Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 67.00
Liaison Alistair Hall
Submission Date March 15, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Vassar College
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Alistair Hall
Sustainability Assistant
Dean of Strategic Planning
"---" 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:

The Sustainability Office makes the campus' annual GHG data available for professors, and has been used by sustainability interns and students doing independent study courses. An Environmental Economics course, created the methodology we use for calculating the GHG emissions associated with JYA travel.

Two physics students in 17-18 school year are looking at the college GHG data and comparing it with a liberal arts college they are visiting in Germany as part of their Environmental Studies/Physics course.


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:

Courses in Environmental Studies and Geography have had students use an infrared camera to study heat loss in dorms and academic buildings. The findings are reported and compiled in a public arcGIS online map. The database continues to grow as more images are added.


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 Sustainability Office makes monthly campus energy data available to professors and students for use in classes and independent studies. As of fall 2016, hourly building level data is now available for student projects in classes and independent studies. Students in Geography, Physics, and Math have used and expressed interest in using the data in their research projects.

In Spring 2018 a junior Physics student is using the College’s historic energy records back to 2005 as well as more recent building electricity interval data to track changes in the campus’ energy demand profile, with an eye towards when certain building renovations took place.

Over the course of the 2017-2018 school year a Physics/Comp Sci student has been working with an Arduino computer kit to experiment with building energy data and see if they can develop a red-yellow-green notification device that communicates current energy consumption to students in their dorms.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Food & Dining?:
No

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:
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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 Biology, Environmental Studies, and Earth Science departments regularly utilize the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve for course work on ecology, soil science, and plant physiology. Such course work has led to theses and papers on deer management, the potential impacts of emerald ash borer, and ecological succession.

Over the past 3 years, multiple students have worked alongside Professor Meg Ronsheim in the Edith Roberts Preserve on campus. Their thesis research has focused on invasive species removal.

In 2017 a student did an independent study with Professor Mark Schlessman on the Campus Arboretum and the college tree inventory.


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:

The Sustainability makes monthly paper usage data available to professors and students for use. In the 17-18 school year, students have used this data to make recommendations on behavior change initiatives for reducing paper usage and incentivizing 100% recycled paper. An intro environmental studies class has used this paper data to calculate their personal carbon footprints and now a small group are continuing with the homework assignment for their term project.

In 2016-2017 a senior Environmental Studies major, conducted a survey of students and faculty about their paper printing habits on campus. The survey results in connection with an analysis of current paper usage data formed the basis for her senior thesis on behavioral economics and how to support sustainable behavior change on campus.


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:

In Fall 2017 a student did an independent study on the opportunity for bike sharing on campus and in the Poughkeepsie community. Their research focused on the history of bike usage on campus, opportunities for improvement, and the cultural impacts of alternative transportation options in the local community.


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:

Numerous Professors have partnered with Vassar Sustainability to conduct waste audits in class with their students. An Anthropology professor used it to explain how anthropology is the study of the trash of ancient cultures, and to ask the question: what could we learn for 'Vassar's trash.' Each of these small scale waste audits add to our knowledge of how the campus waste stream does or doesn't work: what is/isn't getting recycled, where is the contamination, what is compostable, etc.


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:

The Environmental Research Post-Grad Collins Fellow manages the Casperkill and Fonteynkill water quality research efforts of the College. The Fellow works with professors and students, particularly in Intro to Environmental Studies, to provide data and create labs that study water quality in the 2 streams that run through campus.

The 2017 Environmental Studies senior seminar submitted a proposal to the EPA Rainworks Challenge, developing a pilot project for reducing runoff and erosion into the Casper kill on campus.


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:

The 2017 Environmental Studies senior seminar submitted a proposal to the EPA Rainworks Challenge, developing a pilot project for reducing runoff and erosion into the Casper kill on campus. As part of their proposal they needed to coordinate and gain approval from Facility Operations and the Dean of Strategic Planning.

Their report coordinated with the current initiative to write a Campus Stormwater Management Plan that will be published in spring 2018.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
No

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:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Investment & Finance?:
No

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:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Public Engagement?:
No

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:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
No

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:
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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:

The Collaborative Arts Across Disciplines initiative has incentivized faculty and student work on campus that studies the role of arts and technology in space. This includes a new sound recording cube that can be setup around campus to record oral histories.

Summer student research through the CAAD program has looked at the intersection of art, technology, space, and equity on campus.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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