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IU South Bend names first sustainability fellows

Four South Bend-area residents are the first participants in a Sustainability Fellows Program with the Indiana University South Bend Center for a Sustainable Future. The inaugural group for the 2009-10 academic year are Tom Butler, Javaughn Fernanders, Sam Miller and Sara Stewart.

Sara Stewart

Photo by South Bend Tribune

Sara Stewart is one of four South Bend-area residents participating in a Sustainability Fellows Program with the Indiana University South Bend Center for a Sustainable Future. Stewart is the founder of Unity Gardens, a local community garden initiative.

Each year, the center will choose two to four fellows who will work with the center and its faculty members on a variety of sustainability projects and initiatives. Sustainability fellows will include faculty from other institutions, as well as professionals and practitioners involved in sustainability work.

Butler is director of the Sustainable Life Center in Goshen. He earned a master's degree in environmental science from Indiana University. In the spring of 2009, Butler helped IU South Bend Professor Deb Marr to develop a biofuels research project for her environmental biology course. The project tested optimal conditions for growing scenedesmus, a native species of algae -- a first step in exploring feasibility of using algal biofuels in Michiana.

Butler also has worked as a mentor for an independent undergraduate research project on optimizing growth and oil production of scenedesmus, as well as testing natural nutrient sources that can be used to culture spirulina (an alga used in nutrient supplements). As a fellow, Butler will continue to work with Marr and her students to explore potential applications for his biofuels research.

Javaughn Fernanders is an assistant leisure services supervisor for St. Joseph County Parks. She recently completed a master's degree in liberal studies at IU South Bend. Her MLS project, "Representations of African Americans in Nature," was a poster and Web site project that can be seen at

As a sustainability fellow, Fernanders will exhibit work at the Civil Rights Heritage Center and around the region. She also will be developing a socially responsible enterprise to bring underserved communities closer to the local natural environment. She is planning to start a local eco-tourism organization that focuses on the St. Joseph River.

Miller is vice president of marketing and strategy for JF New, one of the area's leading firms for ecological consultation, restoration and native plants. Miller has demonstrated how sustainability can be a platform for leading companies in successful innovative strategies. He is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional and has earned two master's degrees, an MBA in marketing from the University of Michigan, and a master's in innovation and product development from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University.

During the summer, Miller taught a graduate course in sustainability and innovation for the MBA program at IU South Bend. Along with serving on the center's advisory board, he will continue to develop materials for his graduate course as well as collaborate with center faculty members to create a sustainability and innovation working group.

Stewart is the founder of Unity Gardens, a local community garden initiative. She received her bachelor's degree in nursing science from DePauw University. She is currently finishing her master's in nursing education at Bethel College. Stewart is a member of the clinical faculty at Saint Mary's College with specializations in community health, neurology, endocrinology, oncology and pediatrics.

She is also an active member of the center's agriculture, food and values group. During her fellowship, Stewart will continue to develop the Unity Gardens. Currently the Unity Gardens involves 12 gardens, including areas in LaSalle Park, Potawatomi Park and the Homeless Shelter.

For more information on the Center for a Sustainable Future and other IU South Bend Campus Sustainability Committee initiatives, see