Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 75.15
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:

A new Gear Design and Repair course co-taught by two Sterling faculty (one in Outdoor Education, one in Fiber Arts) and a local boutique gear small-business owner taught skills relating to gear repair and solicited broken and damaged gear items from the Sterling community. Through this class, approximately 56 unique repairs were completed.

Expanding upon this course is the launch of a Gear Design and Repair program that includes educational opportunities for peer-to-peer learning through the Work Program which employs students; all jobs through the Work Program have learning objectives.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

The Renewable Energy Analysis and Design (NS335) class is designing a “tiny house” for the College's instructional site at The Farm Between. The concept is to have a moveable residence for the on-site Farm Manager or interns that is energy independent. On the ground measurements are coupled with computer spreadsheets and established values for analysis. Hydroelectric, wind, biomass, geothermal, biomass and solar (both thermal and electric) sources are studied; Background content in thermodynamics and the design process inform design projects that minimize environmental impacts.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

Jonas Kambire '19 considered energy efficient egg incubation through his Senior Year Research Project. Through this project, Jonas built an egg incubator from reclaimed wood and other materials he found on campus, tested the energy efficiency of the incubator, and then tested the effectiveness of the incubator for rearing Sterling poultry. Jonas’ results allowed Sterling to better understand the energy used in incubating eggs.

The Renewable Energy Analysis and Design (NS335) class is designing a “tiny house” for the College's instructional site at The Farm Between. The concept is to have a moveable residence for the on-site Farm Manager or interns that is energy independent. On the ground measurements are coupled with computer spreadsheets and established values for analysis. Hydroelectric, wind, biomass, geothermal, biomass and solar (both thermal and electric) sources are studied; Background content in thermodynamics and the design process inform design projects that minimize environmental impacts.

Through the Work Program, forestry and sugaring students are conducting research that measures the fuel wood use in the College's maple sugaring operation with the goal of increasing the syrup yield per cord of firewood. Baseline measurements started in Spring 2021 and will continue through Spring 2022 when a reverse osmosis system will be built and used by students in the Work Program. This research is funded by the Work Colleges Consortium and results will be shared with the University of Vermont's Proctor Maple Research Institute and local foresters.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

Liam Crannell '21 completed a Senior Year Research Project in heritage duck conservation and breeding. Liam examined the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of adding a breeding flock of ducks to Sterling’s campus. Sterling has since added ducks raised by Liam to its breeding program based on Liam’s findings.

Gray Hunter '21 completed his Senior Year Research Project, From Grain to Table, Integrating the Sterling College Grain System. Gray’s project assessed the viability and desirability of grain production systems at Sterling.This included assessing the production, processing, milling, and baking qualities of heritage wheat (Red Fife) and corn (Calais Flint) varieties. Lasting outcomes include lab analyses of wheat and corn and recommendations for grains in the Sterling production system based on multi-factoral data gathering.

Aaron Morgan is currently testing indigenous microorganism inoculation on the rooting of trench layered Pawpaws (A. triloba), and characterization of rhizospheric microbiome.

Savannah Storch '18 complete her Senior Year Research Project in small-scale sustainable mushroom farming after starting a small mushroom project in her Agroforestry class two years prior. Thanks to her work, she left a productive operation that provides the Sterling kitchen with shiitake and oyster mushrooms grown on campus from May to October.

In addition to the specific projects above, the dining services portion of the Work Program is one of its 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 to consider food waste, 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.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

Amelia Zenerino '21 completed her Senior Year Research Project creating an illustrated guide to the vascular flora along Cane Run which is a small tributary running through the instructional site of Sterling's Wendell Berry Farming Program.

Gabe Francisco '21 completed his Senior Year Research Project with a management planning and forest inventory for the instructional site of Sterling's Wendell Berry Farming Program. Gabe's work now serves as a reference for identifying tree species on campus and their ecosystem function, while also providing possible strategies for future management.

Rick Thomas, Faculty, is using targeted black willow plantings to enhance riparian function on campus in cooperation with the National Resources Conservation Service and the Energy and Environment Cabinet to enhance riparian function and water quality of Cane Run. This effort is ongoing and being designed to showcase agricultural approaches that conserve soil and water resources in Kentucky.

2021 interns at the College's instructional site at The Farm Between developed several invasive species management plans. All invasives were mapped and an individual management plant was developed for each species. Students started implementing the plan and the farm management at The Farm Between will continue to follow the plan.

2021 students planted a grove of 25 American chestnut hybrids (1/16 Chinese chestnut) on campus. These trees are the product of efforts being conducted by the American Chestnut Foundation to renew the American Chestnut to its ecological prominence before the chestnut blight’s introduction during the early 1900’s. These efforts were sponsored by the American Chestnut Foundation and the Work Colleges Consortium. Efforts are now underway to create a nursery of American chestnut trees for further reintroductions and public education.

In 2018 the Agroforestry class designed and implemented an agroforestry polyculture planting to increase the fruits and berry production on the Sterling campus. The design included apples, elderberries, plums, black currants, aronia, seaberries and mulberries. The field is also incorporated in the grazing plan for the Farm.

Students in Forestry Techniques (AS120) use Sterling's woodlot to become familiar with a broad range of skills and concepts necessary for work in a farm or homestead scale woodlot, and wilderness trail work. Students learn how those skills fit within a forest management plan informed by silviculture, ecology, and stewardship ethics. Firewood processing, basic log construction and tool handle hanging add depth to skill development and appreciation of forest products. Wood volume calculations, standings tree measurements, tree species ID, compass and pacing mapping, and sampling layouts provide a practical foundation for forest inventory assessments in work program positions and subsequent classes.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

Sterling College faculty and staff launched the Sterling Food Hub in Spring 2020. This on-campus effort makes it easier for community members to buy food grown by Sterling students, alums, and local farmers while also reducing the total amount of energy used for transportation by allowing purchasers to make a single trip instead of traveling to multiple farms. The Food Hub and the College's CSA are run by students employed by the Work Program which outlines learning objectives for all positions.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

Bryan Emery '22 is conducting his Senior Year Research Project: Updating and Professionalizing Green Bikes which includes revitalizing and expanding the green bikes program on campus. This project will increase the number of bikes students can use for free to commute around town and increase our repair capabilities so students can keep their bikes operational and out of the landfill.

Students in Draft Animal Power Systems III (AS285A) allows the opportunity to explore the challenges associated with farming systems where horses are the primary source of traction power. In small learning groups, students actively use horses to manage the College’s working landscape including gardens, fields and woodlot. Students become familiar with reduced tillage practices associated with bio-extensive gardening principles, front-end suspension logging arch, mowing machinery and other field implements.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

A new Gear Design and Repair course co-taught by two Sterling faculty (one in Outdoor Education, one in Fiber Arts) and a local boutique gear small-business owner taught skills relating to gear repair and solicited broken and damaged gear items from the community. Through this class, approximately 56 unique repairs were completed. This keeps these damaged items out of the landfill and puts them back into circulation and use. Repairs comprised of using parts off of other broken equipment instead of adding new materials in the process.

Building on the success of this course, Sterling College now has a new work program position as of Fall 2021: Community Gear Repair Specialist. This person will be fixing and maintaining gear for the local community in addition to the college program. This will also have a component of education, as we share the knowledge of how to complete these repairs so folks can feel empowered to complete their own repairs in the future.

Through the Work Program, students run the ReUse Room, an exchange space on campus for secondhand items (clothing, shoes, outdoor gear, household goods, books, electronics, toiletries, pet supplies, etc.). Student workers maintain the space and provide outreach about reducing consumer waste, reusing, repairing, and upcycling, and host events such as “free sales,” mending parties, and end-of-semester donation drives. In 2020 and 2021, the crew assembled mending kits, which were delivered to each dorm; these included sewing supplies, buttons, patches, yarn, darning needles, and instruction packets on darning, sewing, and mending. All items were secondhand donations. The crew also makes “rag bags” which are delivered to the dorms for cleaning, and provides materials for activities on campus such as arts & crafts projects, and the Gear Design & Repair course as well as the Introduction to Hand Weaving course (which upcycles them with rag weaving). Surplus items are donated to a nearby homeless shelter, the nonprofit community organization ReSource VT, and area thrift stores. Starting in Fall 2021, the ReUse Room is partnering with HELPSY, a Certified B-Corp, to host a clothing/textile recycling drive in the local community. HELPSY provides payment for textile donations, which will support future ReUse Room projects.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

Watershed Ecosystems Analysis (NS200) provides students an annual opportunity to understand the ecological, social, and political aspects of a watershed, using the Sterling College watershed as the laboratory. Combining a study of stream ecology and land use, students gain a better understanding of the multifaceted ecosystems within a watershed and our relationship to these ecosystems. Students collect and analyze biological and cultural resources in a field setting, conducting assessments through macroinvertebrate identification and electrofishing and conduct conservation installations such as willow fascines and tree planting.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

Whole Farm Planning engages students in the complexity of whole farm planning by combining business planning and management with policy and ecology in development of farm models that support health of the land and business owners. Students draw heavily on the technical and theoretical expertise they have accumulated through course work and internships. A major portion of the course will require completion of a project conducted in partnership with an existing farm or agriculturally based business. Grading will be based on significant class participation, written assignments and completion of major project conducted in support of an existing business.

Land Use Planning students explore historical and current, as well as future, land use planning in our communities with hopes of better understanding the social and ecological implications of our decisions. How have we planned for the settlement and development of our communities? What are the successes and the failures of our planning process? How have we addressed natural resources in the land use planning process? What is sprawl and what are the solutions to this land use practice? Students undertake two research projects to explore historical and current land use, and the social and ecological impacts of these practices. Working with records in the local town hall, deed research helps students better understand the influence of historical land use practices on the current landscape. Students also explore current day land use planning processes in a community of their choice and make “smart growth” recommendations for the future.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

The ongoing Abenaki-Dawnland Heritage Garden and seed rematriation project on Sterling's campus in Craftsbury Common continues to generate relationships with Abenaki tribal partners. Since 2017 students and faculty have contributed to state and region-wide seed conservation efforts that further contribute to research and outreach projects focused on the intersection of climate resilience and local food and seed sovereignty. This partnership with the Abenaki occurs through Landscape, Food, and Culture (SS382). As humans, we are shaped by two main influences in our life: the natural world and our own culture. However, these two forces are not independent, but rather constantly shifting and interacting.

Students participating in the Work Program manage and provide a full fleet of rental outdoor recreation equipment, we create access to outdoor recreation at a common barrier point, the cost of equipment. Students can rent items from us for just dollars a day, instead of purchasing expensive equipment up front. All Work Program positions have educational learning objectives tied to them.

Leadership and Social Change (SS335)focuses on the intersection of climate change and social justice. The course objectives are to provide historical perspective on current issues through examining an array of social justice movements, to acquire a theoretical framework for making decisions about social change priorities, goals, and strategies, to understand the dynamics of social change movements, to cultivate leadership skills, and to examine the relationship of one’s personal life, values, and actions to social change. Students develop and lead a workshop for peers, attend social change events in the region, read extensively, and interview activists.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Investment & Finance?:
No
+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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:

Sterling students and faculty provided testimony in public meetings addressing the transport of “sludge” from a food processing plant in Oldham County for disposal in Henry County, Kentucky. Their testimonies addressed a host of concerns including social aspects of the community and physical impacts on a critical watershed.

Ashland Tann '21 designed and enacted a Senior Year Research Project in which he bridged the urban-rural divide by creating a conduit for Henry County-grown and raised produce and meat for purchase and use by nonprofit organizations serving primarily low-income and ethnically and racially diverse areas of Louisville’s west end.

On the farmer advocacy side of the equation, Rachel Hampton '21 used her Senior Year Research Project to lay the groundwork for and then began the early stages of development for a cooperative education and marketing group for heritage breed hog producers.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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 (CAs) and House Advisors (HAs) are student employees through the Sterling College Work Program. CAs and HAs are trusted liaisons between the College and the students, and as such hold a great responsibility as role models and leaders who exemplify ethical, caring, and compassionate Sterling culture which includes upholding our mission to use education as a force to advance ecological thinking and action. CAs and HAs set norms for home and work environments on campus and hold events and workshops.

+ Date Revised: Oct. 5, 2021

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.