Study Away Pittsburgh

Questions and Answers for Penn State Students

What is the Study Away Pittsburgh Program?

You’ve heard of Study Abroad where students spend a semester living and studying in a foreign country, and you know how impactful such an experience can be.  Penn State is pleased to offer a new opportunity that we are calling Study Away that creates a similar experience closer to home.

The Study Away Pittsburgh Program is a semester-long residential program in Pittsburgh intended to provide students with an immersive and rewarding experience in an urban setting. The 15-credit program emphasizes involvement of students in collaborative projects with community-based organizations, non-profit advocacy groups, social service agencies, health care providers, multidisciplinary design firms, socially responsible businesses, and government in Pittsburgh’s and its neighboring municipalities.  Through their research and learning projects, students are active participants in Penn State University’s efforts to address a wide array of urban sustainability issues in order to improve quality of life in metropolitan areas.  Pittsburgh is one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Global 100 Resilient Cities and is recognized internationally for its leadership in addressing issues of urban sustainability and resiliency.

Students will:

  • Learn about Pittsburgh’s communities and the efforts of groups and individuals to improve their neighborhoods;
  • Learn about a wide array of sustainability challenges in urban settings including energy, water, waste, transportation, human health, ecology, economic vitality, and social justice issues;
  • Participate in university/community projects that address community needs;
  • Collaborate closely with a community partner in an embedded practicum or internship.


Penn State students holding a sign read Penn State in Pittsburgh

What does the semester in Pittsburgh consist of?

The Study Away Pittsburgh program is built on a combination of three components:  an embedded field experience or internship with a community partner, a face-to-face course in urban sustainability challenges and solutions, and on-line courses.  There are two options:

  1. A 6-credit field experience/practicum with a local community partner + 6 credits of on-line course work to fulfill major or minor requirements + a 3 credit course in urban sustainability challenges and solutions.
  2. A 12-credit internship with a local community partner + a 3 credit course in urban sustainability challenges and solutions.  This option may be ideal for students who need to fulfill an internship requirement in order to graduate.

Here are the three components of the Study Away Pittsburgh program:


Study Away Pittsburgh Model

Who is Eligible to Apply?

Eligibility criteria includes:

  • Recipients will be undergraduates in good standing at Penn State University.
  • This program is open to students from any major who will have achieved junior standing or above by Spring 2018.
  • Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis for the Spring 2018 semester.

Majors and Minors

The program is designed with sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of a variety of majors and minors at Penn State, including, but not limited to:

  • Civic & Community Engagement (minor)
  • Community, Environment, and Development (major)
  • Global Health (minor)
  • Energy, Business, & Finance (major | minor)
  • Entrepreneurship & Innovation (minor)
  • Environmental Inquiry (minor)
  • Environmental Studies (minor)
  • Landscape Architecture (major)
  • Recreation, Parks & Tourism Management (major | minor)
  • Sustainability Leadership (minor)

Students who are interested in Study Away Pittsburgh are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor to determine how the 15 credits map onto their specific major or minor.

How Do You Apply?

To apply, Penn State undergraduate students must submit the following by the application deadline:

  • A personal statement (2 pp.) outlining your area(s) of study and your career interests.  You should explain how your academic work would benefit from the Study Away Pittsburgh program, as well as the contributions you feel that you could make to the program.
  • A letter of recommendation from a faculty member in your major or minor.
  • Your resume (PDF) including prior work experience, previous community experience, skills (research skills, web design, analytical skills, foreign language, etc.).
  • Completed application form.

What Does the Program Cost? Is There Financial Aid?

Students enrolled in Study Away Pittsburgh will pay tuition and fees.  There is also a program fee of $130.   Meals, books and incidental expenses are not included in the program fee and are the responsibility of the student.  Field trip expenses associated with the course are included in students’ tuition.

Financial aid is available from various sources including:

  • Pepsi Urban Sustainability Fellowships
    The Sustainability Institute and Penn State Center Pittsburgh invite undergraduate students in good standing to apply for Pepsi Urban Sustainability Fellowships.  Pepsi Urban Sustainability Fellows receive a stipend of $2,500 for one semester of study in the Study Away Pittsburgh Program.  A number of grants will be awarded for Spring 2018. To apply, simply check the fellowship box on the program application form.
  • Engaged Scholarship Grants
    The Sustainability Institute and Penn State Center Pittsburgh invite undergraduate students in good standing to apply for Engaged Scholarship Grants. Students can receive a grant of $2,500 that supports experiential learning endeavors outside of the classroom. A number of grants will be awarded for Spring 2018. To apply, simply check the fellowship box on the program application form.

Why Pittsburgh? Why Sustainability?

Networking: In addition to building your professional network through your field placement or internship, you will have an opportunity to network with Penn State alumni.  Pittsburgh is home to the largest group of Penn State alumni in the world!  And they are excited to meet you and welcome you to the city that they call home.

Fun in the City: Pittsburgh is a dynamic city of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own festivals and traditions.  Students are encouraged to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s many museums and cultural venues, as well as sporting events, and outdoor activities.

Why Urban Sustainability: World population is growing and is increasingly urbanized. In 2008, for the first time in human history more people lived in cities than in rural areas.   In 2011, another milestone was reached when world population topped seven billion.  By 2050, when world population is projected to reach 9 billion, 66% or 5.94 billion people will live in urban areas.  According to the 2010 census, 80.7 percent of US residents live in urban areas compared to 19.3 percent living in rural areas. This means that for the majority of the world’s population, the effects of climate change will be experienced in urban areas (Rosenzweig et al, 2011). As a result, cities find themselves on the front lines in dealing with the impacts of climate change.  Beyond climate change, cities are also on the front lines in improving quality of life for their residents. They are where the proverbial “rubber meets the road” when it comes to ensuring adequate housing, transportation, clean air and water, waste management, food supplies, education, and jobs for their growing populations.

Pittsburgh can be seen as a living laboratory for addressing some of the most pressing problems of the 21st century. Indeed, Pittsburgh has been leading the way as the birthplace of Sustainable Pittsburgh and Sustainable Pennsylvania.  Pittsburgh has been named one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Global 100 Resilient Cities and has recently completed a resiliency assessment.  Penn State’s Pittsburgh Center is a platform from which faculty and students can work to address 21st century urban challenges.  The Study Away Pittsburgh Program creates opportunities for students to get their hands dirty and gain valuable experience working alongside some of the leading organizations in the city who are tackling sustainability head on.

Who Are the Community Partners?

The following is a list of Community Partners.  This Community Partners‘ link outlines potential placements.

  • 412 Food Rescue
  • Allegheny County Conservation District
  • Allegheny Land Trust
  • Beechview Area Concerned Citizens
  • Bike Pittsburgh
  • Bloomfield Development Corporation
  • Braddock Borough
  • City of Pittsburgh
  • Community College of Allegheny County
  • Conservation Consultants Inc.
  • Etna Borough
  • Fourth Economy
  • Green Building Alliance
  • Hill Community Development Corporation
  • Nine Mile Run
  • Pennsylvania Environmental Council
  • Pittsburgh Food Policy Council
  • Quaker Valley Council of Governments
  • Superior Home Care
  • Sustainable Pittsburgh
  • Tree Pittsburgh
  • Tube City Renaissance
  • Urban Redevelopment Authority

What is the Deadline?

Students applying for the Spring 2018 semester are invited to submit an application on a rolling basis.

Fall 2017 Timeline

Student Orientation: Th-F, August 17-18, 2017
Classes and Community Placements Begin: M, August 21, 2017
Study Away Open House: Th, December 7, 2017
Classes and Community Placements End: F, December 8, 2017
Final Exams:  M-F, December 11-15, 2017

Spring 2018 Timeline

Student Application Open: M, June 26, 2017
Student Application Close: W, September 20, 2017
Students Receive Application Status: M, October 2, 2017
Accepted Students are Matched with Community Partners: W, November 1, 2017
Student Orientation: Th-F, January 4-5, 2018
Classes and Community Placements Begin: M, January 8, 2018
Study Away Open House: Th, April 26, 2018
Classes and Community Placements End: F, April 28, 2018
Final Exams: M-F, April 30-May 4, 2018