Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.31
Liaison Natalie Walker
Submission Date Aug. 9, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of Pennsylvania
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Natalie Walker
Sustainability Manager
Penn Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the student sustainability research program:

Penn Undergraduate Sustainability Action Grants help to keep Penn at the forefront of addressing global climate change by supporting undergraduate research in any academic field related to sustainability. Projects that lead to environmentally sustainable programs and policies, contribute to scientific innovations related to sustainability, or deepen our understanding of the social, cultural, artistic, and humanistic aspects of sustainability are encouraged. Projects in other related fields that support the goals outlined in Penn’s Climate and Sustainability Action Plan are also welcome. https://www.curf.upenn.edu/content/penn-undergraduate-sustainability-action-grant

Over the past eight summers, the Integrating Sustainability Across the Curriculum (ISAC) program has supported 60 courses in a diverse array of disciplines, including architecture, law, biology, engineering, urban planning, and Germanic languages. To participate, faculty members provide an application that describes an existing or proposed course, indicates the reason for integrating or enhancing sustainability in the course; and includes a brief work plan for a student research assistant. Faculty members are matched with student assistants.

Students who are accepted into the ISAC Program serve as Research Fellows for eight weeks over the summer. Each student is teamed with two faculty members and will help to integrate sustainability into their courses. This work may involve researching material for the courses, developing new assignments, contributing to lectures, and compiling course reading lists. The selected students participate in an initial meeting with the Sustainability Office to outline goals for the summer fellowship. Each student will also provide periodic progress updates to the Sustainability Office. After working with faculty members for the course of the summer, students present their completed research at a wrap-up lunch in the early fall.

Over the past eight summers, the ISAC program has brought in numerous students to work with 74 faculty in a diverse array of disciplines, including architecture, law, biology, engineering, urban planning, and Germanic languages. Faculty participants have reported an extremely high quality work and have been delighted by their students’ productivity and enthusiasm for the work. The following courses were developed during the 2019 summer's ISAC program:
- Landscape Architecture Studio in Washington State
- ENVS 629: Topics in a Changing Global Water Industry
- ENVS 410: The Role of Water in Urban Sustainability and Resiliency
- Introduction to Smart Cities
- Design with Nature Symposium
- EAS 301: Climate Policy and Technology
- URBS 290: Metropolitan Nature
- ENVS 494: Sustainable Initiatives in Higher Education
- HSOC 131: Sustainability and Public Health


Does the institution have a program to encourage academic staff from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the faculty sustainability research program:

In June 2021, the Environmental Innovations Initiative announced its inaugural cohort of Research Communities, which were defined as multi-year efforts that bring together faculty members from different disciplines around the study of a common theme of broad environmental significance. To be awarded the seed grants of $25,000 each, researchers were required to demonstrate how students would be engaged, what the public-facing outcomes would be, and how success would be measured. External collaboration was also encouraged. The three selected communities are an excellent way to foster ongoing collaboration, and we look forward to further developing this model in the coming year.

Growing Together: A Community-Based Initiative for Greening and Nutrition:
Over 93% of residents in Cobbs Creek are African American, and 47% live below the poverty line—more than twice the rate in Philadelphia overall. Access to nature is a significant and often overlooked factor in preventing and addressing many health challenges such as asthma, high blood pressure, and anxiety. In the Cobbs Creek area, this is compounded by chronic issues with sewer overflows, discharging raw sewage directly into local waterways, and flooding, as well as limited access to fresh foods. A collaboration between the Weitzman School of Design, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the College of Liberal and Professional Studies, the Water Center, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, and the Food Trust, this research community will install rain gardens, raised beds for vegetables, and food forests. These ecological enhancements will be at the heart of co-developed curricula in the public schools about gardening and watershed management, and Penn student research assistants will capture, analyze, and share data about the outcomes of the project.

Laboratorio para Apreciar La Vida y El Ambiente - Mar (LAVA-Mar):
Globally renowned for its biological, historical, and scientific importance, the Galápagos Archipelago is attractive to tourists and scientists alike. However, the growing local human population is putting stress on the environment, and most residents are only marginally aware of the historical and scientific significance of their home even though it is UNESCO’s first World Heritage site. Over several years, Proyecto LAVA has focused on engaging community members on environmental issues of local interest, while simultaneously collecting data to expand scientific knowledge and point the way towards solutions. Funds from the Initiative will expand the reach of this program by helping to train local students to dive, enabling them to regularly collect data in the municipal bay and in less-disturbed areas of the marine reserve. Within Penn, collaborators in this research community include the departments of Philosophy and Biology; the Schools of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing, and Design; and Perry World House. It also includes collaborators from Virginia Tech, the University of Cincinnati, and Villanova, as well as local experts and professionals.

Public Health, Cities, and the Climate Crisis:
Structural inequities in urban settings exacerbate challenges to climate awareness, coping, mitigation, and adaptation. In recognition of this, this research community will build collaborations between different Schools, programs, and Centers on campus through a graduate-level course that takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying how community behavior and our built environment must adapt to climate change using health as an outcome. The course, which will be offered for several years, will yield proposals for community resilience improvements via policies, programs, or projects with which the faculty and students would collaborate with community members. This community is a collaboration between the Master of Public Health program, the Weitzman School of Design, the Water Center, the Urban Health Lab, the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, and the Center for Public Health Initiatives.

Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:

A copy of the promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

The promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

Just months after being inaugurated as Penn’s president in October 2004, Amy Gutmann launched Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) with a $10 million anonymous gift. This faculty initiative had a bold, ambitious agenda: to recruit to Penn renowned scholars whose work draws from two or more academic disciplines and whose achievements demonstrate an ability to thrive at the intersection of multiple fields.

Now, over 15 years later, 26 of the world’s most accomplished and unique interdisciplinary scholars call Penn home. Distinguished by the diversity of their research and teaching, each of these academic pioneers shares two things: a drive to solve complex, real-world problems and a commitment to working across disciplinary boundaries to find solutions. Each day, these collaborators move across schools and departments. As they pursue their path-breaking work, they widen and deepen Penn's rich tradition of cross-disciplinary scholarship and learning. https://pikprofessors.upenn.edu/about-pik

Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research:

The University of Pennsylvania library system has a number of different initiatives, including providing support for courses and research. As an example, professors can request books to be ordered and held on reserve, reducing the financial burden for students and making courses accessible to all students. In addition, the library provides research guides for a number of different departments and programs at Penn, including those with a sustainability focus: Earth and Environmental Studies, City and Regional Planning, Urban Studies, and many more.
Information held at the library related to Philadelphia Studies provides data related to the City of Philadelphia to support research. The information includes Community Health Database, Data & GIS, Esri Data & Maps, Federal Populations Schedules, Statistics, History, and many other data sets.

The library also provides faculty resources for instructional and teaching support through access services, instructional materials and technology, and curriculum support through a number of different programs and resources.

The Penn Center for Teaching and Learning (see https://www.ctl.upenn.edu) works to help instructors at Penn excel in their teaching, to enhance the culture of teaching at the university, and, in turn, to increase the quality of education at Penn.

For more information, see: https://guides.library.upenn.edu/hometabs

Website URL where information about the institution’s support for sustainability research is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The University of Pennsylvania is a major research institution, with over 3,000 degrees granted annually from twelve professional and academic schools at the Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate levels. Penn is committed to reducing emissions and energy use, as stated in the 2019 "Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0." This submission documents Penn's efforts during the FY20 year and compares them to the FY09 baseline year which corresponds with the University's "Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0." The submission relies on information related to the main, academic, West Philadelphia campus, but to more fully document efforts across the Penn system, information related to the Morris Arboretum and New Bolton Center has also been referenced and noted as outside the boundary in descriptions. The information is used to enrich examples of University efforts and is not intended to be the primary justification for credits. The responses for each of the questions and sub-questions are drawn from University materials, both internal and public documents. Each section notes the website where the information can be found.

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.