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  • AASHE-STARS

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 67.88
Liaison Mary Easterling
Submission Date Sept. 14, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Pennsylvania State University
AC-1: Academic Courses

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 6.19 / 14.00 Mary Easterling
Assoc Director, Analysis & Assessment
Sustainability Institute
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures required to calculate the percentage of courses offered by the institution that are sustainability course offerings:
Undergraduate Graduate
Total number of courses offered by the institution 3,278 1,127
Number of sustainability courses offered 73 9
Number of courses offered that include sustainability 124 21

Percentage of courses that are sustainability course offerings:
5.15

Total number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that offer courses (at any level):
84

Number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that offer at least one sustainability course and/or course that includes sustainability (at any level):
52

Percentage of academic departments with sustainability course offerings:
61.90

A copy of the institution’s inventory of its sustainability course offerings and descriptions:
Do the figures reported above cover one, two, or three academic years?:
One

A brief description of the methodology used to determine the total number of courses offered and to identify sustainability course offerings, including the definitions used and the process for reviewing and/or validating the course inventory :

Our initial course inventory - prepared for our 2011 STARS submission - was completed using a survey approach. Due to a low response rate, we believe that this approach failed to identify a number of existing sustainability courses.

In 2013-14, and again in 2016 for our current STARS report, we reviewed the original course list and expanded it by (1) searching the online Penn State curriculum archives, and evaluating the material found in the course descriptions and syllabi, (2) searching through course descriptions found in the online Course Bulletin, with special attention given to programs where one or more sustainability courses had already been identified, and (3) adding additional courses identified through "word of mouth" and connections within the University. Although it is possible that we have misidentified some courses using this approach, we believe this to be a conservative estimate of sustainability courses offered at Penn State.

The course counts provided above include only courses actually offered during academic year 2015-16 (Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Summer 2016). The full inventory attached includes all sustainability courses deemed to be "on the books" at Penn State as of Fall 2016.


How were courses with multiple offerings or sections counted for the figures reported above?:
Each course was counted as a single course regardless of the number of offerings or sections

A brief description of how courses with multiple offerings or sections were counted (if different from the options outlined above):

Counts were made of each unique course offered during the academic year. Multiple offerings or sections were counted only once.

This differs from the methodology we used for our last STARS report in 2014, where counts were made by semester, then the semester values were totaled to arrive at annual counts. Using this method, a course offered each semester would be counted 3 times. This resulted in significantly higher counts in our 2014 report versus the current one.

Counting methods were the same for both sustainability courses and non-sustainability courses, as well as for course types (e.g., independent study) removed from the total counts (see Notes section below).


Are the following course types included in the inventory? :
Yes (included) or No (not included)
Internships No
Practicums No
Independent study No
Special topics Yes
Thesis / dissertation No
Clinical No
Physical education No
Performance arts No

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The course counts provided above include only courses actually offered during academic year 2015-16 (Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Summer 2016). The full inventory attached includes all sustainability courses listed in the course catalog at Penn State as of Fall 2016. We find it more useful for internal purposes to maintain a complete inventory of all sustainability courses. For STARS reporting we determined what subset of those courses were actually offered during the one year reporting period.

Following guidance in the STARS Technical Bulletin, we removed from the course counts, courses in the following categories: independent study, practicums/ internships, thesis/ research, physical education (KINES classes numbered below 100), other individual research (294/ 494 courses), and instruction in the performance arts (Music, Dance, Theater).

Count of academic departments includes departments, and colleges and schools that lack departments (e.g., Law, Nursing); these were each counted as one department. Programs were not counted, however many of these - which cross departmental and even college boundaries - fall into the sustainability realm. Eight of these programs offer sustainability-related courses: Geodesign, Bioethics, African Studies, Global & International Studies, Jewish Studies, Environmental Resources Management, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment, and International Agriculture.

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.