The Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC) is the University’s strategic platform and opportunity to develop innovative University/community-based collaborations that engage PSU faculty and students in existing courses from across the University through real world, community-identified sustainability projects.
Through the SCC, Penn State will initially partner with selected communities in Pennsylvania to meet their sustainability goals. These community entities may include government, business, schools, non-profits, and other organizations. Each project is a facilitated effort, involving interdisciplinary faculty expertise and students, co-led by a key community leader and the University’s SCC staff, to help develop and support thriving, healthy communities and advance student learning and the scholarship of sustainability.
How It Works
The Sustainability Institute’s SCC program will take the administrative lead and draw from a broad base of faculty members who have an interest in community engagement. The SCC will assume responsibility for establishing contact with prospective community partners and will cultivate those partnerships once established.
The partnering community leaders will identify a set of projects that contribute to advancing their sustainability goals. These projects must be part of the community’s strategic agenda and are then matched with existing PSU courses that include an experiential learning element. Faculty-led student teams work on the identified projects as part of their coursework. This approach takes advantage of fresh student energy and perspectives in addressing challenging community issues.
Projects are typically addressed in the timeframe of one semester, although some projects may span two semesters and may involve more than one course, particularly if the project is multi-dimensional and would benefit from an interdisciplinary problem solving approach. Written project reports are provided to community stakeholders at the conclusion of each project.
We are currently developing a required one-credit seminar course, with curriculum modules that will address project orientation, civic engagement, sustainability perspectives, leadership, public scholarship, and research. This course will be offered each semester to run concurrently with the project-based courses.
Additionally, an optional one-credit peer-mentoring course will be available to students who wish to extend their participation in the SCC program following their initial course/project semester.
Students may also enroll in a variable-credit research course during the semester immediately following their SCC course or immediately following their mentorship semester. This option will be available to students who wish to produce and publish their undergraduate research.
Project impacts will be evaluated through pre- and post-project faculty and student assessments. These assessments will be administered at the beginning and end of each course-project semester. Community partners will also be asked to participate in project impact assessments. Impact assessment metrics may include, but are not limited to, measuring the effects immersive and experiential learning has on students, the collective capability of a University-community partnership to advance and influence positive sustainable change, how a sustainability project-based course may affect the way faculty teach, and long-term funding possibilities for these projects.
We are at a point in time when sustainability challenges are mounting. There is growing evidence that current trends in resource consumption, economic development, and population expansion are unsustainable. Institutions of higher education must effectively engage today’s societal issues at a local level and provide students with applied practice that grounds them in the complexities of problem-solving.
We see an opportunity to draw upon the highly successful sustainability engagement programs at other universities, such as the Sustainable City-Year Program at the University of Oregon, the Archway Partnership Program at the University of Georgia, and the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership program at the University of Minnesota. The program is designed as a University-wide integrative, problem-solving project that embraces a transformative approach to educating for sustainability, designing for reciprocity and collaboration, and building equitable, accessible, and beneficial partnerships.
The SCC envisions two models of community engagement: the Community Partnership Model (CPM), and the Higher Education Partnership Model (HEPM). The CPM involves a direct relationship with the SCC and the partnering community and targets PA communities as well as possible communities in other countries.
The HEPM is a variation of the CPM and is intended to leverage the CPM on a broader basis through replication in other higher education institutions across PA and in countries partnering with the Sustainability Institute.
The HEPM draws upon Penn State’s multi-campus presence in Pennsylvania to expand the footprint and impact of the SCC. Additionally; the HEPM may be of interest to the Pennsylvania Environmental Research Consortium (PERC) to further expand the SCC through a multitude of other public and private institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania and would be implemented through a train-the-trainer model.
SCC Faculty Opportunities
The Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC) is a cross-disciplinary University/Community program of the Penn State’s Sustainability Institute that engages faculty and students in projects to help create positive community, student, faculty, and University impacts and change toward sustainability.
Our projects provide innovative research opportunities for students from multiple disciplines to work together to address our communities pressing needs and publish student articles on relevant and current sustainability issues.
Our projects focus on applied interdisciplinary and leadership-education engagement through real-life community-identified projects.
Our projects provide collaborative opportunities for students and faculty to influence the policy-making process to improve the way communities evolve and become sustainable.
Community-Identified Sustainability Project Examples
Citizens Academy & Civic Engagement
Community Master Planning
Active Transportation Planning: Safe Walk-able & Bike able communities
Neighborhood Design & Livability
Human & Ecological Health
Affordable Housing & Incentives
Residential Energy Use, Efficiency, & Retrofits
Water Quality; Storm Water Management; Water Catchment Systems
Historical Site Preservation
Residential & Industrial Composting
Food- Security; Diversity; Movements
Law, Community Policy Needs and Governance
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Director, Programs and Partnerships, Sustainability Institute
2013-2014 Sustainable Community Partner - State College Borough
State College Borough has been named the 2013-2014 Sustainable Community Partner for the pilot program.
Sustainable Communities partnerships are formed through agreements developed between the top local government official and the Sustainability Institute to link community-based sustainability projects with existing courses across the university. Projects are identified and developed based on the partnering community’s sustainability priorities.
Collaboration Teams bring together community representatives, faculty and students to define and carry-out projects.
The following six projects will be addressed through five Collaboration Teams this fall, connecting a variety of government services with academic disciplines campus wide.
Management of Human Capital (Talent Acquisition)
Faculty: Dr. Tom Hogan, Professor of Practice, School of Labor and Employment Relations.
Course: Labor and Employment Relations #460-Ethics in Residence
Community Collaborator: State College Sustainability Committee; Department of Public Works, Environmental Coordinator - Alan Sam
Collaboration Team will explore how to use sustainability to improve recruitment and retention of mid-level and senior-level personnel, advisory board volunteers, and event volunteers. (40 students)
Biking in the Region (Reducing the Barriers to Cycling)
Faculty: Dr. Lori Francis, Associate Professor, Department of Biobehavioral Health.
Course: Biobehavioral Health #416-Health Promotion 2
Community Collaborator: Administration Department, Special Projects - Courtney Hayden
Collaboration Team will look into the barriers that prevent community members from the Centre Region, in all demographics, from bicycling for exercise, recreation and commuting and develop a health promotion campaign to reduce barriers to cycling. (20 students)
Storm Water Management (Visualizing the Potentials)
Faculty: Associate Professor Stuart Echols, Stuckeman School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Graphic Design.
Course: Larch #431-Landscape Architecture Design Implementation III
Community Collaborator: Public Works, Borough Engineer - Amy Kerner.
Collaboration Team will visualize potential storm water best management practice for the future Easterly Parkway street reconstruction to be used by Borough staff to begin discussions with stakeholders about the construction project. (35 students)
Sustainable Asset Management (Closed Loop Inventory and Surplus Goods)
Faculty: Dr. Felisa Preciado, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems, Smeal College of Business.
Course: Schreyer’s Honor’s Thesis #SCM 494-H
Faculty: Dr. Robert Novack, Associate Professor Supply Chain and Information Systems.
Course: Business Administration #297-C ‘Sapphire Leadership Seminar’
Community Collaborator: Administration Department, Purchasing and Risk Management - Ernie Dabiero
Collaboration Team will explore, propose and implement sustainable material management practices for inventory and surplus goods in the Borough. This project will include a clean-up of inventory and purchasing procedures and practice for the Borough as well as a look at similar communities for sustainable asset management practices as basis for implementing a ‘closed-loop’ zero-waste asset inventory and surplus disposal system.
Way-finding in Community Design and Planning (Reducing Auto Emissions)
Faculty: Associate Professor Mallika Bose, Stuckeman School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Graphic Design.
Course: Larch #424-Community Engagement in Design and Planning
Community Collaborator: Planning Department - Anne Messner
Part 1-Collaboration Team will explore and develop a way-finding plan to more efficiently direct people to various parking options available in town so as to decrease auto emissions.
Part 2-Collaboration Team will study bicycle and pedestrian linkages for design and planning of the West End to reduce auto dependency and increase cycling and pedestrian transportation modes.