A&A Sustainability

Sustainability is integral to the arts and design. This page highlights the integration of sustainability in teaching and learning, research, community engagement, and operations. This is a space, an initiative, a response and a celebration of sustainability in the College of Arts and Architecture.

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The College of Arts and Architecture seeks to strategically advance the University’s sustainability goals, fostering sustainability in teaching and learning, research, community engagement, student engagement, and operations in the college. Penn State’s Sustainability embraces sustainability broadly, defining sustainability as “the simultaneous pursuit of human health and happiness, environmental quality, and economic well-being for current and future generations.”

Penn State strives to implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Sustainability Institute supports sustainability champions throughout the University’s 24 campuses and 13 colleges. Here in the College of Arts and Architecture, Mihyun Kang, director for sustainability, contributed to the establishment of the Sustainability Council comprising College of Arts and Architecture faculty, staff, and students.

Composite image of the A&A Sustainability Council members

Sustainability Council

The College of Arts and Architecture Sustainability Council advocates forming a sustainability vision for the college to connect it to other strategic initiatives while creating efficiencies and enhancing impact. The council approaches sustainability as a transformational concept that leads to innovation.

The Sustainability Council has developed action steps that advance the college’s priorities and the University’s sustainability vision and mission. The college’s Sustainability Council has working groups focusing on teaching and learning, research, community engagement, and operations.

Council Faculty, Staff, and Students

The Sustainability Council includes representatives from each of the college’s academic, outreach, and support areas, and other members from the faculty, staff, and student community.


Teaching and Learning


Community Engagement

  • Huiwon Lim(working group leader, Graphic Design faculty)
  • Joyce Robinson (Palmer Museum of Arts)
  • Linda Struble (Center for the Performing Arts)
  • Tegan Lochner (Landscape Architecture, Undergraduate Student)


  • Deborah Gulick (working group leader, Office of Digital Learning)
  • Kate Domico (Office of the Assistant Dean Administration and Information Technology)


  • Charlene Gross (Faculty Council)
  • Barbara Cutler (Staff Advisory Council)

Teaching and Learning

Goals in this area include ensuring that every student at Penn State will have the opportunity to take one or more sustainability-focused or sustainability-related courses prior to graduation and that graduating seniors will demonstrate acquisition of sustainability awareness, attitudes, and knowledge. Ongoing initiatives in this area include:

Sustainability Teaching Roundtable Series

The Roundtable Teaching Series will transform the culture of sustainability education and pedagogy, embedding it into the college’s teaching culture.

A wide range of topics concerning sustainability, curricular planning, and engagement across the college’s academic units will be addressed through the series. The series convenes faculty, staff, and graduate students for focused presentations and discussions.

Graphic of a multicolor segmented "Sustainability Wheel"
Man giving a lecture in front of a classroom of people; one of the female attendees has her hand raised.

Sustainability Teaching Fellows Program

This program annually recruits faculty, staff, and graduate students to serve as College of Arts and Architecture Sustainability Teaching Fellows.

Ten faculty members and three graduate students, including at least one from each academic unit, were selected in September 2019. The first cohort participated in the Sustainability Teaching Roundtable Series, integrating sustainability competencies into their courses and curriculum.

The second cohort, including nine faculty and two graduate students, was announced in February 2021.

The third cohort, including five faculty, one staff, and three graduate students, was announced in January 2022.

Visit the Third Cohort Presentations

VIisit the Second Cohort Presentations

Visit the First Cohort Presentations

Visit the First Cohort Sizzle Reel

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Sustainability Courses

The College of Arts and Architecture offers many courses integrating sustainability. The table below shares courses typically offered within each academic unit that are sustainability-focused or sustainability-related.

To count as a Sustainability-Focused course, the focus of the course should be on the interdependence of ecological and social/economic systems or a major sustainability challenge.

Sustainability-Related courses are not explicitly focused on sustainability, but sustainability has clearly been incorporated into course content. The course should incorporate a unit or module on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, include one or more sustainability-focused activities, or integrate sustainability challenges, issues, and concepts throughout the course.

Students can search for these course numbers in LionPath and contact instructors to learn more. In accordance with the Association of Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), sustainability encompasses human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods, and a better world for all generations in an inclusive way.

Group of four research students gathered around a storm drain.


Goals in this area include building capacity for solutions-oriented transdisciplinary sustainability research, supporting translation and implementation of research-based solutions, and creating opportunities for sustainability research experiences for students and for engaged scholarship. Ongoing initiatives in this area include:

Sustainability Research Team Grant

Penn State College of Arts and Architecture’s Sustainability Research Team seeks to recognize and vitalize teams of faculty and staff for interdisciplinary research/creative scholarship around sustainability. It intends to stimulate the development of sustainability research projects that are likely to be supported by future external funding.

The Sustainability Research Team, identified through a selection process, will receive up to $5,000 and must develop and submit its sustainability research proposals for external federal, state and/or private funding within one year of receiving this sustainability research team grant. The Team members must also provide quarterly reports on the team’s activities in developing sustainability research proposals for external funding. The final report, which includes the submitted proposals to external funding agencies, must be submitted upon project completion. Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Apply online for the Sustainability Research Team only after discussing your proposal with Mihyun Kang, the A&A Director For sustainability at mkang@psu.edu.

A man is giving a lecture in front of an audience at the A&A Sustainability Research Get-Together in the Borland Project Space.

Sustainability Research Get-Together

A series of casual gatherings provide an opportunity for faculty and doctoral students to become acquainted with each other, learn more about sustainability research by peers, and explore potential collaboration. Sessions were held in November 2020, November 2021, and March 2023. An upcoming session will be held in March of 2024.

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Sustainability Symposium

Held in Fall 2020, the Sustainability Symposium highlighted, connected, and amplified sustainability research within the College of Arts and Architecture to foster collaboration with the Penn State sustainability research community and beyond. The symposium featured presentations by keynote speaker Julian C. Chambliss from Michigan State University and by Penn State faculty within the College of Arts and Architecture, College of Engineering, and Smeal College of Business.

Playlist | Sizzle Reel

Visit the Symposium Website

Community Engagement

Goals in this area include expanding student access and community access to engaged scholarship focused on sustainability challenges, increasing sustainability literacy in public and private sectors, expanding commitment to sustainable practices and policies at the local and state levels, and fostering strong, resilient, and sustainable communities through programs and engagement processes. Ongoing initiatives in this area include:

We are Sustainable Video Series

The “We Are Sustainable” video series interviews students, faculty, staff, and alumni to explore how their work engages with sustainability. The series demonstrates how sustainability can be integrated into a wide range of disciplines, providing inspiration to others and documenting the innovative work of the College of Arts and Architecture community.

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We Are Sustainable with Alumni

In these short video interviews, Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture alumni reflect on the role of sustainability in their work and how their Penn State experience led them to where they are today.

Visit the Alumni Playlist
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We Are Sustainable with Faculty and Staff

Faculty and staff within Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture share insights on how sustainability enters their research, teaching, and community engagement initiatives. They also share advice for students hoping to integrate sustainability into their learning.

Visit the Faculty & Staff Playlist
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We Are Sustainable with Students

Students across Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture reflect on how they have engaged with the topic of sustainability in their studies and what they hope to do next.

Visit the Student Playlist

Sustainability Showcase

The Sustainability Showcase recognizes sustainability research and creative activities taking place within the college. Various forms and stages ranging from traditional research posters, exhibition and performance posters, and original artworks to multimedia components are exhibited.

Visit the 2020 Showcase Playlist

Visit the 2023 Showcase Playlist

Visit the 2024 Showcase Playlist

Attendees socializing at the 2023 A&A Sustainability Showcase.
people seated a circular tables with box lunches in a room with brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and red carpet.


Goals in this area include changing and enhancing college operations to not only adapt and combat the effects of human-induced climate change but to reverse the current direction of climate change. This involves examining opportunities for sustainability improvements; educating staff about sustainability concepts; and encouraging employees to identify actions and processes that need to change, get involved in the change process, and pioneer new solutions.

Ongoing initiatives in this area include:

Green Paws

Offices within the College of Arts and Architecture explore opportunities to improve sustainability efforts in the workplace.

Green Teams

The Center for Performing Arts revitalized the Green Team, which engages and educates its peers to help them operate in a more efficient, innovative, and healthy way. The Borland Building has additionally launched a Green Team.

2022-2023 Sustainability Award Winners lined up on stage in the School of Music Recital Hall.

Sustainability Awards

The College of Arts and Architecture presents the Sustainability Awards to honor the exceptional sustainability efforts of its faculty, staff, and graduate students. These awards, open for self-nomination or nomination by peers, celebrate faculty for their outstanding commitment to sustainability in teaching, research, and community engagement; staff for their dedicated sustainability initiatives; and graduate students who champion sustainability through their research and leadership, all reflecting the College’s mission and values.

The College of Arts and Architecture Sustainability Awards were initiated for the first time in the 2022–2023 academic year. Stay tuned for this year’s call for nominations! The recipients of the sustainability awards are:

  • 2024 A&A Faculty Sustainability Award: Rahman Azari, Associate Professor of Architecture
  • 2024 A&A Staff Sustainability Award: Joyce Robinson, Assistant Director, Palmer Museum of Art
  • 2024 A&A Graduate Student Sustainability Award: Negar Dehghan, MFA Candidate in Graphic Design
  • 2023 A&A Faculty Sustainability Award: Huiwon Lim, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
  • 2023 A&A Staff Sustainability Award: Deb Gulick, Instructional Designer, Office of Digital Learning
  • 2023 A&A Graduate Student Sustainability Award: Ali Ghazvinian, Ph.D. Candidate in Architecture

Please visit the A&A Awards page for more details about the Sustainability Award recipients.


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A&A Sustainability