Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 55.50
Liaison Ken Foster
Submission Date July 22, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Vassar College
EN-9: Community Partnerships

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 3.00 Alistair Hall
Sustainability Assistant
Dean of Strategic Planning
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Does the institution have at least one formal sustainability partnership with the local community that meets the criteria as “supportive”?:

A brief description of the institution’s supportive sustainability partnership(s) with the local community:
Community Works Campaign (http://communityworks.vassar.edu/)
Community Works is a philanthropic campaign whose mission is to provide financial assistance to local not-for-profit organizations. Funded by donations from employees and students of Vassar College, Community Works has funded 40 different institutions in the Hudson Valley since its inception in 2001. Past recipients have included organizations in the field of sustainability such as Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and Sustainable Hudson Valley. The annual campaign regularly raises over $60,000, which gets equally distributed to local organizations.

Casperkill Assessment Project & Watershed Alliance
The Casperkill Assessment Project is a partnership between Vassar’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI) and local organizations and individuals. Since its inception in 2006, the CAP has conducted research on the Casperkill Creek and its watershed. The project’s primary goal has been to use its research to make the Casperkill the best and healthiest possible community resource, building on the notion that a healthy watershed can be an asset for the social, environmental, and even economic health of our community.

Does the institution have at least one formal sustainability partnership with the local community that meets the criteria as “collaborative”?:

A brief description of the institution's collaborative sustainability partnership(s):
Poughkeepsie Farm Project (http://farmproject.org/)
The Poughkeepsie Farm Project is a non-profit organization that works toward a just and sustainable food system in the Mid-Hudson Valley by operating a member-supported farm, providing education about food and farming, and improving access to healthy locally-grown food. While the PFP functions as an independent organization, it operates on 10-acres of farmland on lease from the college and receives ongoing support from Vassar student interns and volunteers. Vassar students volunteer, receive field work credit, or may be paid through the Federal Work Study Community Service Assistant Program. Students may work in the office, with the Education program on the farm and in schools, and with the farm crew. Additionally, each summer, Vassar offers a $3200 stipend to one student to work as a full-time employee with the Education Program at the PFP.

Does the institution have at least one formal sustainability partnership with the local community that meets the criteria as “transformative”?:

A brief description of the institution's transformative sustainability partnership(s) with the local community:
The Vassar Urban Education Initiative

The Vassar Urban Education Initiative has worked with local school districts since 2003 to achieve the following goals:

Improve student academic and social outcomes in the city of Poughkeepsie and surrounding towns;
Improve community access to Vassar resources including but not limited to: cultural resources, faculty academic support, and technological knowledge and resources;
Improve community literacy;
Prepare students from underrepresented groups for college admittance and success;
Increase communication and collaboration between and among institutions of higher education, local schools, parents, and students;
Train Vassar student volunteers to deliver academic support to elementary, middle, and high school students and apply their academic learning in real-world settings;
Partner with local community stakeholders using sustainable engagement strategies and models;
Increase teacher and faculty participation in VCUEI programs and activities; and
Cultivate and strengthen collaborative relationships with the Poughkeepsie City School District (PCSD) and other community stakeholders.

The VCUEI regularly involves over 100 student volunteers and is run by 3 full-time Outreach fellows (who are recent Vassar graduates) in the Education Department. The VCUEI includes the following initiatives:

Exploring Science at the Vassar Farm is a one-semester program in science and environmental education at the Collins Field Station on the Vassar Farm property. Vassar students work with faculty to design and implement lessons for local Poughkeepsie elementary students. Countless elementary, middle, and high school students have visited the Vassar Farm over the years, and local school teachers count it as a regular part of their science and environmental curriculum.

Vassar English Language Learners Outreach Program (VELLOP) provides tutoring services to ELL students throughout the district, focused on dropout prevention and literacy improvement. The ultimate goal is to help Poughkeepsie ELLs complete high school and go on to post-secondary education

Vassar After School Tutoring (VAST) is an academic enrichment and mentoring program that pairs approximately 50 Vassar College student mentors with 50 Poughkeepsie Middle School students in grades 6-8 to help with homework and develop academic and literacy skills. VAST mentors also lead enrichment activities for the scholars on topics of their choice, such as writing a literary magazine, cooking new foods, exploring hip-hop and social justice, and participating in meditation and conflict resolution. All VAST activities are designed to build students’ self-confidence, foster collaboration and teamwork, promote student achievement and academic excellence, and prepare students for leadership roles in school and the community.

Exploring College is a four-year enrichment program to prepare high school students with high academic achievement and low-income backgrounds for admission and success in college. It serves students from Poughkeepsie High School as well as the surrounding school districts. EC includes special-education students, English Language Learners, homeless students, and others not traditionally considered candidates for college. Between the students’ sophomore and junior years of high school, Exploring College hosts them for a two-week residential experience at Vassar. The summer intensive is an important point in helping to prepare students and their parents for college, and is modeled after Vassar’s award-winning Exploring Transfer program—which for 25 years has served a similar role for community college students.

A brief description of the institution’s sustainability partnerships with distant (i.e. non-local) communities:
The Vassar Haiti Project (http://thehaitiproject.org/)

The Vassar Haiti Project is a non-profit run largely by students, whose mission is to support the welfare of artists in Haiti and the education and nutrition of the school children in the rural village of Chermaitre. They raise funds by auctioning and selling Haitian art and handcraft, which then go to supporting four initiatives: education, medical access, reforestation, and water purification.

Education. Since 2002, VHP has been funding the lunch program and teacher salaries at the primary school in Chermaitre. The school educates 275 children, from two levels of kindergarten through grade six. VHP’s first capital initiative was to fund the construction of a seven-room school, which was completed in 2008. Current concerns include funding the expansion of the school to better serve the needs of students in the lower grades, as well as creating an academic future for at least some students beyond the sixth grade.

Health Care. Efforts to improve access to health care began with a temporary medical clinic in 2009. By late 2011, VHP located a suitable site for a permanent clinic, and construction began. The clinic provides health care and education to the people not only of Chermaitre but also of several other equally remote villages. VHP has developed a medical advisory board to help improve access to medicine as well as to provide us with expert advice.

Reforestation. Perhaps no single initiative in Haiti is more critical to the country’s ability to achieve sustainability as is reforestation. In late 2010 in Chermaitre, local work teams planted the first seedlings; in just over a year the first 5,000 fruit and lumber trees were in the ground. Initial plantings include lumber (cedar and numerous varieties of oak) and fruit (apricot, mango, lemon, citron, & coconut). The first harvests should come by 2015.

Water access and purification. A very exciting effort to improve water access succeeded in early 2011, and through a gravity-driven system of cisterns and PVC piping, water now flows through a faucet by the school. This was especially welcome in mountainous Chermaitre, where access by schoolchildren to water previously required a half-mile uphill climb. Research and fundraising efforts began in early 2012 to determine and fund effective water purification solutions, both short and long term.

The website URL where information about sustainability partnerships is available:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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