Cultivating Sustainability Through General Education Coursework, Professional Development, and High-Impact Co-Curricular Programming and Career Development at Shippensburg University
Founded in 1871, Shippensburg University serves students primarily from South Central Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region. At the institutional level, Shippensburg University was one of the first campuses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to complete a carbon footprint assessment, and this has guided major infrastructure improvements to reduce our overall resource obligation and impact on local, regional, and global environments.
Leveraging the growing trend toward sustainability on campus, this project aims to cultivate and grow a range of coursework opportunities as well as co-curricular activities that build upon InTeGrate principles and resources to enhance the academic and professional development of SU students, staff, and faculty. The major elements of this project will focus on the following three goal areas:
Program Goal Areas:
SU is currently at a watershed moment in terms of its sustainability initiatives. At the institutional level, SU was one of the first campuses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to complete a carbon footprint assessment (Sightlines 2010). Guided by this assessment, SU's major infrastructure improvements (e.g. replacement of residence halls, improvements in campus smart technologies, and replacement of a failing coal-fired heating system) have reduced operating expenses by millions of dollars and were estimated to reduce our carbon footprint by an estimated 31% and our electric demand by at least 8%. In fact, as of spring 2017, these initiatives helped reduce our scope 1 carbon emissions by over 60% since 2013 and now Shippensburg University has the second lowest (out of 14 state universities in PA) emissions for facilities operations. These improvements were only part of several parallel sustainability initiatives taking place on campus since 2013 (Figure 1 and https://www.ship.edu/Sustainability/), but for us to lead the state system of higher education we needed to fill in some significant gaps in our sustainability portfolio and these are only possible through educational activities in individual courses, faculty/student research as well as through academic programs. Therefore the motivation for our implementation program was to help raise awareness of these gaps and develop strategies to close them through professional development, enhanced general education courses, and carefully constructed co-curricular programs and career training experiences.
In terms of academics, a number of faculty were teaching concepts of sustainability and elements of Earth literacy within courses offered by at least 4 different departments across campus. Unfortunately they were taught independently, often from a limited disciplinary perspective, and definitely without a meaningful programmatic integration. Moreover, few opportunities existed within the core liberal arts/general education level where these topics should be introduced and made accessible to students from all disciplines. As an institution, our implementation program ultimately allowed us the opportunity to have numerous discussions and to explore a range of options for building a sustainability major while enhancing our core geobioscience curriciulum. Likewise, we sought to expand the number of opportunities for students to engage in sustainability research or internship experiences that would help them gain real-world training to support their future careers. Therefore, this InTeGrate implementation project was focused on facilitating the conversations, professional development, and co-curricular programming around sustainability and stewardship to grow our academic programs across campus.
Sightlines LLC (2010). FY10 Go Green MB&A Presentation, Shippensburg University. Available at: http://www.ship.edu/Facilities/About_Us/. Accessed June 25, 2015.
Sightlines LLC (2017). FY17 StewardSHIP Week Presentation, Shippensburg University. Available at: http://www.ship.edu/Facilities/About_Us?. Accessed June 22, 2017
Through our 2016 programs, we fostered partnerships between local civic and academic communities, adjoining counties, regional environmental and sustainability partners, state agencies, and beyond. Individuals and organizations on and off campus have been involved in activities supporting this initiative with direct benefits to faculty, staff, administrators, and students. The grant encouraged on-campus student groups to incorporate activities into their organizations and their missions so they could connect these activities with the campus community at large through the development of StewardSHIP Week, the Sustainability Pledge, and related programs. The student demographic and administrative support at Shippensburg University is ideally suited to embrace sustainability efforts both before and during InTeGrate activities and this will continue. Now that groundwork support has been implemented, it is fully expected that future activities will build off of the successes and benchmarks that have been established as a result of this implementation program.
Faculty and community partner feedback all clearly show that professional development opportunities made possible through this implementation project helped to increase communication which facilitated awareness, motivated a new level of involvement, and increased collaboration around stewardship and sustainability initiatives to support the needs of our community. It is clear that these will only grow in the coming years, as we continue to integrate stewardship within our curriculum to the benefit of both student learning as well as to our broader community and the environment we share. In fact, as a result of this implementation program, many of the previous and current sustainability related efforts on campus now have a broader reach through our newly revamped Center for Land Use and Sustainability [link: http://centerforlanduse.org/] and a new brand logo which we call our "sustainability engine".
Although we have more work to do, Shippensburg University faculty, staff, administrators, and students have made a new commitment to ensuring Shippensburg University is a leader in PA. We believe that we have initiated active steps toward improving the culture of sustainability on campus as a result of this implementation program. Whether from campus facilities projects to student or club-sponsored events, or faculty-led curricular improvements, all have helped open a door that has been closed until now. Through InTeGrate sponsored events the connections are now in place to reach a broader audience and we are confident this groundswell will cultivate future initiatives.