Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 75.92
Liaison Christina Goodwin
Submission Date March 5, 2021
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

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

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Favor Ellis
Dean of Community
Residence Life
"---" 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:

At Sterling College, climate justice is seen as the intersection of environmental degradation, climate change, and issues concerning social inequality. Sterling provides opportunities for students to delve into these multifaceted issues by embedding the consideration of climate in academics, community conversations, and in the Work Program as a way for students to explore the questions, and search for solutions to the complex issues of climate change and inequality.


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:

Sterling College has several Work Program 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.


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:

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.


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:

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. Work Program positions also look at food waste.


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:

The grounds crews of the Work Program 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.


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:

Through community governance, students, staff, and faculty have an enormous amount of say in what we purchase. While we do grow 30% of our own food on campus, we still purchase food from outside sources, and we purchase another 54% locally which means 84% of Sterling's food is "real food" — food that is deemed local, sustainable, Fair Trade, and humane. The community also scrutinizes what we purchase in terms of cleaning products, paper products, technology, and more.


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:

The 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 carpooling 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. As for the farm, the main power source for cultivation is the draft horses and oxen that are housed in the Alfond Barn. The Farm also is the home of the farrier shop and the green woodworking studio.


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:

Sterling College has a very unique Work Program position that oversees waste. The Waste Warrior position utilizes waste as a learning and evaluation tool. This position manages all of the compost generated by the school. All food waste at Sterling is composted.


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:

There are courses on watershed ecosystems as well as wildlife habitats and invasive species; these issues are studied and modeled utilizing the campus's local streams, watersheds, and ponds. This gives students hands-on experience with our local ecosystems.


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:

Students participate in all levels of the Sterling College governance. Students serve on many governing bodies that assess sustainability. These bodies 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, the Work Program, and in student-motivated groups and clubs on campus.


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:

Community Advisors enhance and maintain the diversity 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 that serve as a living laboratory include the Equity Committee, Community Council, Academic Council, and in the Work Program, all of which are part of shared governance in which Sterling students participate to add to the diversity and affordability of the campus. Currently staff, faculty, and students are serving on a hiring committee for a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow in partnership with College of the Atlantic.


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:

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 the chief investment officer for Clean Yield Asset Management. All of our financial statements are located on this webpage: https://sterlingcollege.edu/about-sterling/at-a-glance/


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:

The Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems (RFC) cultivates the next generation of environmental stewards with exemplary education and research opportunities that restore functional ecologies, revitalize connections between people and place. The RFC also collaborates and develops programs with local businesses, landowners, and not-for-profit organizations to build academic partnerships that broaden the College’s curricular offerings and strengthen the regional food and agroecological systems. The RFC also serves to connect Sterling College with the greater community of farmers, food producers, and activists in our region, which gives students frequent and ample opportunity to learn directly from Vermont-based and nationally influential visionaries and change-makers. Through the immersive experience of hands-on education and work in the community, Sterling students develop a much more sophisticated understanding of the issues currently facing food systems locally and globally than peers who study similar subjects at more traditional schools.


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:

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. Equity Council assists the College to understand the intersection between sustainability and social justice.


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:

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.

On a larger level, the campus now leases farmland on Wendell Berry Farm in Henry County, Kentucky. This involves a two-year-long curriculum that is available for folks who weren’t already attending Sterling College. The curriculum is focused on the survival of small and mid-scale farms, how to be profitable within ecological bounds, and how to cultivate a culture that supports farming that is inclusive, equitable, parity-based, and resilient.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Sterling College is New England’s only Work-Learning-Service College and one of only nine 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.

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.