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
IN-4: Innovation 4

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Mary Easterling
Assoc Director, Analysis & Assessment
Sustainability Institute
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Title or keywords related to the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Unit-level Sustainability Strategic Planning

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:

As part of a plan to fully integrate sustainability throughout Penn State's teaching, research and outreach missions, and its campus operations, the Sustainability Institute (SI) has taken an innovative approach that might serve as a model for other institutions. This approach was developed as the University entered a new strategic planning cycle, which seemed to be an ideal time to encourage strategic planning units (e.g., colleges and support units) to embed sustainability into their own strategic plans.

First, the SI worked with upper-level administration to encourage the inclusion of sustainability goals in the unit-level planning guidelines issued by the Provost.

Second, the SI produced a series of resources to guide units in their planning, including the "Sustainability Planning Guidebook for Teams" (available online), the online "Opportunity Finder" survey, and the "Sustainability Strategy Framework and SMART Strategy Builder". One of the key messages in the guidance is for each unit to consider its core mission and focus on its unique contribution to Penn State's sustainability vision and mission. This encourages units to move beyond standard sustainability goals (e.g., increase recycling) and to think creatively about how they might best make a contribution. Sustainability Institute staff worked closely with some units to facilitate this process.

As an example: Penn State Public Media, WPSU, served as one of the early pilots for this approach. Their initial sustainability planning focused on stereotypical actions, such as encouraging recycling, composting, etc. However, a review of their draft plan revealed that many of the actions proposed were already being addressed at the institutional level. The WPSU planners then began to think more broadly about their unit's mission and unique capabilities, and came up with the proposed goal of creating media and learning objects to help people understand sustainability. A recent production "Water Blues" is an example of their contribution.

This approach to strategic planning, we feel, is likely to have a larger impact than a top-level sustainability strategic plan alone. It encourages broader participation, creativity, and ownership of sustainability goals.


A brief description of any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation (if not reported above):

See example above.


A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
Which of the following STARS subcategories does the innovation most closely relate to? (Select all that apply up to a maximum of five):
Yes or No
Curriculum ---
Research ---
Campus Engagement ---
Public Engagement ---
Air & Climate ---
Buildings ---
Dining Services ---
Energy ---
Grounds ---
Purchasing ---
Transportation ---
Waste ---
Water ---
Coordination, Planning & Governance Yes
Diversity & Affordability ---
Health, Wellbeing & Work ---
Investment ---

Other topic(s) that the innovation relates to that are not listed above:
---

The website URL where information about the innovation is available:

This innovation will likely lead to unit-level goals that will affect other topics listed above.

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.