CSU Commitment to Sustainability

The Living Lab

April 22nd, 2013

By Erik Fallis
CSU Public Affairs

The California State University is funding grants to encourage innovative thinking in the merging of academics and facilities management. The “Campus as a Living Lab” Grant Program combines the CSU’s principle of sustainability with “hands-on” applied learning designed to prepare students to excel in a modern workforce.

The awards will be broken down into individual grants of $12,000 for projects that best demonstrate:

  • Development or redesign of a course that ties elements of sustainability into opportunities for learning using the campus physical plant.
  • Creation of an interdisciplinary Learning Community, focused on campus sustainability and comprised of faculty, staff, students, and/or community college partners.

Participants are strongly encouraged to incorporate at least one high-impact practice into their proposal. These practices include for-credit internships, service-learning courses, undergraduate research opportunities, student learning communities and first year or capstone programs.

In addition to providing the grants, the CSU held sessions to brainstorm numerous approaches to accomplish “Campus as a Living Lab” objectives.


Groups of students and faculty gathered with facilities staff and managers to think up ways to use our campuses to reinforce academic learning. The gatherings took place in northern California (left) on March 7 and in southern California on March 15 (right).


Education often describes the activity that takes place on a university campus, with the setting of that education playing a passive role. Keynote speaker Dr. Herb Childress, dean of Research and Assessment at Boston Architectural College, challenged participants to think deeper about role of facilities.

What if the physical campus and its operations became part of the educational dialogue? What can be learned from the location, structures and operations of a campus? How can facilities contribute or detract from student outcomes?


Participants brainstormed ideas to achieve the objectives of the lab, posting the thoughts on contact paper at the front of the room.


Groups developed many of the brainstorm ideas further, presenting rough outlines to help cultivate discussion and share approaches among campuses.

Many of those ideas are now being further developed across the state, as CSU campuses prepare grant applications.

This grant program is a partnership between the CSU Divisions of Business and Finance, Academic Affairs, and Systemwide Academic Senate. More information on the program and how to apply is available here.

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Michael Clemson
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Last Updated: April 24, 2015