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"Sustainability has become a very defining leadership competency for our students going forward. We've made a commitment that every single one of our students, every single one will go out with sustainability embedded into their DNA."
Smeal College of Business

Project Types & Program Priorities

Project types

Sustainable Solutions – the core focus of these projects is the development of new solutions to sustainability challenges.  Core metrics include demonstrated solutions, engagement methods, capacity building, leveraging of past work, and scholarly publications/presentations.

Examples – A partnership is formed between multiple administrative and academic units to study new techniques to attract and retain top students using sustainability success stories;  Lessons learned from an existing on-campus sustainability initiative is evaluated and used to propose formal changes at other campuses and universities;  A workshop of national leaders is convened and utilized to launch a new learning community focused on a sustainability challenge; a process is designed and piloted for the setting of institutional –level sustainability goals; basic research on psycho‐social processes influencing individual, organizational, community, and governmental actions is utilized to design adoption programs for sustainability practices; Sustainability indicators, metrics, and assessments are developed for use in evaluating Penn State’s progress in achieving its sustainability goals..

Revolving Fund – core focus of these projects is the demonstration of measurable value that can be captured through the implementation of sustainability initiatives and solutions.  Core metrics include measurable savings in resource use (energy, water, purchased services), or increased capacity of resource generation (energy, water, social capital, program revenue, new relationships).

Examples –  A pilot test is conducted in which a new method to reduce chemical waste in student laboratory activities is tested;  A series of events is designed to increase a sense of community between students and building/grounds maintenance personnel;  A pilot project in community renewable energy is designed and implemented; A crowd-sourcing tool for supporting small scale student projects is evaluated;  Lessons learned from a sustainability success story are transformed into a revenue generating non-credit course; A business plan for an on-campus farmers market is created and presented to campus and community leaders for feedback.

Teaching and Learning – core focus of these projects is the enhancement of learning across Penn State communities.  Core metrics include the development of learning assessment methods, enhancement of existing course and professional development programs, and creation of new learning communities

Examples – An engaged scholarship experience centered on community sustainability challenges is designed and embedded in an existing course; A plan to create a General Education theme in sustainability is developed; Students in a freshman experience course design and build an educational asset on their campus (e.g., pollinator garden);  A student organization leads an interdisciplinary team to enter a national sustainable design competition; A professional development program focused on cultivating sustainability competencies among faculty, staff, or administrators is piloted; A course module is designed to engage students in benchmarking energy use in campus and community facilities;  A new assessment instrument for sustainability competencies is developed and tested;  A video series is created featuring Penn State sustainability leaders and used to enhance courses in multiple disciplines; A program to capitalize on athletic events to advance awareness and learning in sustainability is piloted; Students and faculty build capacity to provide educational tours of PSU or community resources for peers, K-12 teachers, and other external audiences.

Program Priorities

The following list of Reinvention Fund topics is intended to highlight important opportunities that are considered foundational as we become a Living Lab, and that could benefit from the energy and creativity of interdisciplinary teams.  Proposals to the Reinvention Fund are not limited to the opportunities described below, although the list represents areas considered to be of high priority.

  • Place-based learning:  Advance the use of place-based learning through projects that capitalize on unique campus features, business operations, and services, such as storm water management, application of the LEED EB process, purchasing policies, and investment strategies.  Projects must utilize integrative design strategies.
  • Decision making:  Examine and develop decision-making processes utilizing a regional issue, University policy, or proposed project as a case study in the environmental or sustainability realm.  Such decision-making processes must inform principles for program and governance design to increase openness and transparency, while also helping increase the likelihood of developing durable projects and communication strategies.
  • Change leadership:  Investigate developmental strategies to expand the capacity of individuals and organizations within our University communities to facilitate change in pursuit of sustainability. 
  • Long range goals setting:  Explore assessment and goal-setting protocols that improve long-range planning of resource use, such as the evaluation of existing and proposed campus energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reduction programs.
  • Valuation of outcomes:  Propose and assess new methods for the valuation of principle-based decisions, such as the traditionally non-monetary returns (e.g., increased admissions, reputation, and morale) associated with various institutional commitments and strategies such as Greenhouse Gas reduction.
  • Metrics and indicators:  Design sustainability indicators, metrics, and assessments that allow the longitudinal evaluation of sustainability literacy across student, faculty, staff, and alumni communities and address returns that are traditionally non-monetary.

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