Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 66.74
Liaison Krista Bailey
Submission Date Oct. 20, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Pennsylvania State University
AC-1: Academic Courses

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.51 / 14.00 Mary Easterling
Assoc Director, Analysis & Assessment
Sustainability Institute
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures required to calculate the percentage of courses with sustainability content::
Undergraduate Graduate
Total number of courses offered by the institution 5,150 2,045
Number of sustainability courses offered 57 2
Number of courses offered that include sustainability 121 10

Number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that offer at least one sustainability course and/or course that includes sustainability (at any level):

Total number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that offer courses (at any level):

Number of years covered by the data:

A copy of the institution’s inventory of its course offerings with sustainability content (and course descriptions):
An inventory of the institution's course offerings with sustainability content (and course descriptions):

See attached file.

The website URL where the inventory of course offerings with sustainability content is publicly available:
A brief description of the methodology the institution followed to complete the course inventory:

Our initial course inventory - prepared for our 2011 STARS submission - was completed using a survey approach, as described in detail below. Due to a low response rate, we believe that this approach failed to identify a number of existing sustainability courses.

In 2013-14, for our current STARS report, we reviewed the original course list and expanded it by (1) searching the online Penn State curriculum archives, and evaluating the material found in the course descriptions and syllabi, (2) searching through course descriptions found in the online Course Bulletin, with special attention given to programs where one or more sustainability courses had already been identified, and (3) revising the course survey and encouraging faculty to complete it. We are in the process of verifying this expanded list by contacting the individual course instructors. Although it is possible that we have misidentified some sustainability courses using this approach, we think this is more likely to be an underestimate than an overestimate of the all such courses offered at Penn State.

The course counts provided above include only courses actually offered during academic year 2012-13. The full inventory attached includes all sustainability courses currently "on the books" at Penn State.

Methodology for 2010 Course Survey:
A request to complete an on-line questionnaire was sent from the university provost to all deans and chancellors, thence to all department heads and thence to course instructors – in theory this would reach all course instructors for the 2009-2010 academic year.
Although announcements and reminders about this course survey were also made via the university’s official news site, the Center for Sustainability web site, and other appropriate venues, we have learned that some instructors did not hear about the survey. Others heard about it only by word of mouth, and inquired about completing the survey—they were directed to the Course Survey web site. There were 273 responses from University Park instructors. Of these, 75 reported teaching at least one sustainability-related or –focused course, with a total of 96 courses reported.
In completing the survey, instructors were not required to work with a particular definition of sustainability; a number of definitions were provided, and they were asked to develop their own concept of sustainability that included social, environmental and economic factors.
The distinct criteria for sustainability-focused and –related courses were given, and the concept of an immersive experience in sustainability was explained.
Instructors were asked to list sustainability-focused and –related courses and to describe any immersive experiences in sustainability that were offered through their classes.

How did the institution count courses with multiple offerings or sections in the inventory?:
Other (please describe below)

A brief description of how courses with multiple offerings or sections were counted (if different from the options outlined above):

Course counts are for Fall 2012, Spring 2013, and Summer 2013 (one academic year).
Counts were made by semester, then the semester values were totaled to arrive at annual counts. This method results in courses being counted each semester they are offered - so up to 3 times each year.
Multiple sections of the same course are counted only once each semester.
If the same course was offered both online and in person during the same semester, it was counted only once.
Counting methods were the same for both sustainability courses and non-sustainability courses.

Which of the following course types were included in the inventory?:
Yes or No
Internships No
Practicums No
Independent study No
Special topics Yes
Thesis/dissertation No
Clinical ---
Physical education Yes
Performance arts Yes

Does the institution designate sustainability courses in its catalog of course offerings?:

Does the institution designate sustainability courses on student transcripts?:

We removed from the course counts, courses in the following categories: independent study, practicums/ internships, thesis/ research, and individualized instruction in the performance arts. Still included in the overall counts are courses in physical education (listed under Kinesiology), and group instruction in performance arts such as Dance (e.g., Beginning Ballet), Music (e.g., Campus Choir), and Theater (e.g., Acting I). These courses could not easily be pulled out for the purpose of the course counts and their presence tends to inflate the number of courses, which lowers the percentage of sustainability courses.

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.