Strategic plan's first goal aims to integrate sustainability efforts

September 06, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State’s University Sustainability Council is drafting the University’s first strategic plan for sustainability and is seeking public input during the drafting process. The first goal of Penn State’s five-goal Strategic Plan for Sustainability aims to embed sustainability as a core principle and fundamental part of the Penn State experience.

The goal states, "Create an integrated living laboratory for sustainability: embed sustainability as a fundamental value at Penn State and include it as a core principle of the University’s mission by providing an immersive sustainability experience."

"Goal 1 is the overarching statement that says, 'We are going to respond to the sustainability challenge full force,' " explained Steve Maruszewski, assistant vice president of Physical Plant and co-chair of the University Sustainability Council. "The other goals dig into more detail, but Goal 1 seeks to ensure we do the big things right: making sustainability a core principle, explaining how it supports other University goals and developing strategic partnerships that integrate teaching, research, operations and outreach."

Already Penn State is well on its way to achieving the aspirations of Goal 1. The University's current strategic plan, Priorities for Excellence, emphasizes sustainability as a fundamental value stating that at Penn State, "sustainability is researched, taught, promoted and practiced."

"The aim of Goal 1 is to apply the general intent to embrace sustainability in Priorities for Excellence and make it more concrete through specific initiatives with measurable impact," said Denice Wardrop, assistant director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, senior scientist and professor of geography and ecology, and University Sustainability Council co-chair. "What is unique and exciting about Goal 1 is the emphasis on integration between teaching, research, operations and outreach. We are looking to support and encourage collaborations where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Such integration can already be seen in efforts at many campuses. One recent example is in sustainable purchasing, where Smeal College of Business MBA students have conducted research to support decision-making with the University's Procurement Services. A cross-functional team of staff and faculty was created in 2010 to develop sustainability standards for the purchase, installation and recycling of carpet at Penn State. Two classes of MBA students have provided invaluable assistance researching the industry and developing a Total Cost of Ownership model for the team. The students benefited from a real-world learning opportunity and applied research project. The committee received information and tools it otherwise would not have been able to generate. Ultimately, the University will achieve a standard that reduces costs and impact on the environment. (Read more about this project at online.) This effort is the kind of integrative experiences Goal 1 seeks to support and encourage.

This fall, town hall meetings will be held at each Penn State location to give individuals the opportunity to discuss the plan in its current form and offer suggestions in support of each of the plan’s five goals. For a list of town hall meeting dates, visit online.

Individuals also may share ideas by email at or at online. The public discussion phase of the strategic plan's drafting process will continue through Wednesday, Nov. 23. Ideas submitted by the Nov. 23 deadline will be shared in a timely manner with the University Sustainability Council for their thoughtful consideration during the planning process. The final draft of the Strategic Plan for Sustainability is scheduled for completion by Dec. 31.

For a list of initiatives Penn State is already doing, visit online.

For more information about the Strategic Plan for Sustainability, please refer to our FAQ page at online.

  • Click on the image above to visit the form to share comments and ideas with the University Sustainability Council, or send an email by Nov. 23 to

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 04, 2020