Students Unite, Study Abroad for Sustainability through GREEN Program

Motivational, empowering, inspirational and most importantly, environmentally life-changing: these are all characteristics used by Taylor Ryan and faculty advocate Jeffrey Brownson to describe the Global Renewable Energy Education Network program.

Director of the GREEN program Adam Phoebe said the program originated in 2009 at Rutgers University by students who had a mission and a passion for sustainability and renewable energy.

The purpose is to get students outside of the classroom and to apply their learning physically, whether it is a focus on hydro-power, wind power or some other type of energy, Phoebe said.

Students participating in the GREEN program are taken directly to the energy facilities and have the opportunity to speak with engineers to learn how the plants operate, Phoebe said.

The GREEN program offers a unique study abroad experience to locations such as Peru, Iceland and Philadelphia for international students studying abroad at Penn State.

Brownson, an associate professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering, said the GREEN program offers an entrepreneurship aspect that sets it apart from other study abroad experiences.

“These students want to be leaders and are looking for the hot new jobs in energy and sustainability, and if they don’t immediately find them, they can successfully create an international network of people to help locate positions and actually create the jobs themselves,” Brownson said.

Ryan (junior-community environment and development) said compared to her past study abroad experience through Penn State, the GREEN program emphasizes the importance of reaching outside of the comfort zone and pushing the boundaries.

“It taught me to be connected with a huge group of people with one common interest, which was sustainability. Having conversation with everybody about sustainability was really special to me,” Ryan said.

Ryan traveled to Iceland with the GREEN program and participated in activities such as hiking, glacier snorkeling, exploring caves, and visiting various energy facilities.

The GREEN program is not limited to students studying sustainability or renewable energy. While the program does focus on science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) outreach, there is no prerequisite of background, Brownson said.

“All of these students are coming from different backgrounds. It’s about doing these things for larger societal good. To have that kind of ethical underpinning in the study abroad is pretty huge,” Brownson said.

Aside from the education itself and the networking, the most valuable thing students take away from the program is a personal self-confidence. The program pushes students physically and mentally every day through different activities, Phoebe said.

Phoebe also runs a green ambassador internship program where students can receive internship credits and act as the head liaison, represent the university and share their personal stories with other students.

Applications for the GREEN program take approximately 15 minutes to complete and can be found online

Meagan can be reached at or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @meaganparker8.

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