Colby-Sawyer College | Jennifer White

At its Feb. 12 meeting, the Colby-Sawyer College Board of Trustees approved a three-year Bachelor of Science degree in community-based sustainability that will launch in fall 2016. The major was developed as a result of an innovation grant that the college received from the Davis Educational Foundation.

Through hands-on courses and a unique partnership with Franklin-based nonprofit PermaCity Life, students will have the opportunity to develop relevant skills for creative and complex problem solving, work directly with regional stakeholders and potential employers, and do their part to help create a resilient, vibrant, diverse and sustainable community in Franklin, N.H.

New Hampshire’s smallest city is on the cusp of a sustainable revitalization and, thanks to this community-based collaboration between local organizations and Colby-Sawyer, students are positioned both to learn from and contribute to that effort. The major is complemented by a broader campus-wide program called the Sustainable Learning Initiative (SLI) at Franklin Falls, which offers students in every discipline experiential learning opportunities to explore, design and develop sustainable solutions to real and evolving community needs. The initiative is intended to be flexible and modular, allowing faculty to tailor an existing assignment or an entire course to focus on an aspect of the city’s revitalization.

“This innovative program highlights the best features of Colby-Sawyer’s learning model, which combines rigorous interdisciplinary knowledge and perspectives with experiential learning,” said Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty Deborah A. Taylor, Ph.D. “In partnership with organizations in the Franklin community, students in the community-based sustainability program will put their knowledge to work by developing and implementing sustainability projects.  These projects will advance students’ learning while simultaneously providing tangible benefits to the Franklin community. The program is designed to utilize intensive summer and winter learning experiences, allowing students to complete the degree in three years and thereby to manage the time and cost of education.”

Graduates will pay approximately 20 percent less for their college education and can start their careers or enter graduate school one year earlier by participating in January and May intensives onsite in Franklin.

Ongoing projects in Franklin include a locally themed restaurant and microbrewery, a volunteer-run coffee shop, a co-working space, an art gallery and music venue, multigenerational mixed-use housing, permaculture/edible landscaping, ecologically sound storm-water management, expanded bike trails and a whitewater park. Plans under consideration include an arts cooperative and performance center, reducing traffic downtown, zero-waste and commercial composting, a farmer’s market, a holistic health center, aquaponics and mushroom farming, a technology, research and development lab, market-rate housing and a hostel with function space and café.

Students in the SLI have already contributed to Franklin’s Master Plan, developed company logos, created signage for the local bike-trail system, constructed an Access database for the upcycled art gallery, and conducted a parking inventory for redevelopment planning. This spring, Colby-Sawyer interns will research information technology solutions, create Geographic Information Systems maps, develop tourism strategies, and explore best practices for commercial compost. Faculty have proposed other topics for study such as brownfield mitigation through biogeochemistry, consumer behavior and market research, sociological research for a community-based film project, community ceramics classes and student-run art exhibits, calculating timed-release of river volumes, efficiency and renewable energy, recreational event planning, and best practices for community gardens.

All of these revitalization projects have been made possible through broad collaborative efforts of community partners who share this vision for Franklin, such as: Credere Environmental Associates, Franklin Business & Industrial Development Corporation, Franklin Parks & Recreation, Franklin Regional Hospital, Franklin Savings Bank, Healthy Eating Active Living, Nobis Engineering, CATCH Neighborhood Housing, Lakes Region Planning Commission, Outdoor New England, The Franklin Studio, and Take Root NH. Learn more at: