Overall Rating Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Katie Lavin
Submission Date Jan. 28, 2016
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Sterling College (VT)
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired Favor Ellis
Dean of Community
Residence Life
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing the campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in the following areas?:
Yes or No
Air & Climate No
Buildings Yes
Dining Services/Food Yes
Energy Yes
Grounds Yes
Purchasing No
Transportation Yes
Waste Yes
Water Yes
Coordination, Planning & Governance Yes
Diversity & Affordability Yes
Health, Wellbeing & Work Yes
Investment Yes
Public Engagement No
Other Yes

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Air & Climate and the positive outcomes associated with the work:
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A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Buildings and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Sterling College has several work crew positions that utilize Buildings as a positive outcome, which include Grounds and Campus Crew. These positions work to create more efficient, cleaner, and better building structures on campus.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Dining Services/Food and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The Dining Services portion of the work program at Sterling College is one of the biggest assets. Work Program positions include breakfast cooks, prep cooks, brunch cooks, and food systems analysts. These positions utilize the kitchen as a learning tool for purchasing foods that is local, sustainable, humane and fair trade, as well as learning better time management, exploration of cooking meals, and well earned work ethic.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Energy and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The campus is used as a living laboratory for Energy in the classes Renewable Energy Design and Analysis, as well as Environmental Science. These classes tackle many questions about energy use and also perform audits and exams on the buildings about the amount of energy used. They also create and brainstorm ways to save energy on campus by implementing practical solutions, such as posters, signage, etc.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Grounds and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The Grounds Crew serve many facets. They create and work on projects that keep the grounds clean, maintained, and orderly so that sustainable projects, classes, and the school can utilize them successfully for sustainability education. Positions include Forestry Crew, Grounds and Campus Maintenance, and Trail Crews.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Purchasing and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Through community governance, students, staff, and faculty have an enormous amount of say in what we purchase. While we do grow 20% of our own food on campus, we still purchase food from outside sources, and we purchase 76% "real food"—food that is deemed local, sustainable, fair-trade, and humane by the Real Food Challenge. The community also scrutinizes what we purchase in terms of cleaning products, paper products, technology, and more.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Transportation and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The Federal Work Program has two positions that utilize transportation as a learning environment. The first, the Van Coordinator, manages the campus fleet, learns time management skills, and utilizes the vans as a shuttle and car pooling service when needed. The other position is the Green Bike Baron/ess, who restores and maintains a fleet of campus bikes that are used by students to commute around campus and the community so that fewer cars have to be on the road.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Waste and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Sterling College has a very unique work program position that oversees waste. Dubbed "Captain Compost," its formal name is the Compost Coordinator. This position utilizes waste as a learning and evaluation tool. This position manages all of the compost generated by the school. All food at the school is composted.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Water and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

There are courses on watershed ecosystems as well as wildlife habitats and invasive species; these issues are studied and modeled utilizing the campus's streams, watersheds, and ponds.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Coordination, Planning & Governance and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Students participate in all levels of the Sterling College governance. The strategic plan was developed in part by students, for example. Students serve on many governing bodies that assess sustainability, most prominently the Land & Energy Committee and also Community and Academic Councils. These assess two of the main areas of sustainability: the environment and natural world, and humans and our communities. Other roles students play in governance include Community Advisors, Work Council, Clerk Positions (equivalent to Assistant Managers) in various work areas, and other groups and clubs on campus.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Diversity & Affordability and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Community Advisors enhance and maintain the dversity of the campus at Sterling College. Community Advisors maintain diversity by creating safe, inclusive spaces in the campus dormitories and other areas. They organize informational workshops that include topics such as privilege and ally training.

Other areas serve as a living laboratory include the Equity Committee, Community Council, Academic Council, and Work Council, all of which are part of a shared governance in which Sterling students participate to add to the diversity and affordability of the campus.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Health, Wellbeing & Work and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Community Advisors also serve to be the backbone of the Health, Wellbeing & Work section. They utilize the safe spaces they create to create a healthy atmosphere for the college. Another work crew position, the Veteran's Services Coordinator, is a major role that adds to the campus health and wellbeing. This position works with veterans, who have been up to 10% of the students on campus, and try to develop and create resources and assistance for them. They also inform the public about the work the veterans have done and are doing.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Investment and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The College is very transparent about its endowment and its performance. Given that we're the first college in Vermont, and the third college in the nation, to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel sector, the campus community is very interested to see how that affects the growth of our endowment and if sustainable investments work in the long run. Additionally, one of our Trustees is a the chief investment officer for Clean Yield Asset Management, and often gives talks about Slow Money Vermont and other sustainable investment options.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Public Engagement and the positive outcomes associated with the work:
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A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory in Other areas and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Sterling College utilizes the campus as a living laboratory in many other facets through the work program and through classes. One of the largest components of this is the Sterling Farm. In the work program specifically, students work to help run the farm and gain valuable hands on experience to utilize in their careers. Examples of work positions include 3 different "Clerk of the Works" positions: one in Draft Animal Management, one in Farm Chores, and one in Farm Hand management. All of these positions are equivalent to Assistant Farm Managers and gain incredibly valuable skills for future graduates. Other positions include Farm Chore Hands, Farm Crew Hands, Compost Coordinator, Garden Crew, Garden Crew Coordinators, and Draft Animal Attendants. Additionally, all students, regardless of financial aid award, must complete at least one week of farm chores per semester.


The website URL where information about the institution’s campus as a living laboratory program or projects is available:

Sterling College is New England’s only Work-Learning-Service College and one of only seven federally recognized work colleges in the nation.

At Sterling, all residential students, regardless of financial aid award, work at least 80 hours each semester. Students earn a minimum of $1,650 towards their college costs. Additional earnings are possible through work-study positions, summer internships, and residence hall supervision.

Work at Sterling, whether it’s on the farm, in the kitchen or dormitories, in an office, at the local public school, or at a local nonprofit, is invaluable for both the students and the community.

The Work Program allows all students to contribute to the day-to-day operation of the College. The Sterling community needs the cooperation and skills of everyone involved to prosper. Students learn valuable skills and practices applicable to their futures. While the Work Program is a “résumé builder,” it also demonstrates on a daily basis what it means to be a productive member of an active community.

Work and service at Sterling are always part of learning. During the sophomore internship and the Senior Capstone Project, for example, students include a service and work component in their academic pursuits.
Everyone at Sterling is proud of the tradition of work, learning, and service evident in our motto: “Working Hands – Working Minds.

In addition to the Federal Work Program, Sterling College utilizes many of the above areas in many classrooms. Sterling is also accredited by the Association for Experiential Education. Whether it's through the work program or through hands-on classroom activities, Sterling College students will gain the opportunities to access experiential learning.

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.