Susan Sacks has spent most of her adult life as part of the Temple University Ambler community.
In 1997, she arrived on campus to pursue a degree in English. She returned to become one of the first graduates of Temple’s newly minted Community and Regional Planning master’s program, taking just a year away to help families in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, with housing and other needs as part of AmeriCorps VISTA.
Working closely with her mentor Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone, Sacks was appointed Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities, helping to establish the Center as an invaluable resource for area municipalities and government agencies such as the EPA and FEMA. She was part of the team that created EarthFest, Temple Ambler’s outdoor educational celebration of Earth Day that will host its 17th event in 2019 and continues to work with a dedicated team to build the EarthFest brand.
After being such an essential part of Temple Ambler’s recent history, it is only natural that Sacks will be a key part of guiding the campus toward its future as Temple Ambler’s new Manager of Research and Grants.
“Half of my time will continue to be focused on the research that was part of Jeff (Featherstone’s) legacy. Many of those grants are now housed in the College of Science and Technology — we also work closely with the College of Engineering and the Tyler School of Art,” said Sacks. “The other half of my time with be dedicated to the Ambler Campus and University College. I will be working to expand the research portfolio while continuing to build on what we’ve been able to achieve with our EarthFest programs.”
Sacks understands “the unique nature of the campus and what Temple Ambler has to offer,” said Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost for University College and Interim Director of Temple University Ambler.
“Susan has been a part of Temple Ambler as an undergraduate and graduate student, at the beginning of the Center for Sustainable Communities and Temple’s Community and Regional Planning program, and the initial planning of our first EarthFest in 2003,” she said. “We’re acknowledging all of those invaluable contributions as she officially becomes part of the University College team. She will continue Jeff Featherstone’s work in collaboration with Dr. Laura Toran while taking on new responsibilities for ensuring that the campus is ready to welcome new research from faculty and departments throughout the University and seeking partnerships that are beneficial for our students and faculty.”
According to McGarvey, as Manager of Research and Grants, Sacks will manage grants and research for the Ambler Campus and co-coordinate the annual EarthFest event that welcomes more than 6,000 guests each spring. She will also direct and execute “EarthFest Presents” events that occur throughout the year, such as BioBlitz, the Great American Campout, the Science of Scary and Reach for the Stars.
Sacks will “assist in the development and nurturing of relationships with funders; manage the GIS lab; assist in maintaining the stormwater BMP website and support PI’s” in addition to fostering external and internal relationships.
“My first goal is to create a database and catalog all of the research and specialized educational experiences that are taking place at Temple Ambler. There is a great deal more going on than I think most people realize, but we have no centralized library of this information to pull from,” Sacks said. “Seismology, hydrology, stormwater management, horticulture, planning, landscape architecture, transportation, art, biology — there are so many hands-on learning opportunities to offer on campus.”
Temple Ambler, Sacks said, has resources available that are unique to the university “that allow students to really dig into what they are learning.”
“Right now we have engineering students in their Senior Design Studio building a green wall that will be implemented on the Hilda Justice Building. In this instance, they can’t attach it directly to the wall, so they need to find creative solutions to achieve success,” she said. “They are not just working with models or determining hypotheticals. Our students are engaging in real-world applications for what they are learning. We have students presenting at international conferences where their research is being met with great interest.”
According to Sacks, Temple University Ambler has developed a course grant for faculty interested in taking advantage of the resources available to them on campus.
“Faculty may apply for up to a $4,000 grant to bring their students to Temple Ambler for a semester, for a series of field trips or a series of projects on campus — the possibilities are really only limited by their imagination,” she said. “We have established relationships with the College of Education, Tyler School of Art, the College of Science and Technology. We want to reach out and have these conversations with whomever has an interest in seeing how Temple Ambler can support their goals.”
The engineering students’ green wall was the first of hopefully many grants projects to come, said Sacks.
“We want to make more disciplines aware of the opportunities the Ambler Campus has to offer and encourage them to take advantage of the resources this campus provides,” she said. “I’m certainly excited about the possibilities this will open up for our students!”