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A Service-Learning Model

Jun 01, 2023   |   Dartmouth Engineer

"Meaningful community-based research is energizing and inspiring," says Professor Sarah Kelly, an Irving Institute for Energy and Society research associate.

Through "Environmental Justice" and the complementary Energy Justice Clinic, Kelly and Professor Maron Greenleaf give students the tools and hands-on opportunities to explore that type of research—in the Upper Valley and around the world.

"There's really innovative work being done on transitioning to renewable energy right here in the Upper Valley and we're excited to enable Dartmouth students to contribute to it." —Professor Maron Greenleaf (Photo by Rob Strong '04)

"It's kind of an engaged, service-learning model," says Greenleaf. Housed in the anthropology department, the clinic partners with the Irving Institute, Center for Social Impact, as well as the Design Initiative at Dartmouth (DIAD), the Thayer-led effort that supports Dartmouth students and faculty seeking to integrate design thinking into their learning, teaching, or research.

"Many environmental issues benefit from a multi-disciplinary perspective, and we also find that our students appreciate learning about them in this way," says Greenleaf, an anthropologist who studies the politics of climate change and green economies. "Sarah has done a lot of work in community-based research and learning in Chile and elsewhere. My training as an environmental lawyer gives me a background in policy."

This collaborative approach extends throughout the classroom and into the field. Greenleaf serves as faculty director of the clinic and primary professor in the classroom, while Kelly is director of practice and works with students on their clinical work and engagement with community partners.

The professors earned the 2022 Apgar Award for Innovation in Teaching for the course—which considers how various communities experience environmental harms—and credit design thinking with expanding their impact. A DIAD grant enabled them to develop related experiences through the clinic. Last summer, they piloted peer-to-peer training between Dartmouth students in which DIAD teaching assistants led a two-day workshop for clinic research assistants.

"DIAD training has helped us to facilitate students working in three different applied projects on energy justice in the Upper Valley, southern Chile, and east Africa," says Kelly. "Students are involved via social impact practicum and as research assistants, interns, and via independent studies."

For the Upper Valley study, engineering sciences student Gannon Forsberg '25 researched community power initiatives in California and Colorado to inform a Hanover plan. The town joined the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire (CPCNH) to aggregate energy purchases to reach 100-percent renewable electricity by 2030 and lower energy prices for residents. "Learning from the past successes of other communities is important," he says.

"There's been a lot of thought that's gone into this so it's economical and going to deliver value and be reliable."

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