Scarpaci brings global sustainability experience to Penn State Berks

August 21, 2015

Students at Penn State Berks will soon be able to experience sustainability initiatives in South Africa and other countries without ever leaving campus. Betsy Scarpaci, assistant director of residence life at Penn State Berks, has been instrumental in bringing an interactive kiosk to campus where students will be able to experience global sustainability with other Penn State students traveling abroad. Penn State Berks is the only campus in the Penn State system to have such a kiosk.

The kiosk, which includes an iPad and flat-screen television and is centrally located on the second floor of the Perkins Student Center, is part of a Penn State Center for Online Innovation in Learning (COIL) grant, written by Dr. Neil Brown, assistant professor of geography at Penn State's University Park campus, with other colleagues. The grant proposal included Penn State Berks, which became the pilot campus for the initiative.

“We need to build a global community of learners,” explained Brown. “We need to be intentional about engaging all Penn State campuses.”

Brown has years of experience leading sustainability research courses and study abroad programs, from his successful "Parks and People" program to the embedded course LEAP program that he provides for incoming freshmen. Recently, Scarpaci helped Brown to facilitate a trip to Jamaica for a group of incoming first-year Penn State students through the "LEAP in Jamaica: Sustainability Research Abroad" program.

Parks and People is an Alliance for Education, Science, Engineering, and Development (AESEDA) initiative through the Penn State Department of Geography. Each spring semester for the last six years, Parks and People has taken students to South Africa for a 10-week program covering topics about history, culture, sustainability, and nature-society interactions in a South African context.

Scarpaci accompanied Brown on the Parks and People course to South Africa in the spring of 2014. While there, the faculty communicated with students in a geography course at the University Park campus using Skype technology.

When asked why it is important to engage Student Affairs staff members in global sustainability experiences, he explained, “It is critical to have Student Affairs integrated into the overall learning process to engage students both formally and informally. Student Affairs allows us to understand the local student culture and therefore to identify strategies that will be of value to the students and their campus.

“Betsy is valuable in being able to look at the holistic environment. When you think about merging the two environments — academics and student life — how can you use this knowledge to design experiential learning at the Berks campus? She has been able to filter the ideas that would be most appropriate for the campus community. She has also been able to identify student leaders who can serve as models for other students.”

Berks students will use the interactive kiosk to communicate with other Penn State students when Parks and People makes a return trip to South Africa in the spring of 2016. This time, they will be communicating with one of their own: a Penn State Berks resident assistant will be participating in the 10-week sustainability course.

“We are hoping to build a bridge between learning overseas and students at the campuses,” said Scarpaci. “We hope to start a global conversation about citizenship.”

Parks and People is currently accepting applications from students who wish to apply to the spring 2016 South Africa 10-week sustainability course. The online application can be found on the Penn State Global Programs website at http://gpglobalea.gp.psu.edu/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.ViewProgram&Program_ID=10228.

  • kiosk

    An interactive kiosk in the Perkins Student Center will allow students at Penn State Berks to communicate with other students studying abroad in South Africa.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated August 25, 2015