponsored by My Region Wins!, the Rockhurst University Sustainability Committee, the Center for Neighborhoods at the University of Missouri Kansas City and RU Green.


  • 3:30 – 4:00 p.m. Pre-event networking and registration
  • 4:00 p.m. Open and Welcome Remarks from Alicia Douglas, Rockhurst University, director of community relations and outreach
  • Welcome and Prayer from Rev. Stephen Hess, S.J., Rockhurst University, vice president for Mission & Ministry
  • Introduction of Program with co-hosts Alicia Douglas and Carl Stafford, MY REGION WINS!, founder/visionary
  • 4:15 p.m. Speaker Presentations Begin
    • Chelsea Sims, RU Student Class of 2023 (15-20 minutes)
      • Title of Session: Realistic Sustainability: An Inclusive Approach to Eco Action 
      • Description: This session seeks to help the audience identify problems that the commodification of environmental action can perpetuate. In light of these issues, the limited actions of a single person may seem in the grand scheme. We will discuss the approach of realistic sustainability to combat environmental anxiety and the importance of incorporating impactful actions in the flow of daily life.
    • Joy Ellsworth, Clement Waters (15-20 minutes)
      • Title of Session: How to Heal Where Ownership Went Wrong
      • Description: Let's talk about the definition of a homeland. Then let's talk about what happens in our bodies and minds when we care for nature spaces, and how we carry a sense of responsibility for the land around us from our ancestors. Then let's talk about the land ownership situation in East KC and the power we have to reclaim our stewardship.
    • Katia Rubio, RU Student Class of 2023 (15-20 minutes)
      • Title of Session: Environmental Injustice
      • Description: Environmental racism is a form of systemic racism in which communities of color are disproportionately exposed to health risks due to laws and practices that force them to live close to hazardous waste facilities like sewage treatment plants, mines, landfills, power plants, major roads and sources of airborne particulate matter.
  • 15-minute break
  • 60 minutes - Facilitated Dinner Discussion with Jeff Hughley, Environmental Protection Agency, EMBA ’22
    • Jeffery Hughley is the Senior Advisor for Community Outreach at the Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7, covering Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and nine Tribal Nations. Jeffery is passionate about Environmental Justice, Healthy Homes, and connecting & building true community. Jeffery has spent his entire professional, 18 plus years, career in public service with experience at the municipal, state, and now the federal level. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, and an Executive MBA from Rockhurst University. Jeffery is a lifelong resident of Kansas City, Missouri, where is lives with his wife and four children.  When he is not busy with work or family, you can usually find him cooking, fishing, building something or traveling.
  • Chris Harris, Harris Park Midtown Sports & Activity Center (15-20 minutes)
    • Title of Session: This is Harris Park
    • Description: Harris Park is a shining example of how inspiration can transform a troubled neighborhood. It runs from 40th to 41st Streets on both sides of Wayne Avenue in the Kansas City, Ivanhoe neighborhood. Traditionally, the Ivanhoe neighborhood has had high rates of blight and crime, a shortage of green space and few safe places for children and families to play and neighbors to congregate. Having grown up in the Ivanhoe neighborhood, Chris Harris returned and started buying decaying buildings near his childhood home in 1998. From urban blight he eventually created a three-acre park. Harris Park has reduced blight and crime while increasing community pride, civic responsibility and property values.
  • Mary Silwance, Ecologist and Published Author, ’88 (15-20 minutes)
    • Title of Session: Hyperlocal-an Ecosystems Approach to Sustainability*
    • Description: The session will flow in the following manner-
      1. An overview of the Charlotte Street Community group
      2. Evolving our sustainability paradigm from potted plants to ecosytems
      3. Reimaging societal structures as ecosystems: intersectional, mutualistic, and reciprocal
      4. Reimagining Charlotte Street Community through an ecosystems lens
  • Carl Stafford, My Region Wins! (15-20 minutes)
    • Title: Using the Arts, Nature and Neighborhoods to Address Environmental Racism, Misogyny & Warfare in 2023
    • Description: What does environmental racism, misogyny & warfare in 2023 look like, the history, how to identify and address them. Now that we know we are being victimized what are we going to do?
  • 8:30 p.m. Closing Remarks and Gratitude – Alicia Douglas, Rockhurst University