Through the Sustainable Learning Initiative (SLI), Colby-Sawyer students explore, design, and develop solutions to real and evolving community needs. In the SLI, students don’t wait to graduate before they get to work –this is hands-on learning for changemakers.

Students across all majors can get involved with the ongoing revitalization initiative in nearby Franklin, N.H. Three dedicated members who have participated are Stephanie Malicki '18, Acadia LeBlanc '19, and Erin Chute '20. They developed green infrastructure recommendations—bioswales, rain gardens, constructed wetlands—for the “infield” of the city’s downtown bridge-to-bridge area. The design approach found in permaculture guided their efforts.

“I truly enjoy permaculture design because it incorporates creativity, sustainability, the environment, and more”

“I truly enjoy permaculture design because it incorporates creativity, sustainability, the environment, and more,” Stephanie stated. “We’re being proactive, trying to make a difference where we can, and helping others learn what we are learning.”

Since the project’s launch in 2014, about 300 of you have participated and paired your academic interests with your professional goals, but you’re not the only ones making the effort. Your partners have been stakeholders in the city’s business, municipal, and nonprofit sectors, such as: PermaCityLife, Mill City Park, Outdoor New England, Franklin Savings Bank, Twin Rivers Interfaith Food Pantry, Franklin Recreation Center, Franklin Outing Club, Mayor’s Drug Task Force, and the City of Franklin, as well as Proctor and Tilton School, both college preparatory schools filled with dedicated peers looking for inspiration from you.

You work directly with community leaders and local residents by enrolling in a class, completing an internship, leading an independent project, or conducting your Capstone in relation to the SLI. Some of your projects include creating GIS maps, branding strategies, business maps, and logos; conducting water quality assessments, parking plan analyses, and invasive species inventories. You’ve designed websites, executed event planning, and developed after-school programming. You then share your results for implementation or further exploration expanding your network and building your resume. All while making a difference.

“The most valuable lesson that I have learned from this [experience] is that there is always another side to an argument. It's important to hear both order to [get] everyone's opinion,” said Erin as the students prepared for their presentation. Acadia added, “Many people are aware of sustainability but do not have a complete understanding of how it relates to them and their project. After educating the stakeholders on what we've been studying, they understand how important sustainability is to the community.”

Learn more about how you can get involved by contacting the Director of Sustainability & Innovation Jennifer White '90 at