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Program Details

Penn State’s City Semester Pittsburgh program gives students the opportunity to spend an entire semester studying urban sustainability, interning virtually or in-person with a Pittsburgh partner, and making valuable connections to community leaders and potential future employers. City Semester students will be active participants in Penn State’s efforts that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to improve quality of life in metropolitan areas.

The program is offered in the spring, summer, and fall semesters.

Program components

  1. Community internship — City Semester students are placed with a prominent community partner to complete a virtual or in-person field experience. This internship is typically 20 hours per week but can be tailored to meet specific academic program requirements. Students are matched with community partners based on placement preferences, career interests, and applicable skills.
  2. Urban sustainability course — Participants are enrolled in a 3-credit course on urban sustainability. The course shares the relevance of sustainability across all disciplines and features readings and videos, prominent guest speakers, and virtual field trips to build on students’ internship experiences.
  3. Additional course work — City Semester students can round out their semester by taking additional online courses or participating in independent study to fulfill their major or minor requirements.
  4. Pittsburgh life — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students are not required to live in Pittsburgh to participate in City Semester and can complete the program requirements entirely online. The program is still solidly anchored in the Pittsburgh lifestyle and leverages the fact that Pittsburgh is known internationally for its leadership in addressing issues of urban sustainability and resiliency and is the perfect place for students to make an impact. Learn more about living and working in Pittsburgh.

Who can apply

Penn State students of any major/minor are invited to apply. The program is open to students in good standing who will have achieved sophomore status by the semester in which they will participate.

If you are interested in participating in City Semester Pittsburgh, you should meet with your academic adviser to determine how the credits earned during this semester will fit with your specific major or minor. While the program is designed to be flexible and meet the needs of a variety of majors and minors at Penn State, it is especially well suited for the Sustainability Leadership minor.

There is not a single academic pursuit that does not need sustainable development.

Kim Kipin-McDonald, Head of Sustainable Development North America, Covestro, Opening remarks at the SCC 2018 Annual Conference

How to apply

Penn State students interested in the City Semester Pittsburgh program must follow the online application process. 

Apply Online

The application includes:

  1. Personal statement: a one-page statement outlining area(s) of study and career interests; explaining how the program could benefit your academic work, what you would contribute to the program, and what your ideal internship experience would be.
  2. Résumé including prior work experience, previous community experience, skills (research, communication, technical and analytical, foreign language, etc.)
  3. Letter of recommendation from a faculty member in your major or minor
  4. Writing sample: a 3–5 page sample of your writing (e.g., research paper, article, blog post, etc.)
  5. Portfolio of work (for College of Arts and Architecture students)

Placement in City Semester Pittsburgh is not guaranteed, so please have a back-up plan for the semester for which you are applying. We recommend registering for your normal course load in addition to your application, then adjust accordingly if you are accepted to the program.

Program timeline per semester
Action Spring Semester Summer Semester Fall Semester
Student application open September February March
Early deadline for priority placement October March March
Final application deadline October/November March  April
Students matched with partners December  April May
Classes and program begin January May August

Check the City Semester homepage for upcoming dates and deadlines.

Program costs

Students enrolled in City Semester Pittsburgh will pay Penn State University Park tuition and fees. There is also a modest program fee to cover the costs of field trips. Meals, books, and incidental expenses are not included in the program fee and are the responsibility of the student.

Additional financial aid is available from the Urban Sustainability Fellowship, funded by PepsiCo and Tarkett. The Sustainability Institute and Penn State Center Pittsburgh invite City Semester students to apply for one of several Urban Sustainability Fellowships, a stipend of up to $1,500 exclusively available to City Semester students. To apply, simply check the fellowship box on the program application form.

Student health insurance requirement

The insurance requirement for students taking courses off campus is the same as students taking courses on campus.

Want to learn more?

View a recent online Information Session Presentation.

Check out past Student Spotlights.