Penn State Students Join Forces with Pennsylvania Communities to Tackle Climate Change

Penn State students are taking proactive steps to combat climate change by teaming up with officials across Pennsylvania to monitor and decrease carbon footprints within their local communities.

On Earth Day 2024, Penn State celebrates the dedication of over 30 undergraduate and graduate students from both the University Park campus and Penn State World Campus who have actively participated in the Local Climate Action Program.

These students have spent the past two academic years collaborating with nearly 20 government agencies throughout Pennsylvania, utilizing their education to enact positive change statewide.

As part of the Local Climate Action Program, students are paired with municipal governments or state agencies each fall semester to compile inventories of greenhouse gas emissions using publicly accessible data.

During the spring semester, they engage with government officials to pinpoint strategies for emission reduction and assist with initiatives like formulating climate action plans and updating solar energy-related regulations.

Under the guidance of Penn State Sustainability, the Local Climate Action Program plays a pivotal role in supporting grassroots climate efforts.

Lara Fowler, the University’s chief sustainability officer, underscores the significance of student involvement in laying the groundwork for further action by communities and state agencies, potentially unlocking avenues for state and federal funding opportunities.

The program, which offers academic credit to participating students, provides a stimulating and impactful experience, enabling them to make tangible contributions to their communities while preparing for future careers.

Peter Buck, a program manager with Penn State Sustainability, and Brandi Robinson, an associate teaching professor, oversee the program and provide mentorship to students throughout their projects.

During the 2022-23 academic year, students collaborated with municipal officials in various Pennsylvania cities, including Scranton, Reading, Erie, Doylestown, and State College. In the current academic year, partnerships extend to municipalities such as Solebury Township, Mechanicsburg, Conshohocken, and Palmer Township, as well as governmental agencies like the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources.

Students like Vijay Chiluveru, a master’s student in energy and mineral engineering, are making significant strides in their assigned agencies. Chiluveru and his team are conducting assessments of emissions stemming from the operations of the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources, with the aim of optimizing sustainability practices within the agency.

Similarly, students like Kelli Volkomer and Gemma Morrison are gaining invaluable real-world experience through their involvement in the program.

Volkomer, a graduate student in renewable energy and sustainability systems, collaborated with Lower Macungie Township to conduct a greenhouse gas inventory and propose climate initiatives. Morrison, a University Park student, worked with officials in Mechanicsburg to develop surveys and educational materials on climate change.

In essence, the Local Climate Action Program epitomizes Penn State’s commitment to sustainability and empowers students with the skills and knowledge to address pressing environmental challenges. Through collaborative efforts with local communities, students are not only effecting change at the grassroots level but also inspiring meaningful action to combat climate change.

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