Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 73.88
Liaison Audrey McSain
Submission Date March 20, 2023

STARS v2.2

Lehigh University
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Audrey McSain
Sustainability Program Manager
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution offer at least one immersive, sustainability-focused educational study program that is one week or more in length?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive program(s) offered by the institution:

1) The Lehigh in Costa Rica Program has operated study abroad courses for over 20 years. The close association developed between Lehigh’s faculty and a variety of Costa Rican NGOs (non-government organizations) has allowed us to expand our program to include two additional initiatives: 1) A 7-week summer internship program in tropical forest conservation and sustainable development, and 2) A summer environmentally-oriented “summer serve” project.

The goal of program is to augment classroom education currently available to students in environmental science or environmental studies with practical on-the-ground experience in sustainable development projects. Students will work on projects related to conservation, particularly in the area of building and/or maintaining biological corridors. The sustainability and integrity of Costa Rica’s environment is crucial to the ecotourism strategy of sustainable. Students in Costa Rica:Lehigh University Summer Environmental Internship development for which Costa Rica is well known. These programs are designed to address the following educational goals:

- Allow students who lack the time or financial resources for a semester-long study abroad program to participate in international learning experiences.

-Create international opportunities specifically tailored to students with an academic background or general interest in the environment and/or international development.

-Demonstrate the inherent interdisciplinary character of “sustainable development” studies by emphasizing the connections among environmental conservation, economic development, and social/economic equity.

-Provide students with an appreciation for the environmental aspects of sustainable development in rural Latin America and expose students to issues related to conservation and preservation of biotic and ecosystem diversity.

-Expose students to Latin American culture and reinforce Lehigh’s connection with various NGOs in Costa Rica.

2) Global Social Impact Fellows advance Global Inquiry to Impact (GI2I) projects in the Spring and Fall semester (total six credits) and engage in faculty-guided fieldwork with diverse local partners in the Summer session. The courses, workshops, retreats, and immersive experiences of this program integrate experiential learning, research, and entrepreneurial engagement with students leading original and ambitious projects with in-country partners in diverse countries. A select number of GSIFs have the opportunity to participate in the Mountaintop Summer Experience to advance their project.

Through engaging in such meaningful, authentic, and incredibly alive projects, Fellows develop skillsets, mindsets, and portfolios to solve complex societal challenges. Fellows build sustainable enterprises, publish their works in peer-reviewed journals, integrate their insights into national policies, and champion social movements that influence the lives of millions of people. The quest for sustainable impact drives the philosophy, pedagogy, and operations of this program with the objective of preparing students to lead lives of impact.

Several of these projects include an international fieldwork component and are sustainability-focused. These projects and their brief descriptions are included below:

Sierra Leone: Mushroom Production Systems - Commercial production of mushrooms can improve local food security, reduce malnutrition, and augment livelihoods. After tremendous success in Cambodia, this team is designing a commercial mushroom production ecosystem in Sierra Leone. After three years of work, the team has successfully jumpstarted oyster mushroom production with a local project manager now running operations.

Philippines: PlasTech Ventures – Empowering Women by Recycling Plastic to Produce High Value Products - This project aims to provide income opportunities for women in a partnering local community (Malabon, Metro Manila, Philippines) by building a community-based, micro-recycling facility. Now in year three of the project, some opportunities have been identified and but a good amount of work is needed to develop the equipment needed to make this practical. Through this project, women in the community will be manufacturing up-cycled products themselves, thus emphasizing gender equality and empowerment. Aside from finished goods, useful raw materials may also be made and supplied to local manufacturers to turn into high-value products.

Kazakhstan: Air Quality Initiatives in Almaty - Students with interests in environmental issues will research approaches to assessing the environmental and social impacts of air pollution. Students will work with local stakeholders in and around Almaty, Kazakhstan to collect data and design and implement a locally sustainable system for monitoring air quality. They will evaluate the costs and benefits of alternative approaches to monitoring air quality, test and assess the proposed solution, and produce the technical and public reports detailing the results of their research. They will also write policy briefs for the Department of Green Economics and local environmental NGOs.

Kazakhstan: Save Tuba - Almaty, the commercial capital of Kazakhstan and a major hub in Central Asia, is facing enormous challenges with sustainable urban development. Uncontrolled migration burdens the housing infrastructure, outdoor air quality, access to clean water and waste-water management systems at the constantly-growing periphery of the city leading to negative environmental consequences which compromise economic growth. ‘Save Tuba’ is a sustainability education platform for Almaty’s youngest citizens that connects knowledge, inquiry and action to help students build a healthy future for their communities and the planet. The Lehigh team is collaborating with diverse partners to develop and validate the app and pilot-test it with schools in Almaty.

Website URL where information about the institution’s immersive education programs is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The Lehigh in Costa Rica Program was last hosted in 2020.

Kazakhstan-based projects under the Global Social Impact Fellowship began in January 2021 and have operated continuously since the. Both the Sierra Leone and Philippines-based projects have operated continuously since 2019.

The EI-STEPS summer internship program provides opportunities for students to work on research and projects with a faculty mentor. Some of these paid internships are in the area of sustainability and sustainable development. Please see the link below for a detailed list of the opportunities available.


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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.