Study Away students experience firsthand look at urban sustainability

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State World Campus students Jamie Parke and Yolanda Jackson are experiencing their possible career paths in urban sustainability through Penn State’s Study Away program. The program is facilitated through Penn State’s urban centers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Study Away is designed to give students a real-world experience in an urban setting prior to their degree completion.

Parke is enrolled in the master of professional studies program in community and economic development through Penn State World Campus. As a Study Away participant, she is also working with Fourth Economy, an economic development consulting firm in Pittsburgh.

“I found the Study Away program online and was impressed with its focus on Pittsburgh and local speakers in an array of fields,” Parke said. “Urban sustainability with a focus on my place of residence seemed like a great way to gain a better understanding of my home and all it has to offer, while applying it to my studies.”

Parke is working with Fourth Economy to complete the Braddock Carnegie Library Community Impact Analysis. Braddock is a borough in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

“Public libraries can serve as community anchors, offer fantastic career services and public support, and are highly inclusive,” Parke said. “I’m hoping I can learn about the Braddock community in a professional setting and deliver a plan for them that acts as a foundation on which to successfully uplift and supplement the lives of Braddock residents.”

Tom Bartnik, director for Penn State Center Pittsburgh, said Study Away is giving students and organizations a unique opportunity to work together.

“Our broad array of community partners allows us to place students from diverse majors into internships that best match the partner’s needs with the skills and interests of the students,” Bartnik said. “As sustainability issues become increasingly relevant to all work sectors — public, private and nonprofit — students come away with an engaging experience that connects them with local sustainability leaders and builds their network to extend well beyond a traditional internship experience.”

Yolanda Jackson is pursuing a degree in agribusiness management with a minor in entrepreneurship through Penn State World Campus. She is participating in Study Away Philadelphia.

“The Study Away Philadelphia program is an ideal urban laboratory for immersion,” Jackson said. “I am focusing on urban agriculture in a multicultural community that I’ve come to learn is very supportive of one another’s mission and shared values of food access.”

Jackson worked with Greensgrow, an urban farm in Philadelphia. She also used the experience to learn about sustainability initiatives throughout the city.

“I spent time with Dr. Shivaani Selvaraj, director of Urban Engagement at Penn State Philadelphia, networking with urban farming organizations and instructors in Philadelphia’s public high school STEM programs,” Jackson said. “This experience offered me the opportunity to cultivate relationships and understand the landscape of the city’s urban agriculture.”

Selvaraj said the Study Away Philadelphia program prioritizes engagement through a social justice approach.

“Philadelphia is one of the poorest of the United States’ largest cities, which has given rise to compelling community-driven initiatives,” Selvaraj said. “Students from all disciplines contribute to existing local work surrounding equity and access across a broad range of urban issues. This, in turn, catalyzes transformative learning experiences for students.”

Study Away is open to any undergraduate student who will achieve sophomore standing by the time of placement. Students can apply online through the Study Away websites. Fellowship and grant opportunities are available. Visit Study Away Pittsburgh and Study Away Philadelphia for more information.