How can religion inspire people to take on environmental stewardship? The Chicago-based nonprofit Faith in Place focuses on practical, concrete answers to this question, showing faith communities how they can become more earth-friendly while enjoying benefits like more robust and low-maintenance water infrastructure, affordable local food, and lower energy costs. How can we encourage more people of faith to see the intuitive connections between what they have always believed and the sustainability of human life on earth?

As part of Sinai and Synapses’ series “More Light, Less Heat,” Sinai and Synapses Fellow Dr. Ashlynn S. Stillwell and Reverend Brian Sauder discuss how their faith led them to their environmental work.

Dr. Ashlynn S. Stillwell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She is a member of the Environmental Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering faculty, and also among the faculty in the Energy-Water-Environment Sustainability program. Dr. Stillwell teaches courses on water resources engineering, stochastic hydrology, and water policy.  Her signature course, Water Technology & Policy, synthesizes engineering and policy content pertaining to water in an interdisciplinary educational setting, focusing on both technical concepts and communication.  Dr. Stillwell has authored many publications on the energy-water nexus, including her award-winning master’s thesis, and has a growing research program at UIUC. She earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Missouri (2006), and an M.S. in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering (2010), M.P.Aff in Public Affairs (2010), and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (2013) from The University of Texas at Austin. Her previous work experience includes consulting engineering at Burns & McDonnell (2006-2007) and policy research at the Congressional Research Service (2009). Dr. Stillwell received the 2015 Girl Scouts of Central Illinois Woman of Distinction Award in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and has been among the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois and Faith in Place. Her research interests include urban water and energy sustainability, water impacts of electric power generation, green stormwater infrastructure, and environmental policy.

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Rev. Brian Sauder is the President & Executive Director of Faith in Place, working out of its Chicago offices.  He received an award as a University of Illinois’s Business School’s Community Scholar and a Central IL Business 40 Under 40 winner. He grew up in Illinois in rural Tazewell County and received his B.S. from the University of Illinois in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, M.A. in Religion from Urbana Theological Seminary, and M.B.A. from the University of Illinois. Rev. Sauder is ordained by the Mennonite Church U.S.A. and worships with Chicago Community Mennonite Church in East Garfield Park.  Rev. Sauder also serves as an Adjunct Professor at McCormick Theological Seminary, co-teaching an environmental certification course for future clergy.

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