Experiential Education + Sustainability
Put simply, living laboratories can be defined as any productive/educational use of the campus landscape. Under such a broad definition, many things that may not be formal labs can still be considered living laboratories, from streams on campus to campus buildings. Living laboratories help students achieve a deeper level of experiential learning that is not possible from inside the classroom. They provide opportunities for college campuses to test innovative solutions, improve campus sustainability, and engage the community. For these reasons, many colleges and universities around the country have already implemented or are in the process of starting living laboratories.
Living Laboratories and Rutgers
Rutgers University has a three-fold mission:
- providing for the instructional needs of New Jersey’s citizens through its undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs;
- conducting the cutting-edge research that contributes to the medical, environmental, social, and cultural well-being of the state, as well as aiding the economy and the state’s businesses and industries; and
- performing public service in support of the needs of the citizens of the state and its local, county, and state governments.
Living laboratories easily fit in with the first two parts of the University’s mission: they enhance the student educational experience, while providing opportunities for innovative research to be done on campus. Students who participate in living laboratory projects can gain crucial real world experience that will help them become better public stewards, which ties into the third part of the University’s mission.
As mentioned in Revolutionary Past...Revolutionary Future, the Rutgers-New Brunswick Strategic Plan, Rutgers is looking to transform campus into a living laboratory for sustainability, providing experiential learning opportunities and encouraging faculty to develop courses and research that capitalize on this resource. With the recent success of the Our Rutgers, Our Future Campaign, the university has millions to put toward students and learning, campuses and facilities-in other words, living laboratories. A detailed proposal for A Living Lab for Sustainability was selected for the New Brunswick Strategic Plan, but as of Summer 2015, an overall living laboratory plan has yet to be officially developed by Rutgers.
Living Labs and Cook/Douglass
Rutgers New Brunswick is broken down into four campuses: College Avenue, Cook/Douglass, Busch, and Livingston. Because of the departments on campus, living laboratories are more broadly and immediately applicable to Cook/Douglass than to other Rutgers New Brunswick campuses. This gives Cook/Douglass the potential to serve as a model for living labs for the rest of the University, and for the state of New Jersey.