Summer of Sustainable Learning: A Preview of Student Engagement Programs in Pittsburgh

The team at the Franco Harris Pittsburgh Center at Penn State is preparing for an exciting season of programs that will bring together students and community to explore, learn, and collectively contribute to shaping a more sustainable and equitable future in Pittsburgh.

Among the highlighted programs for the upcoming summer are City Semester Pittsburgh and the High-Performance Building Summer Program. Through immersive experiences, hands-on learning, and meaningful partnerships with community organizations, these programs aim to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to address complex sustainability challenges and also instill in them a sense of responsibility and agency to drive positive change in their communities.

City Semester Pittsburgh: Fostering Community Partnerships

City Semester Summer 2022 Group at Frick Environmental CenterStarting in May, the Center will welcome six Penn State students for the tenth semester of the City Semester Pittsburgh program, where they will live and work in the city while learning about the dynamics of urban sustainability. These students come from many diverse backgrounds and experience levels, across five different Penn State colleges, including College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Eberly College of Science, College of Arts and Architecture, College of Agricultural Science, and Smeal College of Business.

Throughout the summer, City Semester participants will be placed in an internship with an esteemed community partner for hands-on learning and an opportunity to make an impact on Pittsburgh’s sustainability initiatives. This year, students will be interning with:

  • Three Rivers WaterKeeper
  • Covestro
  • Riverlife
  • Allegheny County Conservation District
  • Breathe Project
  • Grounded

While the internships provide an immersive experience, students will also be enrolled in the EARTH 412 course on Urban Sustainability. Taught at the Franco Harris Pittsburgh Center with Director Tom Bartnik, the class delves into topics such as social justice and equity, sustainable design, urban food, water and waste systems, circular economies, urban transportation, affordable housing, and climate change.

The course also features guest speakers from organizations including Action Housing, Bike Pittsburgh, Covestro, Evovle EA, Green Building Alliance, PUMP, PA Solar Center, Pennsylvania Resources Council, Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, providing invaluable perspectives and insights into the real-world challenges and solutions in urban sustainability in the region.

High-Performance Building Summer Program: Bridging Continents for Sustainable Learning

A group of students pose on the flat roof of the Energy Innovation Center - the Pittsburgh skyline is in the backgroundFor the third year in a row, the Center will host the High-Performance Building Summer Program, which brings together a cohort of students from Penn State and South West College in Northern Ireland. Over the course of three weeks, the 15 students selected for the program will learn about passive house and high performance building design, encountering firsthand the transformative impact of sustainable construction practices. Students will also explore and discuss the differences between built environments in the U.S. and Northern Ireland.

The program includes a mix of hands-on instruction, guest lectures, and field trips to some of the greenest sites not only in the region but also globally. This year, the group will visit iconic sustainability and architectural landmarks such as:

  • Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes
  • Frick Environmental Center
  • Tree Pittsburgh
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob
  • Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus
  • Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Carrick

This experience also serves as a cultural exchange, bringing together students from different parts of the world to collaborate, share ideas, and foster cross-cultural understanding.

Stay tuned for updates and insights as our summer programs unfold!