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The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.20
Liaison Kimberly Williams
Submission Date May 14, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.2

George Washington University
ER-12: Sustainability Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Lisa Benton-Short
Director of the Sustainability Academic Program
Department of Geography
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution offer a program that meets the criteria for this credit?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive experience(s) offered by the institution:

Because of the location and culture of GW, there is a strong emphasis across our various degree programs on immersive experiences. Semester long experiential learning that includes service learning, service, and internships with community partners in DC and around the world are the norm. Oftentimes, as with the minor in sustainability, the course listing is "Culminating Experience" or "Capstone Seminar." What follows is a handful of examples that demonstrate the breadth of activity here on campus.

Starting Fall 2012, all undergraduate sustainability minors are required to complete an experiential learning component for the minor. This three-credit academic requirement challenges students to take sustainability from the classroom to the community through community service, internships or directed research. During the semester that the student is fulfilling this requirement, in addition to the service, internship or research project, the students must also complete several reflection essays that allow them to think deliberatively and thoughtfully about the real-world connections with their community partners working towards sustainability. Another requirement of this immersive experience is to complete a social media project through blogs, posts or a video. This is a semester-long, immersive experience that enhances the skills and knowledge of GW’s sustainability minors and acts as a “capstone” experience. The URL of the Sust minor: http://sustainability.gwu.edu/sustainability-minor

Graduate School of Education and Human Development
Community-Engaged Teaching (CET) at GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development: innovative teacher education preparation links academically rigorous, university-based teacher education programming with community and school-based fieldwork. As part of this training, students in the School of Education and Human Development participate in a service-learning project with Groundwork Anacostia River DC, an organization that fosters environmental restoration and sustainability in Washington, DC. Students are required to translate their service-learning experience into curriculum for use in the content areas in which they teach; develop skills as community video storytellers and create short films that represent their vision of community-engaged teaching; investigate theories of social justice education that help them bridge the classroom to the broader community; and work with master teachers in a variety of secondary school settings as they experience the diverse landscape of schooling in Washington, DC.

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Engineers Without Borders (EWB): The GW Chapter of EWB currently consists of student members from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, but membership is open to all disciplines. Current project involves the sustainable design and implementation of compost latrines in the village of La Peña, El Salvador, as well as training of local villagers. The students have conducted a number of implementation trips to El Salvador. The next project is the evaluation of safe water sources for the village.

School of Law
The Law School’s Environment and Energy Policy Practicum offers students the opportunity to work directly with client organizations on semester long policy research projects. These projects frequently have a sustainability focus with organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, the World Resources Institute, the American Council on Renewable Energy, and the Solar Electric Industry Association of Virginia.

College of Professional Studies
The Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Landscapes features weekend residencies that alternate with online work. Students meet face to face for full weekends, several times per semester and spend that time in field and studio work. Fieldwork includes soils labs and guided exercises in area botanical gardens, native plant preserves and specialized nurseries. Field trips have taken classes as far as New York City to examine the social, environmental and economic impacts of projects like the High Line, and to the Delaware Valley. Studio sessions include design mentorship and pin-up critiques that guide students in introducing affordable, effective and sustainable methods of stormwater mitigation, biodiversity, and ecosystem services in their design work.

The Sustainable Urban Planning Program spring studio focuses on evaluating sustainable development practices in the metropolitan region of Seoul, Republic of Korea. The studio is conducted in partnership with the Korean Research Institute on Human Settlements (KRIHS) and finishes with a trip to Seoul, departing Washington, DC in late May and returning in early June. Korea is a worldwide leader in sustainable development practice, and Seoul is an ideal setting for a studio focused on the subject. The final product of the studio is a detailed set of presentations summarizing the research findings of the GWU that will be delivered to KRIHS at a workshop on the final afternoon in Seoul. Students will receive feedback from KRIHS staff and other experts and KRIHS will publish the GWU report as part of its Special Report or Planning and Policy series.

Alternative Breaks Program
For the past decade, GW has offered its students the opportunity to participate in the GW Alternative Breaks program offered through the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. GW Alternative Breaks’ mission is to empower students, staff and faculty to understand their role in local and global communities through service-learning trips across many issue areas. It is a student-focused, student-planned, and student-led immersive experience that takes place over winter and spring breaks. The goal is to foster personal reflection, social awareness and active citizenship among the GW community. In 2013, more than 190 students participated in eight alternative spring break programs, including Tuscaloosa, AL.; Harlan County, KY; Gullah Nation, SC; Immokalee, FL; Joplin, MO; New Orleans, LA; and New York, NY. Three specific examples follow:

1. Sustainability and Reconstruction in Joplin, Missouri
This trip was focused on sustainable rebuilding and construction of the town of Joplin, MO that were devastated by a tornado in the spring of 2011. One of the local organizations that GW students worked with included a grassroots organization called Greentown, which focuses on sustainable building and conservation. Students spent the week assisting in the rebuilding process, learning about the eco-technology, and helping the town get back on its feet. In addition to the service, the trip also included a number of activities for students to learn about and explore Western culture.

2. Historic Preservation/Cultural Awareness and Sustainability with the Gullah Nation
This trip was focused on learning about the Gullah/Geechee culture, a unique African culture in America that is struggling to preserve its language, spiritual traditions, and land and water practices in the face of environmental degradation and economic development. One of the community leaders that GW students worked with included Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation on the historic St. Helena Island, South Carolina. Students engaged in a number of environmental service projects including oyster habitat restoration, and native gardens planting. In addition to this, students also visited a number of historic sites in South Carolina and learned about the culture, music, human rights movement of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.

3. Natural Building and Organic Farming in the mountains of Morovis, Las Marías, Puerto Rico
The trip focused on sustainable development; students worked with the non-profit organization Plenitud Eco-Educational Initiatives (Plenitud Iniciativas) in support of their mission to provide education and training to low-income farmers and other individuals in the techniques of organic farming, bio-construction, and other permaculture practices. As volunteers, the students slept in tents and consumed only organic food produced by the farm and its affiliates while engaging in a variety of activities related to sustainable development and organic agriculture. The group viewed their tasks and lessons learned on the trip as important for the betterment of the environment, food production, and the global community. The students assisted the mission of Plenitud in as many ways as possible to help fulfill its vision of positively impacting the Puerto Rican farming community.


The website URL where information about the immersive experience is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.