Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 81.45
Liaison Lindsey Lyons
Submission Date March 1, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Dickinson College
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Lindsey Lyons
Assistant Director
Center for Sustainability Education
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Air & Climate:

Students in the Business & Climate Change INBM 300 (Spring 2018) class will explore the wide array of risks and opportunities that climate change presents for business; the many ways that businesses are already responding to climate change; and, perhaps most importantly, how business can lead the effort to mitigate climate change. In 2017, Dickinson College signed the "We Are Still In" open letter on climate change. Student projects for the course will use Dickinson's Climate Action Plan as tool to monitor how Dickinson is still "in", and see if there are ways to apply our campus projects to businesses on a large or small scale.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Buildings?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Buildings:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Energy:

Students in the Energy Resources class ERSC 202 (Fall 2017) class explored the evaluation and exploitation, economics, law, and the environmental impact of non-renewable resources and their alternatives, including geothermal, wind, solar, tidal, and ocean thermal power. The course used the campus as a living laboratory by focusing on the Dickinson Climate Action Plan, analyzing Dickinson's campus energy use, touring campus renewable energy projects and the central energy plant, and conducting personal energy audits. Dickinson's Associate Vice President for Sustainability and Facilities Planning worked with the class for two weeks, and was able to share the newest climate action project data with the students.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Food & Dining:

Students in the Introductory to Food Studies Class FDST 201 (Fall 2017) used the Dickinson College Farm as an interdisciplinary field site that examines food through biological, cultural, ecological, economic, and other perspectives. The course researched and analyzed questions of hunger, food production/procurement, inequality, ecology, food labor, health, including psychology, and the diversity of ethical, cultural, and spiritual meanings regarding food. The course will include opportunities for students to engage in active observation, experimentation, and hands-on learning through community partnerships and the College Farm. Students learning about production of food at the farm (harvesting), where food is sourced to (procurement/sales data analysis), and also distributed food at the community food bank located on campus.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Grounds:

The Hive engages students, staff, and faculty in learning about sustainability problems and solutions through the direct experience of beekeeping, honey production and community building. Two European honey bee hives (Apis mellifera) were installed on campus in Fall 2016, and the Center for Sustainability Education is working to create a team of volunteer members to assist in every step of the process. Ultimately, learning by doing. The Hive has served as a campus laboratory field site for over 5 academic courses working to study and advocate for pollinator-friendly grounds policies, building and improving native bee habitats on and off campus, and participating in educational programs on the significance of pollinators, habitats and the challenges facing them. Faculty are active members of The Hive cooperative where they work alongside students and staff to best utilize the campus living laboratory.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Purchasing?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Purchasing:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Transportation:

In Fall 2017, the Center for Sustainability Education funded Hans Pfister, professor of Physics, to develop a prototype and convert three bicycles to e-bikes for campus use. The E-Bike project was a student-faulty collaboration, which transferred learning experiences from physics courses involving mechanics, electricity, magnetism, and electronics to real world applications. The project involved modifying bikes from the campus fleet by adding an electric hub motor (a motor that resides inside one wheel), a lithium ion rechargeable battery pack, a control unit, a pedal rotation sensor, and hand-brakes with electric switches. Adjustments to the hand-brakes, front wheel, and fork are needed to fit the new parts. Although an electric motor is added to one wheel, the bike retains its functionality as a regular bicycle. Participants were able to learn about existing sustainable transportation options in the area as well as working to create new interest and opportunities.

The project included over ten students, and three bikes are now available for campus use.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Waste:

Students in the Policy Management Senior Seminar PMGT 401 (Fall 2017) conducted a semester long community-based research project focused on the reduction of disposable plastic straw use on campus and in the community. The students worked in collaborative teams to design reduction strategies and recommendations for various clients including Dickinson Dickinson Dining Services and 8 local restaurants managers. Campus data of straw, cup and lid purchasing was used as a baseline to monitor longitudinal change in the use of straws on campus. Campus waste diversion and per person data was presented in the class for context.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Water:

Students in Economics of Natural Resources ECON 332 (Spring 2016) class explored challenges for achieving water security and sustainable use of our water resources at the local, national, and international level. Students reviewed and analyzed Dickinson's campus water consumption by building from 2008-2016.

Additionally, the Alliance for Aquatic Resources Monitoring (ALLARM) has provided capacity building technical assistance to Pennsylvania communities to monitor, protect, and restore local waterways since 1986. ALLARM employs 14 students to work in a living laboratory that provides technical assistance to watershed organizations, community education, and training for volunteer monitoring efforts related to shale gas extraction.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Coordination & Planning:

Three students serve on the President's Commission on Environmental Sustainability (PCES), working with faculty members, administrators, staff, and alumni to guide at a strategic level all aspects of Dickinson's sustainability initiatives, monitor progress, and advise the President of the College. The students are mentored by the Director of the Center for Sustainability Education, and have interaction with faculty serving on the committee. As members of the Commission, the students contribute to decision-making that is advancing sustainability at Dickinson, learning first hand about sustainability in higher education. An outcome of students participation on PCES is development of a new Sustainability Dashboard that displays measures of our sustainability performance in a transparent online platform. Students worked with faculty and staff to identify metrics and collect data.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Diversity & Affordability:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Investment & Finance?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Investment & Finance:

Students serve on the Dickinson Sustainable Investment Group (DSIG), a subcommittee of the President’s Commission on Environmental Sustainability that provides a forum for the Dickinson community to raise and discuss questions about the college’s investments, act as a liaison between the Dickinson community and the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Investments, and provide input to the Committee on Investments’ conversations about environmental, social, and governance issues as they relate to college investments. The students, mentored by faculty and other members of the Dickinson Sustainable Investment Group, learn about the management of Dickinson’s endowment, conduct research on the practices and investment policies of peer-institutions, ESG principles, and ESG investor networks, and assist with drafting an investor beliefs statement for the College.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Public Engagement:

Dickinson students have the opportunity to participate in courses that utilize community-based research pedagogy to engage students in mutually beneficial research projects with community partners. These courses often address sustainability related issues. One of these courses, "Building Sustainable Communities," is focused on advancing sustainability in our community. Working in teams, students partner with community organizations in research that helps to advance landscape conservation, alternative transportation, sustainable recreation options, sustainable food systems, and social capital.

Partner organizations have included the Cumberland County Planning Department, South Mountain Partnership, Westside Neighbors Association, Capital Area Resource Conservation & Development, and the Greater Carlisle Project. One outcome assisted by the community-based research is a successful grant application by the Westside Neighbors Association to renovate a playground in a low-income area of Carlisle, incorporating natural play features and edible landscaping.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Wellbeing & Work:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to other areas (e.g. arts & culture or technology)?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to other areas:

Student employees, volunteers and graduate apprentices produce food for the campus and community, conduct research, design and build renewable energy systems, and educate the public on Dickinson's 50-acre certified organic farm. Students in a wide variety of disciplines learn about renewable energy and sustainable agriculture through living laboratory projects, workshops, and volunteer opportunities. On-site classes and independent research projects give students unique insights into complex mathematics, the role of food in global politics, public art projects, Buddhist philosophies, and more.

The Dickinson College Farm provides food to the campus and local community. The majority of the harvest is sold to the campus Dining Hall, with a significant portion earmarked for the farm’s Campus Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program, a May-November produce subscription that feeds more than 150 families. The farm also sells produce, using student workers, through a bountiful stand at Carlisle’s thriving weekly farmers’ market and donates thousands of pounds of fresh produce to a local food bank, Project S.H.A.R.E.

Through youth programs such as Farm, Cook, Eat, Sustainable Earth Education (SEED), and the hosting of popular annual events such as the Local Food Dinner, Dickinson College Farm serves as a venue for the Dickinson community and its neighbors to experience a holistic approach to land stewardship rooted in management practices that work to sustain the natural environment.

Examples of outcomes of student research and projects at the farm include a mobile app for data collection that is increasing farm management efficiency and that is now being piloted with 30 other farmers in our region, an optimization model that is being used to improve crop and pasture rotations, integration of renewable energy systems into the farm, innovations in integrated pest management at the farm, a solar-powered farm utility vehicle, and an electric tractor.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The Dickinson College campus and communities beyond campus borders are living laboratories for learning about sustainability problems and solutions through direct experience. Dickinson students work with each other, faculty, staff, and community members to identify and define problems, understand their causes, develop solutions, and test their ideas.



At Dickinson, characteristics of sustainability learning laboratories include:

Experiential: Students learn through direct experience outside a traditional classroom setting.

Problem-based: Students engage in learning about an authentic problem, challenge, or opportunity with the purpose of exploring, implementing, and assessing actions for advancing sustainability goals.

Place-based: Problems, challenges, opportunities, and actions are examined and understood within the context of a specific place (e.g. a college campus, a community, a local ecosystem).

Systems-based: Students are challenged to apply systems thinking to consider the interplay of environmental, social, cultural, organizational, and economic aspects of problems and actions.

Action oriented: Develops students as change agents, fomenting action that will make a campus, community, or other place more sustainable.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.