Meet the next generation in climate science: Chicago youth studies glaciers in Mongolia

By Lucia Whalen
Medill Reports

The summer before college, most 18-year-olds work summer jobs, attend music festivals and spend their final days at home with friends before heading off to their first year of independence.

Patricia Joyner is not most 18-year-olds. Over the summer, Joyner, a recent graduate of Gary Comer College Prep high school in Chicago and an incoming college freshman, joined a team of University of Maine scientists to track the retreat of the glaciers and how those past changes can give clues to global climate triggers and what human-made global warming might mean for us now.

GCYC Green Teens in Yellowstone National Park on July 5th – 8th, 2017. Photos by Jasmin Shah.

While youth activists such as Greta Thunberg are making headlines around the world for taking a stance and speaking up about the politics of climate change, Joyner represents an equally important yet less publicized group – the next generation of climate scientists. She is studying environmental science at the University of Maine with the scientists who led the research trip.

Joyner traces her interest in climate science to her high school environmental science teacher Jessica Stevens at Gary Comer Prep. Stevens, who also participated in the Mongolia trip, said she first identified Joyner as a possible candidate to sign on for the expedition with scientist Aaron Putnam when Joyner was a freshman. But until she was at least a junior, she could not able to attend the earlier treks.

Focused on continuing to work and learn outdoors while in high school, Joyner joined the Green Teens program through the Gary Comer Youth Center. The center organizes yearly camping trips to Yellowstone National Park, which gave Joyner basic training, without her realizing, in the outdoor skills that would later serve her in Mongolia. The yearly trips to Yellowstone helped clarify for Joyner her desire to pursue a path in science.

“I did that and was like, ‘Okay, this is what I want to be doing.’ I like working out in the field. It was just fun,” Joyner said.

Joyner’s investment in the yearly outdoor expeditions to Yellowstone and work with the youth center caught the attention of her teachers and Stevens recommended her for Putnam’s Mongolia expedition, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation that funded Youth Center student participation. Just before leaving for Mongolia, Joyner traveled to Rwanda with the program Peace Exchange, which trains youth leaders in peace and nonviolence overseas.

Patricia Joyner at the Comer Climate Conference where she shared her experience in Mongolia during a conference presentation. (Lucia Whalen/Medill)

While in Mongolia, Joyner helped the team of University of Maine scientists collect rock samples and drill boulders for later research on the connection between glacial movement and climate.

Joyner’s drive and interdisciplinary interests mirror that of the next generation of youth stepping into leadership positions and fields related to the climate crisis.

“When I originally thought about science, I thought it was this linear thing. But once I started learning and investing myself in it, I realized so many [related] things [like] the law,” Joyner said. “I just thought it was [it was going to be] boring. Until I realized that I can be a part of it, and that it is fun, especially the field work.”

Joyner started her freshman year at the University of Maine with a scholarship and has a lab research position studying with Putnam and Ph.D. student Peter Strand, another of the scientists on the trek to Mongolia.

Joyner plans to eventually combine her training in peacekeeping and politics with her passion for the outdoors and climate change research into a career in environmental law. She is already in a university club that prepares students for the LSAT.

Joyner wants to eventually bring her knowledge and experiences back to Chicago. “Right now I feel like this is the time for me to learn as much as I can. And once I’m able to learn as much as I can, I’ll be able to utilize it and help where I’m from,” Joyner said.

Patricia Joyner and Stephanie Comer, withthe Comer Family Foundation, use an iPad to track the skyline in Mongolia. The Comer family sponsors the trek. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Performance artist fights against stigma around mental illness

By Carolyn Chen
Medill Reports

Kate O’Neil, a performance artist, created a platform for people with invisible disabilities to recognize their symptoms and express their feelings. She hopes her work will educate people about hidden disabilities and remove the stigma around mental illness.

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AI brings brand new experience in recruiting, while data poses challenges

Yixuan Xie
Medill Reports

Hiring the right people is crucial to an organization’s success and companies are turning to artificial intelligence to optimize that process.

AI, which uses computer science to make machines imitate human intelligence and behavior, is revolutionizing numerous industries. It is the technology behind Amazon Inc.’s cashier-less stores, Tesla Inc.’s self-driving vehicles and Apple Inc.’s Siri voice assistant. It is also lending a helping hand to the recruiting industry to find the right people for the right jobs.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent for July, which is near a five-decade low. Despite being good news for job seekers, the rate has some employers desperate to find talented workers when so many people are already employed.

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AI for candidate screening: eliminating or reinforcing bias

Yixuan Xie
Medill Reports

While job applicants hope they are evaluated based upon their capabilities and skills when applying for a job, hiring decisions can be full of biases, ranging from dismissing a candidate simply for a name to focusing recruiting efforts on elite schools.

With multiple studies revealing discrimination in recruitment, artificial intelligence is being embraced as a way to level the playing filed. AI removes human interaction from some parts of resume and video screening, helping to address conscious and unconscious hiring bias. But despite creating a more consistent and fairer way to evaluate applicants, it has the potential to be problematic.

Resume Screening

A 2016 study by Cornell University showed that resumes reveal candidates’ personal identifiable information and may introduce bias into the screening process, especially at the initial stages. It found that candidates with Caucasian-sounding names had 50 percent higher call back rates for interviews than those candidates with African American-sounding names. Research by PayScale, a salary trend analysis website, revealed this year that women face barriers to being hired at tech companies, with females being just 29 percent of the industry.

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Veggie co-op in North Lawndale brings fresh produce to residents with dietary restrictions

By Trina Ryan
Medill Reports

On a breezy Saturday afternoon, Reynaldo Engram arrives at work early to sift through boxes of carrots. He performs this task with painstaking precision, holding each carrot up to the light, rubbing his thumb slowly over its dirt-speckled orange skin. As hub assistant at Farm on Ogden, a spacious agriculture facility on the West Side of Chicago, Engram’s responsibilities include anything from watering plants to sweeping floors to cleaning bathrooms. “I do what I’m asked,” says the 59-year-old, smiling. But today he has an important job, one he takes seriously: inspecting produce for defects. He wants to make sure the most attractive-looking vegetables go out to his neighbors of North Lawndale.

“I want everyone to feel as strong and healthy as I do,” he says. “Not too many folks around here can say they feel that way at my age.”

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Chicago News Report – August 22

By Nicole Croteau, Max Goodman, Tim Hackett, Shannon Longworth and Karleigh Stone
Medill Reports

On the final episode of Chicago News Report…

The CEO of the Chicago Housing Association abruptly resigns, an organization helping local women “dress for success” for job interviews, a sex scandal affecting an Evanston school and we put the burning question that’s making the rounds on the internet to a taste test; who makes it better – Popeye’s or Chick-fil-A?

Photo at top: Dress for Success suits women up to impress at job interviews. (Karleigh Stone/MEDILL)

Athletes with disabilities in it to win it

By Neel Madhavan
Medill Reports

Rohan Murphy lost his legs at birth and grew up thinking that he wouldn’t ever be able to play sports.

However, in eighth grade his physical education teacher introduced him to wrestling and he started to become fully involved with the team in ninth grade. He later went on to wrestle at the collegiate level at Penn State.

Murphy says going through life with his disability is much different than competing in wrestling with his disability.

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Chicago News Report- August 20

By Nicole Croteau, Max Goodman, Tim Hackett, Shannon Longworth and Karleigh Stone
Medill Reports

On this episode of Chicago News Report…

A woman is on the run in Skokie after two robberies, the city passes a plan for new construction in River North, a CTA ride promotion for the first day of school, drones are sweeping the lakefront for cracks in the sidewalk and a former Northwestern football player is now “Uplifting Athletes.”

Photo at top: Students of all ages will receive free rides on the CTA for the first day of school. (Karleigh Stone/MEDILL)

Chicago News Report – August 15

By Nicole Croteau, Max Goodman, Tim Hackett, Shannon Longworth and Karleigh Stone
Medill Reports

On this edition of Chicago News Report:

Are recreational marijuana shops opening on Michigan Avenue, a fatal fire on the South Side and a new project is popping up in Lawndale.

Photo at top: Future container museum in Lawndale. (Nicole Croteau/MEDILL)

Close-knit Ohio State alumni squad overcomes obstacles to win first TBT championship

By Neel Madhavan
Medill Reports

A week prior to the start of The Basketball Tournament, Carmen’s Crew, the Ohio State alumni team, wasn’t even sure whether or not they would play in the tournament this year. The team only had six players confirmed to participate.

“We were really looking at it saying: ‘I don’t know if this is going to be our year,’” said guard Aaron Craft. “I think the guys just seemed ready. Obviously, we’re extremely excited that we pulled it together in that last week. But it was tough that last week. We thought we were going to have to play zone for three games in a row for three days. Found a way.”

Now, the team is the TBT champion and $2 million richer, defeating the Golden Eagles, a Marquette alumni team, 66-60 on Tuesday night at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena.

“There’s no other group of guys I’d rather do this with, like Evan [Turner] said after the game, we’re family,” said guard Jon Diebler. “Winning the tournament is amazing, winning the money is amazing, but to compete again in an actual game with these guys, because during the year we all go our separate ways, it’s a thing that we’ll cherish forever.”

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