What is the Sustainability Exchange?
“The Exchange” is for students and faculty who want to make an impact on real sustainability projects. This interdisciplinary course convened by the Environmental Studies program prepares students to lead positive change by applying their knowledge & skills to a range of community-identified environmental projects. It allows faculty members to explore projects and partnerships outside the scope of their usual academic duties, and provides an access point outside organizations to connect with the university.
The course is structured around project teams, each made up of a client, a faculty advisor, and a student team working toward a common goal. Projects run for at least two semesters, with client and faculty advisor maintaining their relationship and goal as teams of students rotate through the course. The role of the faculty advisor is to create an environment for learning and growth that results in students creating a meaningful final deliverable for the client.
An interdisciplinary group of faculty and staff launched the Sustainability Exchange in 2015. Founders included Liz Kramer, Director of the Office for Socially Engaged Practice in the Sam Fox School; Dr. Bill Lowry, Professor of Political Science; Dr. Pratim Biswas, Chair of the McKelvey School of Engineering; and Phil Valko, Associate Vice Chancellor for Sustainability. Between 2015-2023, students and faculty in the Exchange have worked on over 35 projects with clients ranging from nonprofits to businesses to University departments. Class highlights include designing a solar array for Tyson Research Center, formally designating Washington University’s campus as an arboretum, developing a framework for tracking regional greenhouse gas emissions with OneSTL, and writing a sustainability plan for University City, and partnering with dozens of other partners.