Overall Rating Bronze - expired
Overall Score 35.51
Liaison Sarah Mittlefehldt
Submission Date March 2, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Northern Michigan University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Sarah Mittlefehldt
Co-Chair, Sustainability Advisory Council
Earth, Environmental & Geographical Sciences
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

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 GC 202 measure fluxes of CO2 from 4 different land use land cover types (LULC) including: native plants, wetlands, forests, and manicured lawns on NMU's campus using an infrared gas analyzer. Specifcally, students compute the amount of CO2 that enters the atmosphere from these land use land cover types. Ultimately students compare CO2 fluxes among LULC to determine the impact of NMU's land management on greenhouse gas emmissions.

Students learn how to collect physical & chemical soil & atmospheric data, and ultimately consider the impact of NMU's manicured lawns on greenhouse gas emmissions. Results consistently demonstrate that the highest GHG emmissions come from manicured lawns when compared to wetlands, forests or native plant areas.


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

In the winter of 2014 students in HV 275 specified air conditioning equipment to cool the aquatic biology laboratory that maximized energy efficiency. The facility had no cooling capability at the time and the Biology Department had significant issues with maintaining precise laboratory conditions. The project resulted in the department contracting for replacement of the cooling equipment the following summer.

In GC 205, Introduction to Geographic Research, students use GIS to examine heating and cooling possibilities of campus buildings and their spatial relationship to existing trees on campus. In Introduction to Sustainabitliy course used the theory of biophilia and the principles of biophilic design and methods to create recommendations for greening shared public spaces on campus. Students demonstrated an understanding of green spaces and trees on campus.


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:

PR 432 provides students with an opportunity to put course concepts on environmental and nonprofit campaign design into practice with the creation of a campaign related to communicating an ecological or social issue on campus. Recent projects have focused on renewable energy and energy conservation on campus.

Students in HV 275 are currently providing consulting assistance to select the most energy efficient and best design for refrigeration and cooking equipment being purchased by the Hospitality Management program.

Students in GC269, Introduction to Sustainability, visit our campus biomass plant and/or the City Board of Light and Power and reflect on the pros and cons of various energy sources, and the challenges presented by our country's current grid system. Students have conducted research to develop an energy center on campus. Students reflections demonstrate a deeper understanding of the complexities of energy use. Students develop a better understanding of their personal energy use.


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 GC164, Human Geography, visit the on campus permaculture garden and reflect on the geography of our current food system and alternative opportunities to healthier food produciton. Students who visited the permaculture site tended to volunteer to care for it later, and created student organizations to promote awareness about local food on campus.

PR 432 provides students with an opportunity to put course concepts on environmental and nonprofit campaign design into practice with the creation of a campaign related to communicating an ecological or social issue on campus. Recent projects have focused on sustainability issues related to on-campus dining services.

Other Communications course have worked on an Marquette Ending Hunger campaign and an initiative to get more vegan options in the dining halls.


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:

Students from many courses (e.g. GC 100, GC 202, GC 401, BI 210, etc.) use the Native Plants Study area as a living laboratory. Ultimately, students gain hands-on experience measuring the sustainable outcomes (soil carbon storage, plant diversity, wildlife habitat) of NMU-OLA projects such as the Native Plant Study Area.

NMU Outdoor Learning Area (OLA) student volunteers and employees are actively converting areas of campus that were recently maintained (by the university) as manicured lawns into native plant areas. These native plant areas are ultimately more sustainable because they promote ecological diversity, reduce the carbon footprint of our grounds, and save the university money. Northern has an OLA committee that supervises and faciliatates the ongoing native plant restoration effort.

Students GC 205, Introduction to Geographic Research, calculated biodiversity on campus. Students in GC 310, Urban Geography, practiced calculating human relationships to the built environment, third spaces (shared spaces) on campus and off campus and use the data collected to inform their final projects on social capital/building more sustainably and to the human scale. Students demonstrated an ability to use empirical science to support their environmental concerns. Students reflect through digital stories an understanding of the importance of third spaces, and how the built environment can shape human behavior. Students processed a FOIA letter and contacted the university to better understand pesticide applications on campus.

PR 432 provides students with an opportunity to put course concepts on environmental and nonprofit campaign design into practice with the creation of a campaign related to communicating an ecological or social issue on campus. Recent projects have focused on wetland and ecosystem services approaches to campus groundskeeping.


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

Students in HV 275 course provided consulting assistance to select the most energy efficient and best design for refrigeration and cooking equipment being purchased by the Hospitality Management program.

Students in GC 269 Introduction to Sustainability identified and chose on campus problems, such as vending machines and battery operated soap dispensers and practice creative problem solving methods and possible solutions. Students became more aware of the challenges and possible avenues for change on campus.


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:

Students in GC310 Urban Geography ride our local public transit, study the impact of NMUs contract with Checker bus, and submit their responses to our local Marq Tran transportation authority. Students in GC 205, Introduction to Geographic Research practice calculating biodiversity equations using on campus automobiles. Marq Tran has considered student comments for better busing and Marq Tran has also hired some of our students for internship opportunities.

The nursing program also conducts Simulation Labs that explore the impacts of different transportation options with an emphasis on healthier modes of transportation.


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 GC269 Introduction to Sustainability and GC310 Urban Geography courses visit the local landfill. Students in sustainability also participated in NMU Zero Waste sporting events. Students in GC269 practice systems thinking and creative problem-solving strategies to address waste on campus (plastic bottles, food waste, furniture televisions etc. thrown away at the end of each semester). Student reflections demonstrate great concern for overconsumption and the waste that they generate. Students also reflect a greater understanding and respect for the challenges of recycling and rural isolation. Students have gone on to study waste on campus and offer possible solutions. Students in sustainability worked with a food waste organization to audit our food waste on campus and consider options for less waste. Students also met with conference and catering and practiced communicating their concerns.

PR 432 provides students with an opportunity to put course concepts on environmental and nonprofit campaign design into practice with the creation of a campaign related to communicating an ecological or social issue on campus. Recent projects have focused on composting waste produced on-campus.


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 GC269, Introduction to Sustainability, worked with the Facilities Department on a campaign to encourage the use of refillable water bottles. The result of this collaboration was signage at all water fountains on campus with the slogan "It's better to refill than to landfill" with Northern's new sustainability logo. Incoming students also now get a reusable water bottle.


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:

PR 432 provides students with an opportunity to put course concepts on environmental and nonprofit campaign design into practice with the creation of a campaign related to communicating an ecological or social issue on campus. Recent projects have focused on the creation of a sustainability office for promoting and assessing sustainability across campus.

Students in GC269 worked with professors to institute a Sustainability Advisory Council on campus. This group is responsible for conducting this STARS inventory.


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

Students in BC 495 discuss the importance of diversity in communicating information about public and environmental health issues.

Students in GC164, Human Geography, participate in NMU's UNITED conference and reflect on their experiences as essays or digital stories. Students essays reflect a greater understanding of how justice and equity relate to environmental issues.


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 in GC269 Intro to Sustainability discussed the university's need to balance the public and private pendulum of investment and ethics of investment, and investment in land. Students have worked on projects to consider the best use of some of NMUs properties for environmental interpretation and education. Others have explored divestment strategies at other schools with the goal to inform future decisions around investment at Northern.

PR 432 provides students with an opportunity to put course concepts on environmental and nonprofit campaign design into practice with the creation of a campaign related to communicating an ecological or social issue on campus. Recent projects have focused on creation of a green revolving fund.


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:

Nursing students partner with community constituents in clinical courses to share information about public and environmental health.

Students in GC269 Intro to Sustainability and GC310 Urban Geography communicate with public officials and various authorities regarding environmental/social concerns. They practice understanding methods of communication in relationship with world views. Students are required to attend city, government, and/or on campus meetings (e.g. conference and catering and food waste). Student reflections/discussions demonstrate an understanding of the need to diversify environmental participation. Students share concerns with authorities and local officials.


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

Students in the First Year Experience and Academic Probation courses study methods for balancing work, life, and time in nature. Students in BC 495 also learn about health and wellness for college students. Nursing students learn well-being of self and clients, and discuss work/home balance.

Health and Human Performance students learn about stress management through projects and assignments that involve finding a peaceful place to sit and destress. HHP faculty and students lead environmental education programs with the local charter school, North Star Academy, that emphasize health and the outdoors.

Students in GC310 Urban Geography and GC269 Intro to Sustainability study biophilic design and sick building syndrom from working indoors too much.


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:

Students in GC 269 visit the DeVos Art Museum to practice observation skills/practice being more present and observant in their lives. Students also visit the DeVos Art Museum to consider the relationship between nature, sustainabilitiy, the anthropocene and visual art. Students reflect and develop their own visual art to teach/share/address sustainability issues.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:

We are in the process of getting more detailed information from faculty members who indicated that they use the campus as a living laboratory, but did not elaborate on our questionnaire. The attached spreadsheet is the raw data we compiled about the names, departments, and where applicable, descriptions of campus living lab examples. We are excited that this STARS reporting tool has given us a mechanism to start compiling this valuable information!

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.