Campus Life

Sustainability strategic plan in progress, council seeks public input

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State’s University Sustainability Council is drafting the University’s first strategic plan for sustainability and is seeking public input during the drafting process.

In Penn State's 2009-2014 University-wide strategic plan, Priorities for Excellence, University leaders noted that one key to Penn State’s continuing success will be "creating a sustainable university, not just in conventional environmental terms, but in a wide array of resource dimensions, including fiscal sustainability. … [I]ncreasing pressures on global resources and environmental conditions make it imperative that Penn State embrace sustainability in its many dimensions in ways that would position the University as a leader nationally and internationally."

"The Strategic Plan for Sustainability will provide the roadmap for ensuring that the Priorities for Excellence goal of increasing the number of academic offerings that incorporate sustainability into the curriculum is met and that sustainability is researched, taught, promoted and practiced," said Rod Erickson, Penn State executive vice president and provost. "It will follow the University's strategic planning framework, and specific strategies and metrics will be developed concurrently at the college, campus and unit levels. Its development will involve students, faculty, staff, leadership, alumni, supporters and corporate partners."

In spring 2011 Erickson and Al Horvath, senior vice president for finance and business, charged a University Sustainability Council to "identify broad goals and opportunities to leverage and link the many sustainability initiatives already occurring at the University and to recommend new thrusts ... for operational initiatives, academic programs and administrative services associated with sustainability." They named Steve Maruszewski, assistant vice president of the Office of Physical Plant, and Denice Wardrop, assistant director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment and senior scientist and professor of geography and ecology, as the council's co-chairs.

The council has determined seven guiding principles for the strategic plan's design and implementation: consistency, transformational capacity, inclusivity, interdisciplinarity, responsibility, measurement, and transparency. The council also has defined sustainability at Penn State as "the simultaneous pursuit of economic well-being, human health and prosperity, and environmental quality in a manner that balances the needs of present and future generations."

The plan's five goals under consideration are:

-- Create an integrated living laboratory for sustainability. We will implement continuous improvement efforts and best sustainability practices in our operations, facilities and behaviors to provide an immersive sustainability experience.
-- Ensure that all Penn State students develop a deep understanding of and commitment to sustainability.
We will prepare students to lead others in the implementation of sustainability strategies in their personal lives, local communities and professional pursuits.
-- Engage the Penn State community in learning about and pursuing sustainability. We will involve all students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, partners and supporters in learning about -- and taking meaningful action towards -- a sustainable world.
-- Develop, advance, integrate and deploy the knowledge, science and art of sustainability. We will accelerate and expand research into sustainability challenges from multidisciplinary perspectives to develop and implement solutions in our local, regional, and global communities.
-- Advance sustainability within the larger society. We will fulfill Penn State’s land-grant mission to develop and implement innovative university-community partnerships that actively respond to the needs of the state and our broader communities.

The public discussion phase of the drafting process began in May 2011 and will continue through Wednesday, Nov. 23. In September and October, town hall meetings will be held at each Penn State location to give individuals the opportunity to discuss the plan in its current form and offer suggestions in support of each of the plan’s five goals. For a list of town hall meeting dates, visit online.

Individuals also may share ideas by email at or at online. Ideas submitted by the Nov. 23 deadline will be shared in a timely manner with the University Sustainability Council for their thoughtful consideration during the planning process. The final draft of the Strategic Plan for Sustainability is scheduled for completion by Dec. 31.

For answers to frequently asked questions about the Strategic Plan for Sustainability, please visit online.

For a list of sustainability initiatives Penn State is already doing, visit, and to learn more about Penn State sustainability teaching and research, visit online.

Click on the image above to visit the form for sharing ideas with the University Sustainability Council, or send an email by Nov. 23 to Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated September 04, 2020