A summer of student and community engagement at Penn State Center Pittsburgh

Our team is in the middle of a busy summer packed with exciting partnerships and immersive learning! Check out some of the current and upcoming programs and initiatives at the Center that aim to support healthy, sustainable, innovative, and equitable communities.

City Semester Pittsburgh

City Semester students attending the EARTH 412 Urban Sustainability courseThis summer marks the 8th cohort of our City Semester Pittsburgh program! The session kicked off in May with 11 Penn State students across 5 colleges and 8 majors. Students will spend the summer in Pittsburgh (in-person and virtually) exploring elements of urban sustainability and getting hands-on experience in engaging communities. Each student is working with one of our community partners for a semester-long internship and will also complete the EARTH 412 Urban Sustainability class with fellow students. Both experiences will lead students in examining the relationships between people and the environment in the context of urban spaces, and several students are applying this experience to their sustainability leadership minor.

The course includes guest lectures from local sustainability leaders. Leslie Montgomery from Green Building Alliance kicked off the class with a discussion about urban sustainability and explored the topic on a local level. Other speakers included Jamil Bey (UrbanKind Institute), Elijah Hughes (evolveEA), Ashley DiGregorio (PA Resources Council), Beth Dutton (PWSA), Lena Andrews (ACTION-Housing), Scott Bricker (Bike Pittsburgh), Karl Haider and Tim Thiel (Covestro), Sarah SanGiovanni (Sustainable Pittsburgh), and Matt Mahoney (PA Solar Center).

Students also visited some of the greenest and most sustainable sites in Pittsburgh and the world, including Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes, Tree Pittsburgh, and Frick Environmental Center — all run by organizations that actively engage, educate, and advocate for people and places to help them thrive in the Pittsburgh region. 

At the end of the semester, students will create videos to highlight their experience and how it relates to one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Check out some past semester projects and stay tuned to hear from this summer’s students.

National Green Infrastructure Certification Program

NGICP students with LandForceOur Sustainable Communities Manager, David Himes, recently finished up the spring session of the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP) with more than 15 local professionals as well as a cohort of 10 from the local workforce development nonprofit, Landforce.

During the program, David works with participants to better understand the shortcomings of traditional stormwater management infrastructure, the opportunities of green infrastructure, and the challenges of managing natural systems. This course helps to support Landforce’s goals to provide skilled crews to maintain existing and future environmental projects in the city and will help Landforce crew members as they pursue career paths in the field. Participants visit local sites, including green roofs, complete streets, and some of Pittsburgh newest playgrounds implementing green stormwater infrastructure — Wightman Park and Liberty Green. 

High Performance Building Summer Camp

High Performance Building Summer Camp participants working with ArcKits

The High Performance Building Summer Camp is a new program hosted at the Center this year and just wrapped up three weeks of intensive and engaging learning. The program — a collaboration with the Penn State–led Global Building Network, Penn State Center Pittsburgh, South West College in Northern Ireland, and Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance — gathered eight students from Penn State and South West College with one Penn State instructor and three South West College instructors to explore sustainable building design.

Students spent three weeks in and out of the classroom, learning about passive house and green building design, discussing principles and applications of building systems, designing their own passive house project, and exploring the differences between built environments in the U.S. and Northern Ireland. They also traveled to local sites like Tree Pittsburgh, Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes, Frick Environmental Center, the Passive House Certified Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Carrick, Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob, the Chatham University Eden Hall Campus, and the LEED Gold Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s MuseumLab.  

And of course, they got to have some fun and experience the culture of Pittsburgh. In their free time, they explored the city and even attended a few Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games, one of which featured PNC Park’s first ever drone laser light show.

Engaged Scholarship

On July 13, we will be hosting a visit from Penn State’s GeoPEERS summer program. Led by Professor Maureen Feineman from the Department of Geosciences, eight undergraduate students from around the country will explore sites in Pittsburgh that focus on the nexus of food-energy-water as part of the broader theme of integrated energy-environment systems.

Readiness Institute Summer Program

We can’t forget about our friends at the Penn State Readiness Institute! They will be hosting the second season of their Summer Program here at the Center. Forty-five students from local high schools will participate in this paid experience that will help them become community and future ready. Follow along this summer on Instagram.

We hope to see you at the Center this summer!