The Montclair State University Foundation received a $525,000 grant from the PSEG Foundation in support of the “Building Transformative Pathways to Sustainability Program” through the University’s PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies (PSEG ISS) and the Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center (CESAC) for spring 2022 through August 2023.
The most recent grant fuels the PSEG ISS Green Teams Program, which provides paid internships for undergraduate students to tackle sustainability challenges in communities across the state, along with CESAC’s clean energy STEM education and outreach for K-12 and graduate students.
The PSEG Foundation’s support for sustainability initiatives at the University dates back to 2009. With this support, PSEG ISS and CESAC are leading efforts to create transformative pathways to sustainability careers for students from highly diverse backgrounds and disciplines. These students go on to become the environmental visionaries and leaders of tomorrow, with the skills, knowledge and ability to work together to address climate change and build a greener, healthier planet.
“The PSEG ISS Green Teams Program and CESAC initiatives are at the heart of what Montclair State University does best – preparing students to address today’s most urgent problems and empowering them to become leaders in an increasingly complex world,” says Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell. “We are grateful for the progress our partnership with PSEG makes possible, harnessing resources across public and private sectors to lift up individual lives and have collective impact in local communities.”
“The PSEG Foundation is honored to continue our longstanding partnership with Montclair State University as together we strive to have an impact in communities throughout the state,” says Calvin Ledford Jr., PSEG Foundation President. “For several years running, the Montclair State University PSEG ISS Green Teams have been tackling real-world challenges and infusing sustainability into organizations that are forever changed by the work of these students. The PSEG Foundation aims to engage and support organizations that foster social justice, equity, education and workforce and economic empowerment – and Montclair State University and its diverse programs continue to be shining examples in this endeavor.”
Teaming for Green Strategies and Careers
The PSEG ISS Green Teams internship program based at the University has been a platform for launching 320 students into internships, green jobs and graduate and professional study since 2016. The program successfully engages students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines representing a wide range of colleges and universities in team-based, hands-on problem solving for climate change and sustainability through academic-corporate-community partnerships.
Kicking off in June, this year’s Green Teams have devoted 10 weeks to providing specific strategies and recommendations for 10 hosting organizations. Each team consists of five undergraduate students from 31 universities and 45 degree programs. The Green Team Program’s transdisciplinary structure adds to its effectiveness, recognizing that complex solutions are required to address the complex problems of current and future sustainability issues.
The 10 Green Teams for 2022 representing their sponsoring organizations are: Avalon Bay Communities; RWJBarnabas Health – Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center; NJ Bike and Walk Coalition – Essex-Hudson Greenway Project; New Jersey Natural Gas; New Jersey Resources; NJ TRANSIT; Northern New Jersey Community Foundation together with Hackensack Riverkeeper; PSEG; Trust for Public Land; and Weeks Marine, Inc.
The teams’ work includes providing strategies and recommendations to improve sustainability challenges such as mapping, calculating and analyzing flood water reductions through implementation of green infrastructure; performing baseline environmental assessments; researching carbon offsets and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Renewable Thermal Credit and the Renewable Fuel Standard markets; and evaluating the carbon footprint of generators and developing strategies to reduce emissions. Other projects involve creating marketing campaigns, public education materials and community outreach and engagement on issues such as emissions savings, open space, water quality and the benefits of rain gardens, as well as creating a database of existing national and international interactive nature exhibits and co-creating plans for these types of exhibits with local communities.
The work will have a direct impact on each of the sponsoring organizations and for the State of New Jersey and beyond, as the outcomes make headway toward 2050 climate and energy initiatives and goals. In addition to improving the environment and the economy, the experience immerses students from diverse backgrounds and fields into the professional culture of STEM careers, strengthening their skills and giving them insight into career paths and possibilities.
“We are excited to contribute the creative brain power and current learning from diverse students to address so many critical and urgent projects this summer with an exceptional group of hosting organizations,” says PSEG ISS Director Amy Tuininga. “These are the folks that get the urgency and see the value in fresh talent to address our planet’s call to action.”
Clean Energy Mentoring and Education
Since the launch of CESAC as a public research and assistance center in 2018 with initial funding from the PSEG Foundation, the Center has researched and provided support for clean energy policies, technology and practices through research and education programs. The most recent PSEG Foundation grant focuses on the Center’s education programs, specifically its mentoring initiatives and clean energy STEM education for K-12 and graduate students in schools throughout New Jersey, the majority of which are in urban areas with considerable populations of underrepresented groups.
In the last four years, CESAC has paired K-16 students and researchers – largely women from underrepresented groups in STEM research initiatives – with senior researchers to learn modeling techniques, data analysis, survey design, ArcGIS analysis, life cycle analysis, scientific writing techniques, and other skills that are useful as students and in future careers.
The overarching goal is to bring students through both STEM education and mentorships to advance into meaningful careers in the industry, achieving a pipeline that increases diversity.
“Partnerships like this one demonstrate the value of collaboration between the University and private industry in accelerating equitable clean energy transitions,” says CESAC Director Pankaj Lal. “This support will help CESAC contribute to the collective effort to build a sustainable energy economy in New Jersey and further student research and education so that they can become tomorrow’s energy and sustainability leaders.”
The University’s sustainability initiatives align with PSEG’s focus on a clean energy future, powered by a diverse, dedicated and highly skilled workforce.
“Through PSEG ISS and CESAC, we are providing life-changing experiential learning and research opportunities for diverse students, giving them skills that will influence their careers and instilling a strong public-service purpose to their pursuits,” says Koppell.
By Laura Iandiorio, director of Development Communications.
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