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A group of women standing around a table with a wooden rack, color swatches, rose clippings, and other organic garden material.


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 Institute 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.

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. It is anticipated that the Sustainability Council will develop 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.

Sustainability Council members having a discussion at a table in a meeting room.

Council Faculty, Staff, + 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. Council members include:


Chair Mihyun Kang (Director for Sustainability)
Teaching + Learning Heather McCune Bruhn (working group leader, Art History faculty)

Angela Rothrock (School of Visual Arts faculty)

Eric McKee (School of Music faculty)

Research Carlos Rosas (working group leader, faculty council)

Hong Wu (Landscape Architecture faculty)

Rahman Azari (Architecture faculty)

Anjana Padmakumar Renuka (Graphic Design Graduate Student)

Community Engagement Joyce Robinson (working group leader, Palmer Museum of Arts)

John Mark Rafacz (Center for the Performing Arts)

Madison Borsos (undergraduate student)

Operations Deborah Gulick (working group leader, Office of Digital Learning)

Chris Swetcky (School of Theatre faculty)

Kate Domico (Office of the Assistant Dean Administration and Information Technology)

Teaching + 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:

Graphic of a multicolor segmented

Sustainability Faculty Teaching Fellows Program

This program annually recruits faculty and graduate students to serve as College of Arts and Architecture Sustainability Faculty Teaching Fellows. Ten faculty members and three graduate students, including at least one from each academic unit, were selected in 2019. The first cohort participates in the Sustainability Teaching Roundtable Series, integrating sustainability competencies into their courses and curriculum. The application for the second cohort will be posted in fall 2020.

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.

Screenshot of Sustainability Teaching Fellows in a Zoom meeting.


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:

Convergence: Sustainability Symposium title slide with multi-color sustainability wheel and photo of wind turbine.

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 College of Arts and Architecture faculty representing the Center for Pedagogy in Arts and Design, Hamer Center for Community Design, Stuckeman Center for Design Computing, School of Visual Arts Studio for Sustainability and Social Action, Arts and Design Research Incubator, and Ecology+Design. The symposium also featured presentations on sustainability initiatives in the College of Engineering and Smeal College of Business.

Visit the Symposium website
Visit the Symposium playlist

Green, purple, and orange tiered circle infographic. The tiers are surrounded by sustainability icons and black text, "Planet, people, prosperity, peace, and partnership."

Sustainability Exhibition

Held in spring 2020, the Sustainability Exhibition recognized the research taking place within the college and explored sustainability research collaboration across disciplines. The two-week-long exhibition took an inclusive view of sustainability and included displays ranging from traditional research poster presentations and original artworks to a multimedia component.

Far off shot of a wind turbine on a mountain tinted with a blue ombre overlay.

Faculty Research Get-Together

This casual gathering provides an opportunity for faculty and doctoral students to become acquainted with each other, learn more about sustainability research by peers, and explore potential collaboration.

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

This series features College of Arts and Architecture alumni and faculty reflecting on the role of sustainability in their work. It may expand to include masters and doctoral students.

Craig Byers ‘85 B.A. Graphic Design

As the design director in Gensler’s Brand Experience Studio in New York, Craig leads brand creation and activation projects across all categories of business. He has acquired more than 25 years of experience in business and creative problem-solving gained through working with diverse industries. Craig views graphic design as a powerful communication tool with great potential for addressing sustainability and integrates sustainability into many areas of his practice.

Michael Pinto ‘93 B.Arch Architecture

As design principal at NAC Architecture in Los Angeles, Michael leads design from a position that places strong emphasis on community engagement, and he has guided teams to more than 30 design awards in his career. Michael has defined his 25-year career through practice driven by social purpose. His architecture focuses on disadvantaged communities, at-risk youth, educational systems, urban food systems, and our environment as an imperative service to society. His holistic approach to sustainability appears to tie directly to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Heather Bhandari ’99 M.F.A. Visual Arts

Heather is an independent curator; a co-founder of the project-based curatorial team and podcast, The Remix; an adjunct lecturer at Brown University; and the programming director of Art World Conference (AWC), a new business and financial literacy conference for visual artists that debuted in New York City in April 2019. She is also the author of the book ART/WORK, published by Simon and Schuster. She seeks to increase the value people place in arts and culture, with the aim of improving sustainability in professions in those areas. She also hopes to see more integration of the arts into STEM.

Robert Earl ’86 B.S. Landscape Architecture

Robert co-founded OCULUS Urban Design Landscape Architecture in 1993 in Washington, D.C. and is now the sole director of studios in Sydney and Melbourne. These studios maintain a close affiliation and collaboration with the OCULUS Washington, D.C. studio, working on specific projects and competitions. He believes in the importance of integrating the many dimensions of sustainability and sustainability advocacy into his work.


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.


Sustainability in Arts and Architecture

Mihyun Kang
Director for Sustainability