The University of Connecticut has received a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support a new program called Environment Corps.
Environment Corps, also known as E-Corps, aims to use STEM skills to address environmental issues like climate adaptation, brownfield remediation and municipal level stormwater management. It will combine elements of classroom instruction, service learning and UConn Extension’s previous work for students to develop STEM skills and get “real world” experience.
“This new program is aimed at expanding and studying a new public engagement program that combines teaching, service learning and Extension outreach,” UConn Extension wrote in a post announcing the grant.
E-Corps consists of a class in the fall focused on local environmental challenges, followed by a class in the spring where students are formed into teams and work with the town on local projects.
It will include faculty from five departments: UConn Extension, geography, educational curriculum and instruction, natural resources and the environment and civil and environmental engineering. According to the head of the department of civil and environmental engineering Maria Chrysochoou, UConn intends to target and involve up to 400 students over the course of five years.
“We are hoping to solidify a paradigm of service learning that will spread across disciplines and engage students from more backgrounds and on diverse topics,” Chrysochoou said. “This is a five-year grant, and the idea is that we will create a standard that will establish service learning at the institutional level, so that it can continue beyond the life of the grant.”
Chet Arnold, principal investigator of the grant and director of UConn’s Center for Land Use and Research, said the entire team is excited and gratified that the NSF selected them for funding.
“This will allow us to expand and better coordinate our efforts, and create something that will hopefully be part of the University’s public engagement portfolio for a long time,” Arnold said.
E-Corps’ parent program, Climate Corps, was funded and created in 2016 with a central focus on town-level impacts of climate change. According to UConn Extension, It has since been turned into three separate facets of Climate Corps that focus on different environmental impacts such as climate, brownfields and storm water. It has been able to continue and expand with support from students and local towns.
“The NSF-funded project involves expansion and coordination of the three [Climate Corps] programs, but has a major focus on studying the impact of the E-Corps approach on students, faculty, participating towns and the UConn community,” Arnold said.
The E-Corps model has been well-received by students, as classes for the Climate and Brownfields Corps are filled to capacity this fall.
“[Environment Corps] combines the familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning and UConn Extension’s work with communities in a unique way,” Arnold said. “It allows students to develop STEM skills and get ‘real-world’ experience as preparation for the workforce, while communities receive help in responding to environmental mandates that they often lack the resources to address on their own.”
Thumbnail Image Courtesy of National Science Foundation
Naeila Suleiman is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.