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Penstemon Project

The Penstemon Project supports faculty to integrate sustainability across the curriculum in every school and department at SCU. The project offers funding and training for the faculty, strengthening our campus culture of sustainability. Penstemon also keeps an inventory of all courses that include sustainability, building our reputation as a leader in higher education.


What is a Sustainability-Related Course?

According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), sustainability-related courses address two or more of the following dimensions of sustainability: “social wellbeing, economic prosperity, and/or environmental health.”

Penstemon supports faculty to develop courses that are sustainability-focused or that simply include sustainability as a component.

In a sustainability-focused course, “the primary and explicit focus is on sustainability and/or on understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenges.”

A course that includes sustainability is “primarily focused on a topic other than sustainability, but incorporates a unit or module on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, includes one or more sustainability-focused activities, or integrates sustainability issues throughout the course.”

Sustainability challenges include “climate change, global poverty and inequality, natural resource depletion, environmental degradation,” and many others. For example, a course addresses a relevant challenge if it helps to realize one or more principles in the Earth Charter or one or more of the targets listed in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Have more questions about what counts? Feel free to e-mail Chad Raphael (

How Penstemon Supports the Faculty

Since 2007, the project has offered annual stipends and professional development workshops for faculty members who want to revise an existing course or design a new one to include sustainability. Workshops introduce a host of teaching resources and offer individualized support, while recognizing that faculty members are the experts in their fields.

How to Apply for a Summer Stipend

While stipends are sometimes arranged on a departmental or school basis, any faculty member can query Chad Raphael ( with an idea for adding a sustainability component to a course or developing a new course focused on sustainability. Awards are restricted to full-time faculty who anticipate teaching at SCU the following year. Stipend recipients commit to attend a workshop in spring quarter and to submit their revised syllabi at the end of the following summer.

2018 Stipend Recipients
Recipient Department
Janice Edgerly-Rooks Biology
Christelle Sabatier Biology
Lianna Wong Biology
Bonita Banducci Engineering
Jeannice Samani Engineering
Jes Kuczenski Engineering
T. Calvin Tszeng Mechanical Engineering
Catherine Sandoval Law
Andy Tsay Information Systems & Analytics
Fiona Ji Management
How We Track our Progress

Drawing data from the University Registrar, department chairs, and the faculty, the project compiles an annual inventory of sustainability courses taught each year and their enrollments.  We report the data to AASHE, using its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS). We also build University, college-level, and department-level dashboards and reports for chairs and administrators.

Sustainability Curriculum Advisory Council

The Sustainability Curriculum Advisory Council was created in 2017 to assist in Penstemon efforts by supporting the infusion of sustainability across the Santa Clara University curriculum. Members review curriculum inventory (process and results) and recommend faculty to receive summer stipends for curriculum transformation. They also collaborate to develop ideas to further sustainability-related curricular development.

Virginia Matzekimage

1 of the 5 Penstemon Project Organizers

Virginia Matzek

“The Penstemon Project is designed for faculty outside of the traditional environmentally-focused disciplines to find ways to incorporate sustainability into their curriculum – either as class content or in the way their class functions. It could be as simple as having a field trip to a nature area in a writing class – or even simpler, carpooling to that field trip.”