Sustainability continues to grow at Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sustainability efforts are gaining traction at Penn State, and not just at University Park.

The Sustainability Institute at Penn State hosted regional forums earlier this summer to bring together faculty, staff and students from all Penn State locations to discuss sustainability efforts on their respective campuses.

The forums helped the staff of the Sustainability Institute to learn more about the sustainability efforts of other Penn State campuses and listen to hopes and concerns about their programs. This created a closer network of like-minded individuals with one common goal: to streamline sustainability at Penn State.

Paul Shrivastava, chief sustainability officer and director of the Sustainability Institute, believes coming together can make a big impact on sustainability efforts at the University and across the state.

“We have 24 campuses across the Commonwealth — this is our unique distinctiveness,” Shrivastava said. “We can leverage this geographical diversity to make the whole Commonwealth sustainable. In doing that, the Commonwealth Campuses are central, not peripheral, to our efforts.”

According to Shrivastava, the Sustainability Institute’s mission is to comprehensively integrate sustainability into the University’s research, teaching, outreach and operations to transform students, faculty and staff into sustainability leaders. The goal is that sustainability be owned not by the Sustainability Institute but by all units at Penn State.

The regional forums brought faculty and staff across many disciplines together to work toward achieving this goal. Strategies, ideas and concerns were discussed during presentations and breakout sessions.

For example, the Sustainability Institute hopes to integrate sustainability into curriculum by supporting integration into existing general education programs, as well as the development of sustainability-related degree programs.

Another primary goal is to engage Penn State faculty and staff across all campuses in sustainability efforts through education content development. The Sustainability Institute hopes to transform the University’s teaching and learning culture so that sustainability competency and literacy becomes a universal learning outcome.

Regional forum attendees felt that they gained important insight into the Sustainability Institute’s vision for this over the course of the weekend.

Mahsa Kazempour, associate professor of science education at Penn State Berks, said it was helpful to have exposure to the ideas and inputs of other attendees.

“The forum served an important role in allowing us to come together to learn about various initiatives happening at different campuses, make connections and network with colleagues at other campuses, and walk away with ideas and the inspirations to take on more challenges and initiatives,” Kazempour said.

Each campus at the forum prepared a PowerPoint presentation about their respective sustainability successes, challenges and future plans. These presentations assisted the Sustainability Institute in understanding what was happening at Commonwealth Campuses and in what areas they can help.

The Sustainability Institute also sent representatives to visit Penn State locations and assess what was happening on campuses with sustainability, focusing on academic curriculum, trends and barriers.

Their assessments showed financial resources are a primary need for sustainability programs across the board. Participants also expressed interest in sustainability guides and tipsheets to be dispersed to all locations. With these changes put in place, all should be provided with a clear, consistent picture of sustainability practices at Penn State.

The regional forums focused not only on the current state of sustainability at the University but also served to inspire ideas and innovations for the future.

Staci Grimes, web and digital signage coordinator and co-chair of the sustainability committee at Penn State Mont Alto, is optimistic about the future of sustainability at Penn State after attending the forum.

“It was clear by the end of the day that the idea of sustainability, both as a foundational principle and as a framework for perspective, has the momentum needed to continue raising the standard of excellence we strive to achieve in all that we do as Penn Staters,” Grimes said.

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Last Updated August 14, 2018