CNRx Symposium, 2020

1st Annual CNRX Symposium, 2020

The 2020 Campus Nature Rx Symposium was hosted by Dr. Don Rakow (Cornell University), on Oct 23, 2020. During this free one-day virtual symposium, seven speakers from member colleges and universities spoke about their NatureRx campus programs. Presenters shared lessons learned, including best practices, for connecting students to campus nature for their health and wellbeing, particularly during the pandemic.


Michelle Kondo, Research Scientist, USDA Forest Service

My research addresses the following broad questions: What are the health consequences of environmental disparities? By which physiological and psychosocial mechanisms do environments affect health? What impact can place-based and nature-based initiatives have on preventing and reducing violence, injuries, and disease? I am also interested in evaluating the influence of community participation in place-based initiatives on health outcomes. 

A. Haven Kiers, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, UC Davis

As a designer, my aim is to integrate contemporary design theory with ecological research and practical site-specific application and maintenance. Through studies that investigate the intersection of reconciliation ecology and aesthetics, my work examines the environmental benefits, technological progress, and level of cultural acceptance of green infrastructure and sustainable design.

Stacey Parker, GATEways Horticulturist, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden

Parker manages plant collections with community volunteers, and mentors students in the Edible Landscaping Learning by Leading internship program. She is particularly interested in the health and well-being benefits derived from gardening and spending time in nature, which is what led her to start a Nature Rx program at UC Davis.

Jennifer D. Roberts, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology, University of Maryland

My scholarship focuses on the impact of built, social and natural environments, including the instructional and structural inequities of these environments, on the public health outcomes of marginalized communities.  More specifically, much of my research has explored the dynamic relationship between environmental, social, and cultural determinants of physical activity and using empirical evidence of this relationship to infer complex health outcome patterns and disparities among adults and children. 

Dorothy C. Ibes, Senior Lecturer, Environmental Science & Policy and Center for Geospatial Analysis, and director of the Parks Research Lab (PRL), William & Mary

My research and work in the Parks Research Lab (PRL) aims to foster mutually beneficial human-nature relationships, with a focus on promoting mental health and environmental stewardship through nature engagement. My use-inspired, interdisciplinary research integrates theory and practice from urban ecotherapy, human-environment geography, environmental justice, urban planning and design, and sustainability.  

Megan Hadley, graduate student and Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), U of Minnesota

I have focused my learning on cultural-based approaches to healing, health equity, and nature-based therapy. Engaging in directed research with mentor Dr. Jean Larson, we have focused on the current approaches to campus-based nature assisted activities and interventions as found in the research literature and we have partnered with the Center for Health Interprofessional Programs to sponsor a Nature Walks social media contest this fall.

Zack Gill, undergraduate academic advisor and student in the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing Integrative Medicine certificate program, U of Minnesota.

My focus is on helping college students find alternative ways to deal with the stress and pressure of academics.  As part of an Independent Study with Dr. Larson I have been able to apply this focus through a creative nature walk social media contest  as part of a collaboration with the Center for Health Interprofessional Programs.  

Jason Hamilton, Professor, Environmental Studies and Science, Ithaca College

My research program is multi-faceted, but can be defined broadly as focusing in the area of sustainability science – the new discipline that considers humans and their local and global environments as one complex social-ecological system. The goal of sustainability science is to study the interactions between natural and social systems, and understand how those interactions affect the challenges of sustainability.  My passion in teaching is to provide students opportunities for experiential, integrative, transformative, education.

Tim Drake, Mindfulness Meditation Instructor, Naturalist & Growth Coach

My work is in the field of mindfulness and nature connection. I teach at Ithaca College in the Environmental Studies and Science Department. Through my work at Ithaca College and as co-founder of a community nature connection school in Ithaca NY I have over 20 years of mentoring and coaching experience with groups, individuals and organizations. I find my joy in the simple things that come from the earth! 

Donald A. Rakow, Associate Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University

My research and writing is split between the history, management, and social roles of public gardens and the human benefits of time in nature.  In addition to coordinating the Nature Rx@Cornell program and the Campus Nature Rx Network, I have co-authored the books, ‘Public Garden Management,’ ‘Nature Rx: Improving College-Student Mental Health,’ and ‘Public Gardens and Livable Cities.’


10:00      Welcoming remarks, Don Rakow (10 min)

10:10      Dr. Michelle Kondo, USDA Forest Service: "What nature-health research has taught us about recovery from stressful times" (40 min)

10:50      Haven Kiers and Stacey Parker, UC Davis (30min)

11:20      Jennifer Roberts, U. of MD (30min)

11:50      Dorothy Ibes, William & Mary (30min)

12:20      Breakout rooms: "How can we utilize campus nature to help our students manage the stressors of the pandemic?"  (20min)

12:40   Report back on breakout room discussions (20 min)

1:00        Lunch break (20 min)

1:20        Megan Hadley & Zack Gill, U. of Minnesota (30 min)

1:50        Jason Hamilton and Tim Drake,  Ithaca College (30 min)

2:20        Don Rakow, Cornell U. (30 min)

2:50        Breakout rooms: "In what ways can we address access and connectedness to nature so it is more equitable for everyone?"  (20min)

3:10        Report back on Breakout rooms, wrap-up, & final questions (20 min)

* The symposium was moderated by Jason Hamilton