Urban sustainability grad student, Keri Stokes, uses SolutionsU

to get ideas, to learn, and to do research for papers.

Keri and her family at the beach

Keri Stokes wears many hats: a wife, mother of twin girls, Director of Analytics and IT at the Solutions Journalism Network, former dancer for the NY Knicks, graduate student. Maximizing her time is essential to maintaining her life, she says, and when it comes to working on her masters degree in Urban Sustainability, one way she does this is with SolutionsU.

Each semester includes at least one significant research project, and each semester, she says, she has the opportunity to select a new topic to investigate. She says the first place she goes is SolutionsU to get a “broad view of the subject matter.” She enters keywords that reflect what she’s studying and contemplating for further research, and then she and her research partner discuss the challenges and solutions presented in each story she finds.

Her most recent project, she says, focused on urban sustainability in Los Angeles in the context of the ongoing drought. To get started on that project, she says, she went to SolutionsU and typed in “water.” She found articles like,“Can water ATMs solve India’s water crisis?” and “Iceland’s Water Cure” and “Kenya’s Water woman” and her favorite story, “Los Angeles, City of Water”. She says she feels confident using SolutionsU to begin her research because the stories in the database have been vetted and meet the criteria of solutions journalism.

Keri says that SolutionsU’s story collection feature has also been especially helpful to her as a student.

“The story fellows create collections that are carefully and thoughtfully crafted, with in-depth summaries of what they’ve learned,” she says. Anyone with a SolutionsU profile can create and save story collections on the website, and Keri says she often creates collections of stories on topics she is interested in.

Keri says she also reads solutions stories just out of curiosity and for personal growth. She says solutions journalism stories have been particularly useful to her in her personal life. For example, she says, when she has been in difficult conversations with family, she brings up examples of what’s working. Solutions journalism stories can “cut through that political banter and present people who just want to complain about the state of the world, with concrete, inarguable proof of progress.”

Solutions journalism stories are “aligned with how I want to view the world,” she says. They focus more on what people are doing well, and on what’s working. Reading these stories “puts me in the frame of mind to figure out what interests me most, and what interests other people,” she says. “It makes me think about what else I can do to be a better learner.”

Keri is using SolutionsU as she begins her capstone project. Want to see her process in action? Click here for an illustration of Keri’s research process.

Check out her favorite story: “Los Angeles, City of Water”, NYTimes, Jacques Leslie