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2017 Sustainability Challenge Grant Recipients

Community Engaged Sustainability Education in the First Year Experience Project Abstract

Connectivity Promotes Community Project Abstract

Enhancing Student Development Project Abstract

Gathering at the Table Project Abstract

Measuring Up Project Abstract

Mobilizing Tree Ambassadors Project Abstract


2017 Project Abstracts




Community Engaged Sustainability Education in the First Year Experience ($24,040)

GEN100 is a required course for all first-semester freshmen in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. The program will be doubling in enrollment Fall 2017 for a total of 700 students, 28 sections of 25 students each. This project will allow the instructor of each section to choose from several options that will facilitate student-led research that leads to a hands-on community service project. This project will serve as a major course assignment.

Option 1: “Local UK Dining.” Research local farms and locally-grown products. Obtain, process, and present a product (with Food Connection assistance). Draft a flyer about the farm, the product, and the recipe. Run a stand in the 90 Dining Hall and give out food & information.

Option 2: “Growing Forests in Cities” Research urban forestry with the help of Nic Williamson and the Urban Forestry Initiative. Calculate ecosystem services of various trees. Draft a flyer about urban forests. Identify a location that could use trees. Obtain trees. Plant trees and distribute flyers.

Option 3: “Better School Lunches” Research school lunch options and the origins of the school lunch program. Plan and present a hands-on cooking session on nutrition and “better” school lunches in underserved Fayette County schools.

Option 4: “Get in the Garden.” Research the socio-economic history, costs & benefits of community gardens – with a special focus on economic inequality and food insecurity. Research environmental issues associated with gardening approaches - compost, beneficial insects, etc. Spend a work day in a Seedleaf community garden in Lexington.

Possible additional, unconfirmed options: Rain Garden clean-up project with Tracy Farmer Institute during water week investigate storm water management issues; Children’s Garden/Arboretum –environmental education service project; Glean KY – community food security service project.

Final Report

Team Members: Ali Rossi, Community and Leadership Development; Brooke Gentile, Community and Leadership Development; Larry Grabou, Center for Student Success

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Connectivity Promotes Community ($20,000)

Most of the UK community use cars to access campus, parking in relatively remote areas some distance from their work/study places and either walking or shuttling to their final destinations. In 2015 UK paved ~13 acres on the northwest corner of Alumni and University Drives to create a parking area (the Orange Lot) for ~1,500 cars. A reliable and free shuttle system was installed to facilitate campus access, but many Orange Lot users opt to complete their commute on foot. However, a safe, convenient, and attractive pedestrian walkway connecting the Orange Lot to work places north of Cooper Drive is lacking. The tunnel beneath Cooper is the primary conduit and accommodates many hundreds of commuters daily. In spite of recent lighting improvements, the tunnel is dark and damp, and the north and south approaches are visually unappealing. This commuting experience could be substantially enhanced by improving the connectivity of this remote parking lot to more central work/study places on south campus, contributing significantly to campus sustainability and quality of life. We have assembled a team from three UK Colleges and with input from UK Operations, we propose to use art, design, lighting, and streetscaping to refurbish this important connector, creating a safe, convenient, aesthetically pleasing, walkable conduit to facilitate campus access, while generating a legacy project that honors Kentucky’s heritage. The ‘Tunnel Experience’ will enhance walkability, connectivity, and engagement in a neglected area of south campus, and contribute to economic vitality, ecological integrity and social equity in our campus community.

Team Members: Lynne Rieske-Kinney, Entomology; Garry Bibbs, Art and Visual Studies; Rebekah Radtke Ison, College of Design-Department of Interiors; Carolina Segura, Landscape Architecture; Kelly Webber, Dietetics and Human Nutrition

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Enhancing Student Development ($38,996)

This project aims to create a novel interdisciplinary research program for undergraduate students which will combine a broad range of disciplines and provide unique opportunities for educational and professional development.  In addition to being directly involved in the day-to-day execution of research both on campus and at CAER, this cadre of up to 5 students (recruited from engineering, chemistry, sustainability and design) will be exposed to regular scientific seminars, in depth lab tours, design thinking/iteration, and professional development opportunities that will include resume formatting and interview etiquette.  This project will generate meaningful data not only on the research goals outlined below, but also serve to develop educational assessment tools which can be brought to bear to evaluate the academic progress of the students as well as evaluating their knowledge of the importance of research, design processes and sustainability. Finally, continuation of this endeavor will be facilitated by harnessing the preliminary data generated during the summer of 2017 to prepare a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the goal of developing a more formal Research Experience for Undergraduates program centered around applied energy research. 

Final Report

Team Members: Michael Wilsom, Center for Applied Energy Research; Sarah West, College of Design-Department of Interiors; Robert Pace III, Center for Applied Energy Research; Heather Hacker, Center for Applied Energy Research

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Gathering at the Table (24,111.98)

Food production and consumption is a core component of sustainable communities; its impacts extend from the livelihoods of those who produce food, the ecosystems that support agricultural production, and the health and wellbeing of our community. Through preparing and eating sustainably sourced food, Gathering at the Table brings together food systems experts from University of Kentucky, passionate student leaders from Campus Kitchen, food justice advocates from Fresh Stop Markets, and eaters of all kinds from the community to grow a sustainable, community food system.

Gathering at the Table includes a two-fold approach:

1. Chef Tanya Whitehouse of The Food Connection will train both student and community leaders as “Emersion Chefs” with the skills, knowledge and strategies to deliver cooking demonstrations with local, sustainably sourced ingredients, and thereby spread that knowledge to others.

2. These culinary leaders will partner with the Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky to host a series of Food Justice dinners in which attendees 'pay what they can' for a local, sustainably sourced and healthful meal accompanied by dialogue related to food justice and security. Revenue from dinners will serve as seed money to fund for future purchases of produce from farms that would otherwise go to waste; thereby enriching the farm economy.

By engaging a diversity of on- and off-campus community members in experiential learning and informed dialogue, Gathering at the Table ‘connects the dots’ between sustainable food production, vibrant food economies, and social justice to establish leaders of a thriving community food system.

Final Report

Team Members: Tanya Whitehouse, The Food Connection; Lilian Brislen, The Food Connection; Amanda Hege, Dietetics and Human Nutrition; Connor VanMeter, Agricultural Biotechnology; Erin Casey, Dietetics and Human Nutrition

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Measuring Up: Sustainability Assessment of Campus Buildings at the University of Kentucky

This project seeks to provide campus stakeholders with a toolkit for assessing the

sustainability of campus buildings at the University of Kentucky. Consisting of state-of-the-art hardware and software, the toolkit is designed to collect environmental, social, and economic data of the built environment and perform a data-driven assessment of its triple bottom line impacts using a comprehensive set of sustainability metrics. Using the campus as a living laboratory to test the toolkit, we will conduct a pilot study of the new Gatton College of Business and Economics building, and complete a prototype sustainability assessment and reporting system to evaluate the its effectiveness in promoting a sustainable campus for academic excellence. In addition, students in undergraduate and graduate courses in architecture, interiors, and economics will use the toolkit in course assignments, and after completing the pilot study, we will establish a lending library to house the toolkit for use by students and faculty in future sustainability assessments. Plans for a new graduate degree in building science are currently underway, and will benefit from the toolkit and resources developed in this project. Ongoing progress and results will be accessible on a dedicated project website, and the completion of the project will serve as an impetus for the team to seek external funding from NSF’s Smart and Connected Communities program. The project is co-led by a multidisciplinary team of faculty from the School of Architecture, School of Interiors, Department of Economics, and Department of Marketing and Supply Chain.

Team Members: Anita Lee-Post, UK Department of Marketing & Supply Chain; Brent Sturlaugson & Bruce Swetnam, UK School of Architecture; Rebekah Radtke, UK School of Interiors; Yoonbai Kim, UK Department of Economics

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Mobilizing Tree Ambassadors Through Campus and Community Engagement, Teaching and Research

Since its inception in 2014 the Urban Forest Initiative (UFI) has raised awareness of the urban forest by working collaboratively with UK students and others to engage people on campus, in the community, and in K-12 schools. Through outreach, education and service opportunities, UFI activities have enhanced understanding of the contributions urban trees can make to the ecological integrity, economic vitality, and social equity of our communities. The success of UFI is evident in the ‘creation’ of campus Tree Ambassadors, including the student-led UK Urban Forestry Club, service fraternities requesting to collaborate on service events, six undergraduate students trained as UFI interns and research fellows to develop different facets of campus and community projects, and successful community tree care workshops and events. Here we propose to ‘mobilize’ campus Tree Ambassadors with three key projects that build strongly on these initial efforts:

  • Integrate campus service projects and volunteer events into research, with feedback to campus operations, management, and cost savings.
  • Expand a community tree workshop program piloted by a UK undergraduate in 2016 into a Train-the-Trainer program to train students to deliver community tree workshops and tree care events on campus, in Lexington, and in other Bluegrass communities.
  • Leverage delivery of UFI-developed urban forestry curriculum into K-12 and university classrooms through collaborations with existing student-led organizations.

The success of this project will be measured in research results and outcomes, direct involvement of UK students in program delivery, and engagement with campus and community members.

Team Members: Mary Arthur, Nic Williamson, and Grace Coy, UK Forestry; Lynne Rieske-Kinney, UK Entomology; Ellen Crocker, Forest Health Research & Education Center; Jerry Hart, UK PPD

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