Fall Sustainability Expo and Awards acknowledges student, faculty achievement

Matthew Long
December 13, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Approximately 280 students, faculty and members of the community attended Penn State’s Fall Sustainability Expo on Dec. 11 at the Days Inn in State College. Hosted by the Sustainability Institute, the event showcased semester-long student projects that have benefited the region, followed by the John Roe Student Sustainability Awards ceremony, which recognized the work of students and faculty in advancing sustainability at Penn state and their communities. 

More than 40 student posters from multiple Penn State campuses were on display throughout the event. Each poster represented a different collaboration between students and municipal, University and community partners. These partnerships were created through the Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC), an engaged scholarship program at Penn State that facilitates collaborations between municipalities or nonprofits and University courses, helping community partners to advance their sustainability goals.  

For an IST 440 class, students conducted a teaching module about phishing scams at the Foxdale Village retirement community in State College. Students worked with the Borough of State College to develop a training session that would educate about the dangers of phishing scams and how to combat them.

“We answered various questions, but we were also ensuring that they [retired community members] took in this information and are now able to use it so that if they get a phone call scam, they know what to say, or if they get an email, they know exactly how to combat some of that information,” said Rachel Girardey, an IST student who worked on the project.

The awards portion of the evening began with a welcome message by State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine. Fountaine spoke about how the Sustainable Communities Collaborative has benefited the State College community over the past six years.

“This partnership continues to provide valuable opportunities for students to work on real-world problems and to really be involved and immersed within our community,” said Fountaine. “I can’t begin to tell you how much value we receive from the work that goes on as a result of these partnerships.”

B. Stephen Carpenter II, incoming dean for the College of Arts and Architecture, delivered the evening's keynote speech. Carpenter described his work with water use in the field of arts, the lack of water accessibility among people in the United States, collaboration, and the meaning of sustainability.

“To sustain is to keep going,” said Carpenter. “It's to find ways to enrich, to rejuvenate and to move forward in healthy, ethical and purposeful ways.”

Carpenter concluded his speech by speaking directly to the students in the audience, saying, “The work that you’re doing, and the work that you continue to do, inspires other people, and it’s that important work, through collaboration and as a form of leadership within communities like State College, that we need in this world in this particular moment in the history of humankind.” 

Students at the Sustainability Expo & Awards Ceremony, Fall 2019

Walker Bain, Lacey Hilderbrand, Mollie Benvenuto, Allie Cleary and Rachel Girardey, left to right, pose in front of their poster on the phishing teaching module they helped coordinate at the Foxdale Village retirement community. 

IMAGE: Penn State

The first part of the award ceremony began with the presentation of SCC poster awards. Two sets of awards were given; the first being for the students who were clear in the presentation of their projects, the second for the direct impact the project would have. Students from 14 classes in geography, environmental resource management, human resources, public relations, community environment and development, and a variety of other disciplines received awards

The next set of awards, the John Roe Student Sustainability Awards, were presented by Maddy Mitchell, director for the Council of Sustainable Leaders. These awards recognize students and faculty members for their dedication in making Penn State a more sustainable university. This was the first year for the John Roe Student Sustainability Awards. John Roe was a professor in the Penn State Department of Mathematics who passed away last year and was known for his passion for learning and sustainability, as well as his work to create the Mathematics for Sustainability course at Penn State. His wife, Liane Roe, research nutritionist in the College of Health and Human Development, established the Dr. John Roe Fund for a Just and Sustainable Future, which supported the student sustainability awards. 

Liane Roe spoke at the event, and quoted an excerpt from her husband's “Points of Inflection” blog: “Explaining is often a necessary step, but for accomplishing meaningful change, it is never a sufficient one. We also need builders of community, summoners to action, companions in suffering, co-celebrants in joy: and that is true whether I’m talking about the community of faith or about working for a sustainable future.” 

The 2019 John Roe Student Sustainability Award winners are Elijah DePaulis, Anna Nguyen, Celeste Makay, Rim Boujnah, Julio Diarte, Emily Sandall, Yumna Kurdi, Benjamin Lyman, Nick Unis and Whitney Ashead. The awardees represented undergraduates and graduates across many disciplines from the DuBois, Brandywine, Behrend and University Park campuses. Each student’s complete nomination and a list of nominees is available via the Sustainability Institute’s website.

Efraín Marimon, assistant professor of education in the College of Education and director of the Restorative Justice Initiative, received the Inspirational Educator Award, which serves as a way for students, through the Council of Sustainable Leaders, to show their gratitude to a faculty member who has inspired students to be more sustainable in their day-to-day lives. This was the first year the award was presented.

“When we are talking about sustainability, people overlook the humanity, the components of social and political systems that are very much a part of it,” said Marimon. “How are we, as our commitment to education injustice, really engaging with communities right next door to us? We’re tackling the crisis of mass incarceration, thinking about creating sustainable, humane systems and what that means for our commitment to rehabilitation, restoration and education.” 

Each recipient of the John Roe Student Sustainability Award received a $250 scholarship and an additional $200 to continue their work to advance sustainability, made possible by the endowment and impact grants from the Sustainability Institute.


Last Updated December 16, 2019