“Learn, Live, Lead” is a phrase that was coined by the Penn State Sustainability Institute to promote awareness and adoption of sustainability within the University and beyond.
Even more than a phrase, the Sustainability Institute used those three words to define three comprehensive goals for the group’s work. When asked to contribute to the Penn State Mont Alto Strategic Goal of Sustainability, the Sustainability Committee embraced the framework to plan its own strategy.
Penn State Mont Alto Strategic Plan Reporting for 2017-2018 (Goal 6: Strengthen our commitment to sustainability)
Goal 6 Progress Update
LEARN Strategy: Increase sustainability awareness
Penn State Mont Alto began the 2017-2018 year with some already-established practices to support sustainability awareness. Several notable improvements happened in 2017-2018, however: the campus Sustainability Committee developed a much more vital partnership with the University Sustainability Institute which allowed for increased communication through the committee to the campus. The committee better represented the campus at sustainability events hosted by the Sustainability Institute and became recognized as one of the few campuses to value sustainability enough to write it into the Strategic Plan and to have a charter for its lead group.
LIVE Strategy: Integration of sustainability into practices
2017-2018 saw a continuation of operational and applied practices that re-inforce sustainability in a variety of ways. Information Technology Services, the Academic Support Center, the Nursing program, and the Office of the Physical Plant are all examples of units that report consistent practicing of sustainability throughout planning and operations. Many additional units on campus have embraced integration of sustainability into regular workflows.
LEAD Strategy: Collaboration and innovation
Collaboration and innovation go hand-in-hand with sustainability progress. Penn State Mont Alto has partnered with Bartlett Tree Experts to maintain established research tree plots. The Sustainability Committee worked more closely in 2017-2018 with the University’s Sustainability Institute. The campus sought and found external financial sources for improvement projects which increased sustainability factors in different spaces. And, 2017-2018 saw growth in the campus’ Career Closet, which pairs contributed business attire from area professionals with students who will be looking for employment and internship opportunities. Campuses across the University are excited about the Career Closet and may look to implement similar programs inspired by our own.
Goal 6 Outcomes
Monthly knowledge “tidbits” were used even more extensively in 2017-2018. The committee composed and published webpages on the Penn State Mont Alto website to increase its digital presence and to provide online resources.
Goal 6 Successes
Some of the successes of 2016-2017 were improved upon during 2017-2018, as awareness campaigns increased campus citizens’ understanding of what sustainability actually is, and how it can be built into event programming, academic expectations, and operational practices.
Over a dozen faculty report teaching courses with at least one sustainability component. The Occupational Therapy Assistant program is one academic program on campus which uses its own strategic plan and strives to accomplish a sustainability goal. The very essence of PTA is sustainability, from a well-being standpoint. MUSIC 009 incorporates a project where students in a group make a musical instrument using recycled materials. MIS 204 requires a business sustainability analysis in developing a ROI prediction. Engineering students investigate the carbon footprint of Franklin County. HDFS students spend significant time discussing issues related to poverty and also examine diverse populations from the perspectives of classmates and clients. These are examples of the incorporation of sustainability at course and programmatic levels for the campus.
Goal 6 Contribution to University Goals
While much of the sustainability efforts at Penn State Mont Alto focus on the arenas of fiscal and social responsibility, Penn State Mont Alto intrinsically trends toward an environmentally-sustainable mindset. Because the culture of sustainability is fundamental to campus identity, activities and pursuits reinforcing and promoting sustainability at Mont Alto permeate academics, student and campus life, public events, and administration of business endeavors throughout the year. Other places where Goal Six intersects with University Thematic Priorities are as follows.
- Sustainability components in courses
- Encouragement for active lifestyles
Stewarding our Planet’s Resources
- Awareness, practice, collaboration/innovation initiatives
Advancing the Arts and Humanities
- Annual recycled art show
Driving Digital Innovation
- Adoption of technology to enable responsible energy use
Goal 6 Obstacles / Concerns and Proposed / Implemented Solutions
Campus’ difficulties in advancing through the different levels of Green Paws certification: in 2017-2018, the committee reached out to the University Sustainability Institute to propose newly defined levels (more relevant and achievable to the work done by individuals at the campus). The hope of the committee was that a more meaningful program would encourage better participation.
Waste issues as an ongoing problem: the committee adopted an annual theme to give sustainability messaging cohesiveness. This theme was adopted mid-year, so the committee decided to continue using it through 2018-2019 and then select a new theme for the following academic year.
In the 2017-2018 academic year, our committee revisited the structure of the Sustainability Goal (Goal Six) in the Penn State Mont Alto Strategic Plan. We proposed updates to the Sustainability Goal to emphasize and report on additional, different aspects of achieving success in sustainability outside the previous format, allowing the campus to better understand and embrace the idea of sustainability as a foundation to everything we work toward.
In fall of 2017, the Penn State Mont Alto Sustainability Committee recognized that it might need to review its charge and formalize the group to work more effectively. In early spring 2018 semester, the committee became one of very few official campus groups in the University charged with promoting and reporting on sustainability, and one of an even smaller number who are guided by a ratified charter.