After only one semester, the partnership between Penn State and State College through the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, a program of Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, has already seen successes. Moving forward, both parties hope to achieve more.

These successes and plans for the future were the focus of an event at the State College Municipal Building, 243 S. Allen St . Community and university leaders and participating faculty and students were on hand to speak on the program.

The Sustainable Communities Collaborative is one of the signature projects of the Sustainability Institute at Penn State, Sustainability Institute Director Denice Wardrop said. State College Borough is the partner for the pilot program. The collaboration links courses offered at Penn State with sustainability priorities in the community.

Students from five courses across four colleges engaged in six projects last semester. Projects included the promotion of bicycling, development of a better system to organize the borough’s municipal repair warehouse, the development of rain gardens for storm water management, projects to make parking and pedestrian travel more efficient and a study to improve recruitment of professionals and volunteers.

During remarks, State College Borough manager Tom Fountaine said the relationship benefits students by providing real-world experience. The borough, in turn, benefits from the knowledge and fresh perspectives provided by Penn State faculty and students, he said.

“This is a true town gown partnership which works to elevate and expand the opportunities for faculty, staff and students to be involved in the community and connects residents to the work being done on campus,” Fountaine said.

The Sustainable Communities Collaborative is a visible way that Penn State is making an impact during a “really important” time for the university, Penn State Provost Nick Jones, who also gave remarks, said.

“This program is a really great symbol of what Penn State is all about and needs to be even more all about as we move forward,” Jones said.

Projects for Spring 2014 include continuations of the human capital, sustainable asset management and biking projects, plus four new endeavors. New programs include an evaluation of the borough’s residential composting program, a research project aimed at developing strategies to attract young professionals to State College, a study of borough resident attitudes about green power and a real estate analysis to provide information regarding the Homestead Investment Program.

Penn State students that participated in the program last semester found the experience not only highly educational but also gratifying. It also provided other intangible benefits for participants.

“It was awesome to break through the walls of the classroom, use what we learned in a real world setting and apply it to the community we live in,” Matt Body (junior-labor studies and employment relations) said.

Nastaran Tebyanian (graduate-landscape architecture) is from Iran and is in the U.S. for the first time. Tebyanian said she felt like a stranger, but participation in the program allowed her to get familiar with the community and engage community members.

“This was educational, both in my field of study and personally,” she said.

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.

Clayton Over can be reached at cso5042@psu.edu or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @ClaytonOver.