EM SC 470
Applied Sustainability in Contemporary Culture



EMSC 470: Applied Sustainability in Contemporary Culture, Spring 2019

This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to “jump” to a specific section. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Course Orientation. Together these serve as our course "contract."


Dan Kasper

Dan Kasper, Instructor

  • For a full introduction, see the "Meet the Instructor" page on this website.
  • A note about contacting me: The best way to reach me without an appointment is via email. Please use Canvas email (see below). I check my email frequently and will respond to you within 1 business day. If you have a question regarding course content, I request that you use the HAVE A QUESTION discussion board. This may help other students who have the same or a similar question.
  • Phone: (302) 747-0638. Please only use this if you need immediate assistance and email did not work. I check my email very frequently during the week, but if I do not respond you are welcome to call or text - text message preferred. If I do not respond immediately, I will respond as soon as possible. If we set up a phone meeting, this will be the number I use.
  • Email: Please use the course email system (see the Inbox tab in Canvas). It is important that you use your Canvas email and not your personal email.
  • Office Hours: I will check for and reply to email messages at least once each workday, and some weekend days. Please contact me to make an appointment if you’d like to speak to me at a given time. I am flexible and will make every effort to accommodate your schedule. I am generally available for appointments weekday evenings and weekends.
Instructor Haley Sankey

Haley Sankey, Instructor
Lecturer, Department of Earth and Mineral Sciences, John A. Dutton e-Education Institute

  • Office: 415 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building
  • Office Phone: 814-863-1009
  • Home Phone: 814-577-7760
  • Email: hjs142@psu.edu
  • Office Hours: By appointment

NOTE: I will read and respond to email at least once per day during the work week (Monday through Friday). I will check email on the weekends, but cannot guarantee prompt responses.


If you have any questions that you think may benefit other students in the class, please post them to the "HAVE A QUESTION" discussion board in Canvas. We will check the discussion board frequently (usually every day) and will respond in a timely manner. You are welcome to help answer questions from other students as well. Please use this as your first option, unless the question is something you don't want to share with other students.

We strongly suggest "subscribing" to both the HAVE A QUESTiON (especially) and Coffee Shop discussion boards. To do that, just click the "Subscribe" button on the discussion board itself. This will help you both get to know students (via the Coffee Shop) but also to be made aware of possible issues with and/or common questions about course content on the HAVE A QUESTION discussion board. The Coffee Shop is a place for you to post interesting articles, videos, news items, social media posts, etc. that relates to course content and you think other students may be interested in.

If you would prefer that the question is anonymous to the other students, please send it to course faculty through Canvas email. As noted above, we will check at least once each workday to respond. 

Course Overview

This course covers the first semester of the CAUSE 2022: Applied Sustainability in Colorado program. CAUSE is a 3 semester program - spring, summer and fall 2022. The spring portion provides an overview of topics that will be relevant to the next two semesters of the program, including food and farming, natural resource use, waste management, alternative energy technologies, as well as an overview of energy and water issues and policy in Colorado. Throughout the course, you will brainstorm possible ideas for your final CAUSE research project, in which you will propose an applied sustainability project of your design. At the end of this course, you will present ideas to your colleagues for feedback.

Prerequisites and concurrent courses:
EM SC 240N (or EM SC 297a, EM SC 240)

Course Objectives
When you successfully complete this course, you will be prepared to:

  • describe fundamental concepts in energy and sustainability;
  • examine the sustainability implications of waste management, renewable energy, food production, and economic activity;
  • evaluate the viability of information sources;
  • apply critical and systems thinking to contemporary energy and sustainability concepts;
  • calculate the output of various renewable energy technologies, including wind turbines, solar arrays, and hydroelectric plants;
  • propose practical applications for energy and sustainability concepts.


The three-semester program includes one credit of online coursework in the spring semester, which will include mandatory online meetings. EM SC 240N (or EM SC 297a, EM SC 240) is a pre-requisite for the CAUSE program and can be taken in tandem with the one credit EMSC 470 in the spring semester.

The summer semester is comprised of one credit of travel during June 25-July 3rd, 2022 where students will visit multiple sites in Denver, Boulder, Paonia, and Ouray, Colorado to learn more about sustainability and energy practices and policies here in the United States. Students will identify their fall project topic during travel and will complete journaling exercises related to their travel experiences.

Fall semester is an online two-credit course in which students will complete research projects identified during their travel. Approved projects may be team based or completed individually.

Required Course Materials

Online lesson content
All materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in Canvas. In order to access the online materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources).

The bulk of the course will be completed online and asynchronously. In the spring and fall portions of the course, you will be required to meet intermittently via remote access technology. The summer portion requires you to participate in the full travel experience in Colorado.


This course will rely on a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:

  • Personal introduction. You will introduce yourself to the rest of the class in the Orientation section by posting a video. You will be required to view and analyze other students' videos as well. 
  • Content quizzes. You will have a quiz about every other week. The quizzes are not designed to be "tricky," but will require you to thoughtfully analyze the course material. All quizzes carry the same weight. You are only allowed to take each quiz one time unless otherwise noted. The quizzes are untimed, and save automatically as you fill them out. 
  • Journal entries. You will be required to post to your Journal from time to time throughout the semester. The journal provides a platform for you to explore ideas for your Final Project in the fall. I suggest using it as a repository for all information related to your Final Project, include but not limited to links to articles, images, personal photos, and case studies, in addition to brainstormed ideas about your Final Project. This must be shared with the course instructors, but may be kept private from others.
  • Discussion boards. The discussion boards will vary in content. They are primarily designed to facilitate discussion regarding application of course content to contemporary issues.
  • Project Proposals. At the end of the semester, you will propose 1 - 2 applied sustainability projects. The purpose of this assignment is for you to start working through details of possible Final Projects. You are not expected to determine your Final Project at this time! You will develop ideas throughout the program. This assignment consists of four (4) components: rough proposals (feedback will provided by instructors), peer review of rough proposals, final proposals, and a presentation. 
  • Creating Web Content: NOTE: This course may require students to maintain a web presence that may include things such as the creation of a web page, blog postings, video sharing and other Internet participation. You may be required to participate in online activities that are widely accessible to all, including others outside of Penn State.

It is important that your work is submitted in the proper format to the appropriate Canvas Assignment or Discussion Forum and by the designated due date. I strongly advise that you not wait until the last minute to complete these assignments—give yourself time to ask questions, think things over, and chat with others. You'll learn more, do better...and be happier!

Due dates for all assignments are posted on the course calendar in Canvas and the Google Calendar on the Home Page.


Breakdown of each assignment's value as a percentage of the total course grade.
Assignment Percent of Grade
Introductions 5%
Quizzes 35%
Journals 10%
Discussion Boards 20%
Project Proposals 15%
Peer Review 5%
Project Presentation 10%

I will use the Canvas gradebook to keep track of your grades. You can see your grades in the Gradebook, too. Overall course grades will be determined as follows. Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned.

Letter Grade and Corresponding Percentage
Letter Grade Percentages
A 93 - 100 %
A- 90 - 92.9 %
B+ 87 - 89.9 %
B 83 - 86.9 %
B- 80 - 82.9%
C+ 77 - 79.9 %
C 70 - 76.9 %
D 60 - 69.9 %
F < 60 %

Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Extra Credit
Extra credit may be offered, per instructor discretion.

Late Policy

Late work is not accepted, except under extenuating circumstances. If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, please contact me. Such requests will be considered on a case by case basis. Course lessons are available to you in advance. It is your responsibility to plan ahead and work ahead if necessary to accommodate your personal schedule.

There is one exception to the rule above: You are allowed one "freebie." You can use your freebie on one assignment this semester. You cannot utilize this for a discussion board or for the Project Proposals. A freebie buys you exactly one extra week to hand in the assignment. If you use this, you must inform me by the due date. An email notification is fine. 

Spring Semester Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule

Below, you will find a basic outline of the semester for this course. Consult the course website for more detailed information regarding tasks and Canvas Calendar for exact due dates.

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Time Frame Lesson Topic
Weeks 1 and 2  Orientation and personal introductions
Weeks 3 and 4 Lesson 1: Solar and Anaerobic Digestion
Week 5 Lesson 2: Wind and Microhydro
Weeks 6 and 7 Lesson 3: Waste Management
Weeks 8 and 9 Lesson 4: Food and Farming
Weeks 10 and 11 Lesson 5: Sustainable Buildings
Week 12 Lesson 6: Geography, Energy, and Water in CO
Week 13 Lesson 7: Finalize initial project proposal(s)
Week 14 Lesson 7: Peer review of project propsals
Week 15 Lesson 7: Final presentation of project proposals

Course Policies

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the IT Service Desk.

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.


This course must be viewed using the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported. If you use any other browser, or if you are not using the latest version of your browser, some pages containing equations may not render properly. In addition, javascript must be enabled for equations to render properly. If you have any issues with equations not rendering properly, please update your browser to the latest version or try using a different browser. If you need additional technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. 

According to Penn State policy  G-9: Academic Integrity, an academic integrity violation is “an intentional, unintentional, or attempted violation of course or assessment policies to gain an academic advantage or to advantage or disadvantage another student academically.” Unless your instructor tells you otherwise, you must complete all course work entirely on your own, using only sources that have been permitted by your instructor, and you may not assist other students with papers, quizzes, exams, or other assessments. If your instructor allows you to use ideas, images, or word phrases created by another person (e.g., from Course Hero or Chegg) or by generative technology, such as ChatGPT, you must identify their source. You may not submit false or fabricated information, use the same academic work for credit in multiple courses, or share instructional content. Students with questions about academic integrity should ask their instructor before submitting work.

Students facing allegations of academic misconduct may not drop/withdraw from the affected course unless they are cleared of wrongdoing (see G-9: Academic Integrity). Attempted drops will be prevented or reversed, and students will be expected to complete coursework and meet course deadlines. Students who are found responsible for academic integrity violations face academic outcomes, that can be severe, and put themselves at jeopardy for other outcomes which may include ineligibility for the Dean's List, pass/fail elections, and grade forgiveness. Students may also face consequences from their home/major program and/or The Schreyer Honors College.

Please also see Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Procedures, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State’s “Academic Integrity Training for Students.

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note-Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws. For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides the contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website.

To receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. See Student Disability Resources: Applying for Services. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency campus disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following: 

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision-making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information with others whom you do not know. 

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If, for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances, or university-approved activities.  If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

In EMS, inclusivity is one of our core values. We prioritize fostering a diverse and equitable community where each member knows they belong here and is inspired to succeed. We encourage everyone in our EMS community to be actively engaged in fostering this ideal, and all members of this class should contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and interact with civility. Our commitment to inclusivity aligns with Penn State’s values and policies. 

To learn more, visit EMS Educational Equity.  Here, you will find information about the EMS ALLWE initiative, the Rainbow EMS Network, Anti-Racism, active ally-ship, bystander intervention, and more. The site also has resources for where to turn if you need assistance and links to University references.  Also, contact your EMS department’s Associate Head for DEI for more information about department initiatives. 

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes to the syllabus shall be given to you in written (paper or electronic) form.