The Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University
When Net Impact released its 2012 edition of the “Business as UNusual guide” to graduate programs, it called Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions “the hub of sustainability at PSU and an engine for change in the university and across the region.” The Institute for Sustainable Solutions, or ISS, administers the $25 million Miller challenge grant for sustainability, supporting student and faculty research, sustainability education, and community engagement through a broad set of initiatives.
Students benefit from a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates related to sustainability, spanning topics from environmental management to social entrepreneurship. Travel awards are also available through the ISS for students, faculty and staff to participate in international conferences and events focused on sustainability. The ISS Solutions Generator provides funding to students for sustainability leadership projects as diverse as a greywater wetlands system and a sustainable materials gallery.
Research facilitated by the ISS focuses on three main areas: urban sustainability, ecosystem services, and the social determinants of health. Community members can participate in a social sustainability colloquium series to learn more about research and action on issues affecting their communities. A highlight of sustainability-related research is a remote sensing technology designed to increase the effectiveness of projects that help the world’s poor. Developed in PSU’s SWEETLab, this sensor technology is currently part of a project to provide clean drinking water to more than 2 million people in Rwanda.
Local organizations benefit from student internships and graduate consulting projects facilitated by the ISS. Students have helped coordinate the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition Annual Policy Meeting, assisted with the development of sustainable city planning and policy guidelines, and worked with local social enterprise EcoZoom to expand the use of clean cookstoves worldwide. No wonder Net Impact says, “With a reputation as a thought leader in sustainable business practices, Portland State attracts companies, small and large, who apply to work with student business consulting teams.”
The awards and top rankings in sustainability achieved by Portland State University are testament to the inclusion of sustainability in every facet of the university’s community and educational experience, and at the center of it stands the Institute for Sustainable Solutions. With new or expanded initiatives designed to reduce the university’s carbon footprint and conduct research into vertical urban gardens, the ISS continues to work at the forefront of sustainability education. Learn more about the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at their website: http://www.pdx.edu/sustainability/