Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 74.49
Liaison Mary Easterling
Submission Date Dec. 17, 2020

STARS v2.2

Pennsylvania State University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Mary Easterling
Assoc Director, Analysis & Assessment
Sustainability Institute
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement:

The College of Engineering is developing a badging program based on the Sustainable Development Goals that will be piloted with students before branching out to faculty and staff. Students are leading the development effort.

ART 297 students prepared handmade/printed award certificates for the Sustainable Communities Collaborative Expo student awards.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Public Engagement:

The Sustainable Communities Collaborative connects University Park faculty and students with local communities to address sustainability challenges through an engaged, collaborative effort. A wide range of student class projects have resulted, with topics that range from greenhouse gas inventories for communities in PA; to design of a pollinator garden for a historic church; redesign of a historic building to incorporate sustainability features and improve functionality; strategies for reducing food waste in the community, and many more. See http://sustainability.psu.edu/live/staff/sustainable-communities-collaborative


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Air & Climate:

A student team in CED 475, Integrated Capstone Experience, worked with producers from Penn State's Public Radio station to develop discussion guides for communities based on the film "Managing Risks in a Changing Climate".

A student intern with the Sustainability Institute, whose role focused on carbon emission reduction strategies, developed a report "Feasibility Report: Implementing a Carbon Price at Penn State". The report reviewed carbon policies around the world and in the U.S., examined carbon pricing tools and programs used by other universities, and made recommendations for Penn State.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Buildings:

The Interdisciplinary Collaborative Studio (CoLab) in the College of Arts and Architecture is a course offered to fourth- and fifth-year undergraduate and graduate architecture, landscape architecture and architectural engineering (AE) students, in which they work on a real-world project that is either in the design or construction phase. In 2019 five interdisciplinary teams undertook a semester-long project to develop re-designs of Penn State’s Sustainability Experience Center (SEC)—a 9-acre site on the edge of the University Park campus. Their resulting visions were presented to a group of faculty, staff, and peers.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Energy:

In 2019 a 2-megawatt, advanced utility-scale solar photovoltaic system was installed along Orchard Road at the edge of University Park campus. Students were involved in both the design and post-production process of the project. Currently, research and development is being conducted at the site by students to improve radiance measurement and measurements on units of solar energy being produced, making it more accurate for solar arrays across the world. Next spring, a student-designed observation deck will begin construction above the solar array. The deck will serve as an immersive and long-term platform for the public to see the array up-close and will include a live solar-energy production meter.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Food & Dining:

The Student Farm at Penn State was established to demonstrate how food is grown and to provide hands-on engagement opportunities for students and volunteers to gain skills and knowledge about sustainable food production, harvesting, and marketing. The Farm has served as a living lab for many projects. For example:
- Students in Biological Engineering (BE) 466 helped the Student Farm keep their harvested produce fresh by developing a cold storage solution out of a shipping container, creating a cost-effective, sustainable, and customizable storage option.
- Students in an English 15 class - Rhetoric and Composition - visited the Student Farm to explore how writing might bring attention to environmental concerns surrounding food waste, carbon emissions, and the personal choices we make about sustainability. The result was a series of six new tours focused on food-related topics.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Grounds:

The "Oak Road Meadow Project" - a proposed planted meadow ecosystem located along Oak Road - served as a course assignment for both undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture students. Students were tasked with designing the general layout of the project and planning some of the potential features of the meadow, such as seating along the walkway through the meadow, an entry sign, a pollinator garden and locations for foliage. Sustainability was an important factor in many of the designs. In particular, the lighting throughout the meadow was often designed to use sustainable energy, like solar-cells, as a means of powering the lights. Students gave end-of-project poster presentations on their designs.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Purchasing?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Purchasing:

Students enrolled in the APEX (Applied Professional Experience Program) in the Smeal College of Business conducted an Opportunity Analysis for Lion Surplus, the University's on-campus store that handles the removal and re-sale of University-owned equipment in environmentally responsible ways. The study looked at current processes used to track items sold, and recommend ways that the program can more accurately report its sales data and, in turn, its waste diversion metrics.

A student class in Supply Chain Management developed a template for a sustainability review of suppliers, or Sustainability Score Card. They then applied this scorecard to the University's top 40 suppliers.


IIs the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Transportation:

In 2019-20 a student intern for the Sustainability Institute, whose role focused on carbon emissions reduction strategies, worked with an interdisciplinary team of 16 faculty and staff to develop a report on a proposed "Travel Emissions Reduction Information Program" known as TRIP. The study focused on strategies to reduce Scope 3 emissions from transportation at Penn State. The student reviewed programs at other universities, examined the commuting infrastructure at Penn State, and explored the potential for engagement and education programs, offset projects, and virtual work to reduce emissions.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Waste:

Students in a Communications class (COMM 473) studied the Green2Go reusable take out container program to determine barriers to its adoption by students and develop a communications strategy to overcome them. The recommendations have contributed to a redesigned program that is expected to launch post-COVID.

Students in BA 442, a marketing class, were tasked with developing campaigns that encourage recycling of beverage containers during tail gating events. These campaigns would be implemented by the Tailgate Ambassadors student group.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Water:

A project titled “Greening our stormwater: using campuses as living labs for green stormwater infrastructure” received funding through the University’s Strategic Plan Seed Grant program, in support of the strategic planning theme of Stewarding our Planet’s Resources. The project involves an interdisciplinary team of researchers, and aims to position Penn State as a national leader in green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) by building a campus community with the capacity to implement long-term cost-effective solutions to water quality and quantity. One element of the project will be to incorporate GSI into relevant courses and give students hands-on experience in the design, monitoring and maintenance of GSI systems on campus and in municipalities.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Coordination & Planning:

The Student Sustainability Advisory Council consists of 25 students appointed by the President. Each semester the students develop ideas for improving sustainability on campus, study their feasibility, then present their recommendations to administrators at the end of the semester. https://sites.psu.edu/ssac/

Students and faculty in the Landscape Architecture Department's Ecology + Design research initiative played a central role in the Musser Gap to Valleylands (MG2V) project. This project, which was initiated by Penn State President Eric Barron, partnered with ClearWater Conservancy to explore environmentally responsible land use options for the roughly 355 acres the University owns between Whitehall Road and Rothrock State Forest at Musser Gap. https://news.psu.edu/story/559403/2019/02/15/academics/landscape-architecture-plays-central-role-university%E2%80%99s-mg2v


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability:

A student project in a Labor and Employment Relations class (LER 460) helped the University's public radio station, WPSU, to examine whether their radio broadcast coverage was well-balanced - both geographically (covering not just the immediate University Park region), and including a diversity of topics, such as race, gender and urban issues.

Another student project in LER 460 addressed diversity in hiring practices and identified local resources that may support PSU employees from culturally diverse backgrounds.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance:

Students in Smeal’s Sapphire Applied Professional Experience Program (APEX) in Fall 2018 conducted a budget analysis for the on-campus Student Farm. A team of four seniors in this capstone course analyzed three years of historical financial data from the Student Farm to determine appropriate budget categories and provide a report on spending by category. From this historical data, the team developed budget projections for the Student Farm expansion. This project provided important data for ongoing farm program budgeting.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work:

Students in a Labor and Employee Relations course (LER 460) developed a Sustainability in Recruitment Guide for integrating sustainability into the hiring process: https://sustainability.psu.edu/hireguide
During another semester, students in LER 460 addressed diversity hiring practices and identified local resources that may support Penn State employees from culturally diverse backgrounds.


Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
---

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.