EM SC 470
Applied Sustainability in Contemporary Culture

Instructor Information


Dan Kasper

Hi, everyone! My name is Dan Kasper, and I will be your instructor for this course. I am very much looking forward to working with all of you this semester! One of the great things about this course (and the Energy and Sustainability Policy degree program in general) is that we are privileged to have students from a variety of professional, personal, and academic backgrounds enrolled. I embrace this type of diversity and view it as an asset, and I hope you all do too.

I grew up in a very small town in Central Pennsylvania (Milesburg) – believe it or not, the townsfolk are still waiting for their first stop light! I enrolled at Penn State with the intention of becoming an engineer, but after trying out a few majors ended up deciding on Earth Science because it interested me the most. I've always been, and continue to be, fascinated by natural processes, from the tiniest processes such as soil formation to the large, dramatic processes such as mountain building. After earning my BS, I spun my wheels for a few years bartending and working at the Center for Environmental Informatics at Penn State. I focused mostly on basic Geographic Information Systems (GIS) work at the latter job. I continued to use GIS throughout my academic career.

After a few years, my wife and I moved to Denver, Colorado, where I earned my MA in Geography from the University of Denver. My wife and I think very fondly of our time in Denver because we absolutely love the scenery, the people, and the active lifestyle there. And we really miss the music scene as well! I am now enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Delaware's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP). In my time at CEEP I have engaged in a number of research projects, including analyzing a sustainable energy future for South Korea, a policy report on promoting personal food production in Delaware, and designing an energy education workshop series focusing on helping low and fixed income individuals take control of their energy use, among other topics.

I worked as a curriculum designer and project manager for a weatherization training center in Philadelphia (focusing on low-income clients), and continue to consult in the solar PV and energy management fields. I currently teach full time in the Energy Technologies Department at Delaware Technical Community College in Newark, Delaware. We offer degrees in Energy Management and Renewable Energy Solar, and I teach courses for both degrees.

two men standing in nacelle of wind turbine
Your fearless instructor in the nacelle of a 50m tall wind turbine in Denmark (I am on the left). In the background is a quintessential Danish countryside.
Credit: D. Kasper

I love to travel and am the International Education Coordinator for my campus at Delaware Tech. I took students to Denmark a few years ago for a renewable energy course (here is my blog from the trip, if you are so inclined) and took students to Switzerland in 2015 (see my blog about that experience if you're interested), 2016, and 2017, and will return in 2019. I took students to Italy for a Sustainability class this year, and am planning Sustainability courses in Arizona and Colorado in 2019. I have taken a few Penn State students with me on these experiences, as the associated course transfers to Penn State and may satisfy your foreign studies requirement (it definitely does for ESP majors!). If that is something you are interested in, please let me know. I have been to Europe a number of times, and have traveled to various parts of the U.S. as well. You learn a lot about yourself when you are taken out of your comfort zone, and no better way to do that than in a new (and hopefully interesting) place!

My academic, professional, and personal focus has for a long time been on figuring out ways to live more sustainably and helping others to do the same while doing what I can to advocate for and establish socially just and ecologically responsible ways of living. That, and I really like to garden. I have helped establish multiple community gardens, and am a firm believer in harvesting the grassroots power of communities (sorry for the double pun). Over the years I have realized that getting something done is mostly a two-step process: 1) Find like-minded people who also want to get it done. 2) Do it! There are of course a lot of devils in the details, and you don't always end up getting what you desired, but the journey is always worth it!

I believe strongly in the power of respectful, substantive dialogue, and as I noted above, I value diversity. One of my favorite aspects of teaching/academia is engaging with students and colleagues in such dialogue. This course is in part designed to facilitate such dialogue (digitally, of course), and I encourage you to contribute as you can. As Dudley Malone (yeah, I don’t know who he is either) said, “I have never in my life learned anything from any man (sic) who agreed with me.” Chauvinistic language aside, I think this is a cogent thought. I encourage you to embrace new ideas and take into serious consideration ones that don’t jibe with your current worldview. And remember, there is an important difference between thinking critically and being critical!

One of my favorite quotes is: “Climb to the top of the mountain so you can see the world, not so it can see you” (unknown author). I hope that this course, and I, can help you take some steps closer to whichever mountain top you are trying to reach.

Haley Sankey

Haley Sankey

My professional path to ESP

I am a faculty member for the online Bachelor of Arts in Energy and Sustainability Policy, instructing EGEE 495: Internship Experience, EGEE 299: Foreign Studies, and EM SC 302: Orientation to Energy and Sustainability Policy. Previously, I worked as a licensing coordinator assisting hydroelectric utilities navigate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s cooperative licensing agreement process. I helped foster stakeholder involvement, a critical component for successful license submission and approval as well as supported habitat and water quality study efforts. I also recently served as the Southern Alleghenies Regional Energy Coordinator, completing energy audits and educating municipalities on energy reduction and savings opportunities.

I received my master’s degree in project management from the Penn State Black School of Business, and my undergraduate degree from Juniata College, where my program of emphasis was environmental practice and policy.

Your instructor as a person

Although I have lived elsewhere on the east coast, I have always called central Pennsylvania home. In my free time, I like to travel. My love for experiencing other cultures is the result of a semester spent in Kerala, India during my undergraduate days. While there, I completed 18 credits of coursework, including Indian environmental law and Bharatanatyam dance. Since then I have been fortunate enough to visit many places, but I still have a lot of destinations on my bucket list! In the meantime, I have been hiking and backpacking as much as possible in the United States. I also kayak, ski, hunt, fish, and love to cook whenever I can find the time.