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Engagement in Practice: Partnering with a Local Community in an Effort to Promote Revitalization

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engagement in Practice: Creating a Robust Infrastructure for Community Engagement

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Joan A. Kowalski Pennsylvania State University, New Kensington

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Joan A. Kowalski earned both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Civil Engineering from Penn State University. In 1987, she joined the faculty at the Penn State New Kensington Campus, where she has advanced to the rank of Assistant Teaching Professor in Engineering. In 1999, she assumed the role of Program Director for the Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) Program. She co-founded the Females Interested in Reaching for Science, Technology and Engineering (FIRSTE) Program in 1993, which ran for 21 years. She developed the Summer Preparation for Academics in the College of Engineering (SPACE) Program in 2010 as a retention effort for freshman engineers. Joan displays her dedication to mentorship as advisor to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) student chapter on campus. Over the years, Joan has received numerous awards including the prestigious Penn State University’s Women’s Achievement Award in 2003 because of her commitment to the FIRSTE Program and other effective mentoring activities both on campus as well as within the community. Most recently, Joan has become involved in outreach efforts to the community based in the classroom and involving engineering design concepts.

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Ruth Ann Herstek Penn State University, New Kensington

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Bio for Ruth Ann Herstek, M.Ed

Ruth has a Masters of Education and is a full-time Academic Advisor at Penn State New Kensington, the Penn State New Kensington Green Team Leader, and the Coordinator of the Adult Learning Community. As the Green Team Leader, Ruth was able to secure a $12,000 grant to improve the campus’ waste management system and create a successful composting program that has been active for four years. Ruth is committed to sustainability and to assisting students in their pursuit of knowledge in higher education.

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Five years ago, XXXXX University developed a minor in sustainability with the first course in the program entitled “SUST 200: Foundations of Leadership in Sustainability.” Although it is a general education course, the majority of the class at the XXXXXXXXX Campus consists of engineering students. There is a community-based component required to this course. During this same period of time, this campus has committed to investing in the surrounding community by developing an entrepreneurial center where individuals can bring their ideas for development into fruition with benefit to the local economy. A grant was awarded last year to assist in revamping the main thoroughfare, now dubbed the “Corridor of Innovation,” where this center will be located. During the spring semester of 2017, students in the sustainability course worked with the leaders of the community to identify ways to attract young people to visit and perhaps reside in the community. Given their experience with green roofs from their freshmen engineering design course, the engineering students recommended that some of the dilapidated roofs be converted into green ones along with a living wall adjacent to the community garden. That idea is actually moving forward next spring with additional funding from the Sustainability Institute of the university. The students presented their ideas during the last week of class to members of both the campus and the public officials. The fifteen week semester did not allow for some of their revisions to be incorporated. Nor were any of the students able to volunteer their time during the summer. Nevertheless, continued involvement with the community will resume during the 2018 spring semester when the course is once again offered. And, at that time, the entrepreneurial center will have officially opened for business which could allow for some measurement of success to be evaluated.

Kowalski, J. A., & Herstek, R. A. (2018, June), Engagement in Practice: Partnering with a Local Community in an Effort to Promote Revitalization Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30389

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