Saturday, January 30, 2010

Will Penn State be one of the STARS?

The American Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE...what a mouthful) is starting to pilot its STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) program. According to AASHE, the program's goals are:
  • Provide a framework for understanding sustainability in all sectors of higher education.
  • Enable meaningful comparisons over time and across institutions using a common set of measurements developed with broad participation from the campus sustainability community.
  • Create incentives for continual improvement toward sustainability.
  • Facilitate information sharing about higher education sustainability practices and performance.
  • Build a stronger, more diverse campus sustainability community.
I am both very excited and a tad worried about this. I am excited because this might give us some really meaningful information about programs. However, standards and such can turn into some pretty ugly political sticks. I just like to keep in the back of my mind what "standards" adopted from "a common set of measurement" have done to teachers and students in light of the No Child Left Behind act. I'm cautiously optimistic though.

Guess what. Penn State is one of the early sites for evaluation.
As national and global attention to environmental sustainability increases, many in higher education, industry and government are unsure of how to actually quantify and measure progress in this new area. Penn State is taking a leadership role as a charter participant in the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) program, a new sustainability tracking system developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). This year, data will be collected in key sustainability "credit areas," spanning student life, curriculum, research, operations, planning, administration and outreach.

"STARS will provide Penn State with a key missing link in our efforts," said Erik Foley, director of the Campus Sustainability Office, "comprehensive baseline sustainability performance data. AASHE developed the tool over three years and tested it on 70 institutions, so we feel it is a well-tested, rigorous tool for supporting Penn State?s sustainability efforts."

As a charter participant in STARS, Penn State will have an improved ability to measure progress, make better informed resource allocation decisions, benchmark performance with other similar institutions and be a leader in the development of sustainability metrics. Early participation also will position Penn State to be an active contributor to the evolution of STARS, which is expected to evolve as universities continuously expand the adoption of innovative sustainable practices.
Read the whole story here. I really hope this goes well.

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