Rob Ost: Broadening the Discussion of Sustainability

Photo by Jordan Pietrafitta

For many college students, finding time to get involved in different activities and organizations can be a struggle, especially while juggling what’s already on your plate, yet senior Rob Ost makes this juggling act seem effortless.

Photo by Jordan Pietrafitta

Ost, a native of Potomac, Md., is involved in a number of activities at Penn State, including the Council of Sustainable Leaders, Lion Ambassadors and Penn State Hillel. One organization Ost has grown a particular passion for is the Council of Sustainble Leaders. According to its wesbite, this institute’s objective is connecting faculty, staff, community members, students and industry around critical world concerns, creating an inclusive culture of community practice that extends beyond sustainability and into all walks of life​. They hold a number of events and showcases throughout the year to encourage students to get involved, and broaden the discussion of sustainability.

Through the Council of Sustainable Leaders, Ost worked as an intern and had the opportunity to work on multiple projects through the institute, the first of which is the Sustainability Showcase Series. Ost created and executed the pilot during Fall 2017, each week featuring a different faculty speaker to present about their work and expertise, and how it relates to sustainability.

Ost says the goal of the Series is to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability, as evident by the incredible work that has been done by faculty in Engineering, Agriculture, Liberal Arts, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Arts and Architecture and more. The goal of this Showcase was to foster a space where faculty, students and community members can interact, collaborate and build connections that transcend academic disciplines.

Photo by Jordan Pietrafitta

Aside from the endless work Ost put into the Sustainability Showcase Series, he also worked as a sustainability consultant for THON 2018. Throughout the year, he worked with internal THON leadership to develop strategies to achieve an organizational Zero-Waste status and promote a more sustainable culture in the organization. He also added that they were very successful, with an average landfill diversion rate of roughly 80% over the three main THON events over the year: the 5K, Family Carnival and THON Weekend. He added that THON also won the 2018 Campus Sustainability Champion award from the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium.

VALLEY had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Ost.

VALLEY: It’s clear that you have a distinct passion for sustainability, have you always had it or did a certain experience or event help you find it?

Rob Ost: When I was in high school, I volunteered at the National Aquarium in Baltimore as a tour guide. This initially sparked my interest in environmental sciences and marine biology, which set me on my course for an environmental resource management degree when I got to Penn State. Although I cared about the environment and understood the challenges of sustainability, it wasn’t until the end of my junior year that I really got involved on campus with it. I found an internship with the Sustainability Institute for the summer, and my passions and involvement grew from there.

V: Being involved in as many organizations and positions as you are, which one do you take the most pride in and why?

RO: Tough question! I believe that each experience that I’ve had as a student has been instrumental in getting me where I am today and in shaping an incredibly memorable Penn State career. It’s difficult to choose just one … I would like to give shout-outs to Lion Ambassadors and Penn State Hillel: two organizations which shaped my Penn State career and helped me grow as a student and as a leader.

V: You played a key role in the Sustainability Showcase Series. What were a few takeaways you could share with us about the impact of your involvement in this?

RO: My favorite part of planning the Showcase Series was identifying potential speakers and meeting with them to discuss their work ahead of time. Over the summer during the Showcase planning phase, I met with many university faculty and administrators, and I particularly enjoyed learning about the incredible and unique work that is going on at Penn State. I would say the biggest takeaway from the Showcase Series is that the field of sustainability is interdisciplinary, meaning regardless of your field you deserve to have a seat at the table when solving complex issues related to sustainability.

V: How are your experiences and involvements here at Penn State preparing you for your plans once your graduate?

RO: One of the biggest things I have learned from my experiences is that Penn State will remain as an important community, resource and home for me long after I graduate. My Penn State experience will extend far beyond the four years I’ve spent on campus, and it is comforting to know that as I enter the field, I will continue to have access to the incredibly vast Penn State network.

VALLEY wants to thank Rob for his time and congratulate him on recently graduating with the class of 2o18!

For more information on the Sustainability Showcase Series, visit


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