Jan. 27, 2010
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
SRU reaches for the STARS
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has taken another step toward greening leadership by registering to participate in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a national program for evaluating and improving sustainability education and implementation. SRU is the first Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education institution to participate.
"It's a self-evaluation tool that will permit us to identify what we do well and what we can improve on in terms of sustainability," said Herb Carlson, SRU assistant vice president for construction design and management.
STARS is a self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to gauge their progress toward sustainability. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education developed the program and offers ratings and incentives.
SRU will evaluate the prevalence of sustainability in academic programs, research opportunities, campus operations and administration. The self-analysis will also include an examination of social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability.
"It's very similar to LEED certification in the residence halls in that you go through a checklist," said Langdon Smith, associate professor of geography, geology and the environment. "We'll be looking at buildings, purchasing, use of energy, electricity and our waste systems. The best part about it is if we make improvements, we'll be able to track our improvements in reducing all these impacts."
Emily Wilkinson, an SRU sustainable systems graduate student from Evans City, and Scott Albert, SRU director of facilities and planning, will complete the sustainability assessment this semester, Smith said. They will also look at faculty and student travel, green house gas emissions, pest management, recycling, dining services and renewable energy programs.
Participating in STARS "will allow us to compare ourselves with other similar-size institutions," Smith said. "In some ways, we're leaps and bounds ahead of other universities because of the Macoskey Center and the MS3 graduate program. In other ways, we have the same challenges that other universities have in that we have older buildings and rely on coal for energy."
The association will rate universities as a gold, silver, bronze, platinum, or reporter institution depending on their sustainability leadership. A rating will be valid for three years. Institutions will earn points toward a rating in three main categories: education and research, operations and planning and administration and engagement. Each category includes subcategories such as purchasing, curriculum, energy, human resources or innovation.
SRU, a pioneer in sustainable education, offers one of only two master's degree programs in the nation. Sustainability has become prevalent in campus construction, academics, dining halls and student life, affecting how students live and preparing them for the future.
SRU recently redesigned its master's program to move away from a focus on soils and agriculture to preparing graduates for careers in environmental planning, alternative energy, green building design, consulting, government work and sustainability education.
Students showed their "green side" by creating a Green Fund to support environmental initiatives on campus, including a campuswide cleanup, electric meters to monitor electricity usage and an "I Ride the Bus" project to reduce reliance on cars.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.