Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 69.06
Liaison Margaret Bounds
Submission Date June 18, 2021

STARS v2.2

Connecticut College
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
4.00 / 4.00 Doug Thompson
Faculty Director of Sustainability
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement:

As part of a students Senior Integrative Project for the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, one student is building and creating content for an informational kiosk for the college's community garden. The kiosk will provide information on sustainable gardening practices, current crop information and information on how students can get involved in the garden.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Public Engagement:

As part of the ES 290: Goodwin-Niering Certificate Seminar: students engage in with a local land conservation organization, Avalonia Land Conservancy. Each year groups of students pick different projects to aid Avalonia. Every year some groups help the organization with public outreach by either organizing a public event or more often working on social media outreach. In particular, students used Instagram to target adults in their 30s and 40s. Other examples of projects include student groups working to document the history of the organization, the history of some of the properties, and create Hike and Seek interactive site games for properties.

Many students undertake local internships for credit. One student in 2020-2021 worked with the New London Sustainability Council in a for-credit internship. The work involved social media outreach for the New London Sustainability Council. The student also worked to begin a collaboration between the New London Sustainability Council and the Connecticut College Office of Sustainability that is just beginning.

A student working on their senior culminating experience in the Public Health Pathway focused on the question "How do Poverty and Race Affect a Person's Health." The student volunteered locally at the New London Community Meal Center. In the student's own words, this "allowed me to meet many people from a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. This engagement allowed me to see a different perspective in person, rather than just looking at data."

A different student in the Social Justice and Sustainability Pathway had their central question focused on how a child’s development is impacted through parental incarceration. The student senior project was informed by volunteer work at a preschool in New London.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Air & Climate:

A student in collaboration with a current faculty member, and a professor emeritus re-surveyed the vegetation and marsh height on a portion of our arboretum as a summer 2020 internship project. The student continued his study of Mamacoke marsh into fall semester to dive deeper into the data quantify the vegetation changes on the marsh over the decades. The ARC GIS methods used to quantify the changes in vegetation over time provides a high-resolution picture of current and past plant communities. By taking the 2020 data and comparing it to available data from 1957, 1983, 1991 and 1997 the team can visualize and quantify marsh vegetation dynamics over time and study how sea level rise is effecting this salt marsh ecosystems.

Students in an introductory environmental studies course (ES 110) use data from the college to calculate current carbon emissions as well as potential reductions in emissions based on actual proposals the college is considering for on campus energy generation.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Buildings:

Students in the class ARC 342: Architectural Design II were asked to design a sustainability center for campus as their final project - imagining we were building a new building to house the Office of Sustainability, The Goodwin--Niering Center for the Environment and the Arboretum offices. They met with representatives from the Office of Sustainability to determine needs for the new building and presented their final designs, including how they would be sited on campus, to these same representatives.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Energy:

A group of 8 students worked with a faculty member on an individual study project (ES 395 and ES 495) to design and eventually (after the class had ended), install a new solar array on our campus facilities building. The project also utilized a volunteer effort from an alumnus who has expertise in solar power. A different student in ES 214 Geographic Information Systems also completed a project to develop a GIS tool to assess the solar radiation potential for any portion of campus based on aspect and hill slope. The idea is to use this tool to assess potential for ground-based solar array installation.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Food & Dining:

Several Anthropology classes utilize our campus, dining services and surrounding arboretum as a living laboratory.

Our community garden, Sprout Garden is used for multiple Botany classes:
BOT 230 Ecological Agriculture - used for experimental labs mostly on soil fertility and management;
BOT 290 Community Agriculture - used for all aspects of hands-on learning and as a platform for learning about local food systems, sustainability, and food justice;
BOT 493M Sustainable Agriculture - used for hands-on learning about campus food production, waste streams, and pest management.

The arboretum is also used for BOT 330 Applied Mycology - Arboretum is used for fungal ecology projects, mushroom collection, and (in future iterations) mushroom cultivation. The instructor is starting a shiitake log cultivation project now so when this class runs again we will have a functioning system.

The College's Food Pathway and the associated course FDP 201: Thematic Inquiry, utilize the college community garden, the Sprout Garden, for instructional purposes. Students in the course ANT 353: Food and the Senses cooked meals a campus event space, Cro's Nest, and worked collaboratively with our campus dining services for a semester.

A student in the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment did their Senior Integrative Project on food waste and looked specifically at how students on campus interact with their food and food waste.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Grounds:

Students in two Geographic Information Systems course (ES 214 and 313) each complete an individual mapping project using GIS. Every year some students develop a project related to mapping aspects of the Connecticut College landscape related to sustainability. Recent projects include, mapping potential locations for a ground-based solar array taking into consideration existing campus vegetation.

The Botany 307 Freshwater Ecology course utilized the College Arboretum pond for its primary data collection for the fall 2020 semester. The same pond was also used less extensively for data collection of invertebrates for the BIO 120I: Introduction to Biological Inquiry Wildlife Ecology, Conservation and Disease class.

From January through April 2020 University of New Hampshire PhD candidate David Moore undertook a research project investigating sap flow rates for Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) trees in the Arboretum. David’s research looks to determine how to harvest sap and produce syrup from maple tree alternatives such as sassafras (Sassafras albidum), birch (Betula sp.), spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and walnut (Juglans nigra). The research was interested in how climate, specifically freeze-thaw cycles, impacted sap production.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Purchasing?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Purchasing:

A student completed an individual study for credit as a Senior Sustainability Fellow in the Office of Sustainability looking at purchasing water spigots for water bottle fill stations on campus. The student requested, and was awarded funding, from the Student Government Association and worked with the Director of Purchasing and Facilities Services to complete the project. The work was part of an effort to support the recent college policy to ban single-use plastic water bottles.


IIs the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Transportation:

A student completed an individual study for credit as a Senior Sustainability Fellow in the Office of Sustainability looking at transportation issues on campus. In particular, the student researched cost of covered bike racks and supported the campus bike share program, Spokespeople.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Waste:

Waste Stream Project (ANT 112 Material Legacies). This project explores discard behavior - a domain of behavior that is typically invisible and otherwise naturalized in the context of everyday activities - at Connecticut College. Course participants are required audit their waste stream, a process that entails systematically and rigorously documenting each and every discard event over the course of seven consecutive days. After data collection is complete, students summarize, analyze, and report on their individual waste stream audits as well as an aggregate, anonymized dataset for the entire class. Among other focal questions, participants are asked to consider whether discard practices (and consumption behavior) at Connecticut College evince our commitment to ecological awareness and responsibility and/or serve as a model of a culture of sustainability.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Water:

A stormwater detention located in the northern part of campus provides students in ES/GPH 120 Introduction to Environmental Geology and ES/GEO 210 Hydrology a chance to study the problem of runoff with increases in impervious area. The detention basin was redesigned as part of a student individual study to better filter out sediment and dissolved pollutants, which provides a great example to introductory students how their actions can improve campus sustainability.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Coordination & Planning:

The first-year seminar course FYS 119H: Connecticut College Built Environment: Past, Present, and Future, utilized the campus for students to consider the broader context and geography of New London and other college and university campuses. In discussing the aging and stewardship of the buildings and landscape, students explored historic preservation, sustainability, resource allocation, daily management, and the regulatory environment. Students considered the future development of the campus – planning, design, and construction.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability:

The DAN 280 Repertory course (which ran under a quarter design) utilized the natural stage in the pond section of the arboretum to create a dance site-specific to the location, additionally enabling the dancers to move freely in ways which we are presently not able to in our studios. The class used this outdoor venue for all but a couple of the meeting times. The theme of the dance was focused on social sustainability, specifically racism. Students read various articles regarding systemic racism as research for the course.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance:
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Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work:
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Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Projects and course descriptions were collected from departments and centers. Some projects were also pulled from those presented at the All-College Symposium in 2019 and 2020: https://www.conncoll.edu/connections/all-college-symposium/

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