Linking Campus Sustainability to Hands-On Learning at Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference

This week marked the 7th Annual Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference hosted by the University of Maryland. The Conference brought together directors and staff from sustainability, facilities, health & safety, campus planning and business offices, as well as business partners and other education stakeholders.

I was happy to participate in the conference on behalf of Campus Ecology and present a workshop with my colleague Jen Fournelle on “Linking Campus Sustainability to Hands-On Training.” Through our presentation, we showcased four specific examples of how campus sustainability efforts are offering opportunities for students to gain valuable hands-on skills training.

image credit: Lansing Community College
One example we highlighted is Lansing Community College in Michigan, recipient of one of our Greenforce Initiative Mini Grants. LCC is involved in a project called “Restoration Works,” in which students from LCC’s Technical Careers Division Environmental, Design and Building Technologies program are working to retrofit two residential, Land Bank-owned homes that were initially scheduled for demolition. The retrofits of these homes include both livability renovations (these homes were red-tagged, and as a result, require significant interior, exterior, mechanical system and structural repair) and energy efficiency upgrades.

For LCC students, this represents an important opportunity for a true hands-on laboratory in planning and executing sustainable construction practices. The Technical Careers Division at LCC is focusing on more project- and problem-based learning and this effort is a step in that direction. This project also elevates LCC in the community, and demonstrates what is possible when academia, government, and non-profits collaborate.

This year alone, the project will involve over 300 LCC students in hands-on learning and the program has the means to continue to be a part of the curriculum in the future, as long as there are homes in the area that are eligible for the project.

image credit: Lansing Community College
The hands-on training is paying off; graduates of this program are largely attaining employment. Last semester, at least 20 students were hired into residential energy efficiency companies and in some cases students are even getting just in their first semester of energy auditing.

Our full presentation on Linking Campus Sustainability to Hands-on Training will be available on the Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference website.