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With On-Campus Recruiting for next summer starting up, the word “internship” is on many students’ minds. But Mark Hughes’ new course “Sustainability 101” puts a very different spin on the word.

The new School of Design course, which will be offered for the first time in fall 2010, aims to actively improve environmental sustainability in Philadelphia. For now, Hughes is seeking undergraduate interns to help develop the course syllabus and generate real-world problem-solving possibilities.

The course is being offered in partnership with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and the Fox Leadership Program. Hughes expressed hopes that the course will give students ideas for other courses, majors and concentrations that focus on sustainability.

“I hope [the course] becomes something of a meeting place for teaching and learning, as well as acting on this issue,” he said.

Penn President Amy Gutmann agreed. “It’s an example of what I hoped we could do more and more of,” she said, “making courses accessible to students, regardless of what school they’re in.”

Dan Garofalo, Penn’s environmental sustainability coordinator, highlighted the student involvement aspect of the course, which he said builds on Penn’s other environmental efforts.

“Having an engaged student body raises the bar for everybody — these students are going to be the next generation of leaders,” he said. “This class will probably help them realize they can have a huge impact.”

Hughes said his experience as Philadelphia’s director of sustainability motivated him to teach a course that approaches the full breadth of sustainability-related issues.

In the spring, interns will work with Penn faculty as well as outside experts to help design the course and plan possible guest lectures.

Hughes said he also plans to reach out to campus organizations, such as the Penn Environmental Group.

These groups will be the “primary resource for developing this course,” he said, emphasizing the combination of student interest and activism they bring to the table.

Penn Environmental Group co-director Christiana Dietzen, a College junior, said she hopes the course will encourage both students and the local community to become more sustainable.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to get hands-on experience — to see what’s happening in the community they’re living in,” she said.

The course is also intended to fit into both Penn and Philadelphia’s wider environmental goals.

Specifically, Hughes said he hopes the interns will realize the potential students have to help institutions advance Philadelphia’s environment-related goals, such as by determining ways to enhance locally grown food and to make small behavior changes among large groups of people.

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