Community College Sustainable Development Network

The Community College Sustainable Development Network (CCSDN) provides transformational service learning opportunities abroad for students while providing community colleges across the country with the training and capacity-building to grow opportunities at their institutions. This network, founded and managed by Madison College, is aimed at internationalizing STEM education and expanding community college participation in study abroad.

Community Colleges Working Together to Benefit Students

  • Network Activities

    Study Abroad Opportunities for Students
    CCSDN works to create new faculty-led service learning programs related to applied sciences and sustainable development. Current programs include opportunities in engineering, architecture, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and ecology, education, health care and other disciplines.

    Health, Safety and Program Management Training
    CCSDN provides a robust model of faculty training including opportunities to shadow leads on existing programs, workshops on best practices in risk management and program design, sample handbooks and forms, and connection to existing programs providers and resources.

    Capacity Building for Community College Internationalization
    Recognizing that many community colleges lack the staff or training to grow safe and affordable study abroad programs in-house, this program builds on best practices in the field of international education to provide community college leaders with the models and capacity building training to scale internationalization efforts through cost-recovery or minimal investment program opportunities.

    Professional Development Networking for Faculty
    Networking among CCSDN membership allows faculty to connect with peers to develop collaborative programs abroad, share ideas, and learn about opportunities and resources.

  • History

    The CCSDN consortium was developed though a 2010 Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Capacity Building for Study Abroad award administered by Madison College.  Madison College serves as the coordinating body for the CCSDN network.

    ECA funding was used to connect 24 U.S. community colleges, ranging geographically from Hawaii to Maine, to support the development of new study abroad and service learning programs in renewable energy, sustainable development and related STEM fields. Support included site assessment, shadowing trip leaders abroad, professional development workshops and mentoring/consulting in the development of new programs.

    Current activities of the network include continued professional development workshops on best practices in study abroad and service learning and the network serves to foster collaboration and sharing of new study abroad programs among members. CCSDN study abroad programs include more than 10 learning opportunities to students created through collaboration among network member colleges.

  • Study Abroad Programs
  • Service Learning

    Renewable Energy for the Developing World

    Installation at Dago and Chindo's - Costa Rica

    Rancho Mastatal is an environmental learning and sustainable living center, retreat and lodge.

    Mastatal-Couples Cabin Student working on wiring

    The 550 acre ranch is located in the transition zone between humid and premontane rainforest. Tim and Robin have a great relationship with the local community and help lead local efforts in conservation, education and community growth. As an educational center, they provide sleeping quarters, classroom space and food service. Their mode of operation is to practice and promote living responsibly in the Tropics while educating their visitors about the significance and majesty of the world’s disappearing tropical forests. The “couple cabin” is one of the newest accommodations at the camp. While many of the buildings are connected to the grid, this cabin is farther away from the main house and had no running water or power. Tim and Robin wanted to install a solar unit for many reasons.

    Home-Dago and Chindo-Renewable Energy installedCosta RicaMadison College Students working on Solar Panel

    They wanted to provide light as a convenience to their guests. We installed a reading lamp and also a string of Christmas lights. The string of Christmas lights gave the cabin a soft lighting atmosphere and the lamp was placed by the bed for evening reading.

    The family first learned about solar energy by seeing the systems installed on other properties in the area. However, it was Rancho Mastatal who noticed that this family was in need of solar energy. Their property is very far from the electric lines that basically only run along a gravel road connecting Mastatal to other nearby cities. Even for a wealthy individual in these very rural parts of Costa Rica, a drop from the grid power to this property would be economically unfeasible. The road to the property is very hilly and filled with many ruts caused by erosion during the rainy season.

    Instructor Walz - renewable energy control box

    In an interview, Dago said that he has lived at this property since he was 2 years old and currently stays on the property for at least a month’s time without going anywhere. He gets supplies, usually from his brother, about twice a month. These supplies mostly consist of water since his property is so high in elevation that groundwater is scarce. Interestingly, when asked if money was not an issue what would be one thing that he wanted the most, a steady supply of water was his answer.

    Madison College student on building attaching solar panel

    Before the installation of the photovoltaic (PV) system, the family would use kerosene lamps at night. Often the lamps would stay lit all night to deter bats from inhabiting the house. This was an obvious safety concern. The light from the PV system will light up more of the house since a few light fixtures will be installed in different rooms instead of having one kerosene lamp in one room.  Other advantages of moving from a kerosene lamp to a PV system are elimination of a fire hazard and reduced fuel costs. After the system was installed a local man involved in many of the installations around the area will be in charge of its maintenance. If there is an issue, Dago can get in touch with Tim back at Rancho Mastatal and Tim will contact the technician.


  • Testimonials

    In anonymous post-program surveys, faculty have been nearly unanimous in the praise of the CCSDN model and training materials as a model of best practice in community college internationalization. Some participant comments include:

    "We saw the potential for growth of a Study Abroad program from humble beginnings to a program having a significant impact across our campus. We were inspired by the efforts of those in the cohort and came back determined to push forward our agenda to internationalize our campus and create Study Abroad opportunities for our students."

    "I think that the Madison College/CCSDN training could be used effectively across the country to help meet the goals of the 100,000 Strong Initiative."

    "This has been a huge help to me and I now realize that participation in this program has allowed my international education program to be successful. I would not have been able to do it otherwise."

    "The knowledge that Madison's International Office grew from nothing was really helpful in motivating me to continue to work to help create an international office on our campus."

    "I thought the program was outstanding/excellent. I learned an amazing amount about the nuts and bolts of developing and maintaining study abroad programs. I am using the materials provided to support my program and to develop guidelines for future programs on my campus. I am so thankful for the network that this grant has provided that supports me in what I'm doing and provides encouragement and inspiration for what I hope to do in regards to faculty-led study abroad opportunities for my students."

    "This has been an incredible learning experience. Madison College did an amazing job making this experience beneficial to all participants."

    "The work we did in Costa Rica was transformational in a way that is difficult to put into words. I feel that it was the most interesting and informative professional experience I have ever had."

    "This was the most useful workshop I've ever attended! Never before have I gone to a training and ALL aspects of the discussion have applied to what I needed to know!"

    "What an amazing program. I could really see this being the best way to encourage community colleges to increase or begin study abroad programs."

    "This really was one of the best workshops I've attended. The mix of formal and informal interaction was great. I really appreciate that time was made to promote interaction among the participants."

  • Membership
    • CCSDN membership is free.
    • Anyone can attend CCSDN conferences and workshops.
    • Community colleges that have participated in conferences and workshops can collaborate with member schools to enroll their students in study abroad opportunities.
    • Full membership is available to community or technical colleges that first have faculty participate as observers in existing programs, attend the summer institute or other best practices training, and provide a letter from their chief academic officer or president stating their intention to collaborate as network partners and committing to the network principles of safe and responsible program management.
    • There is no fee for network membership, but conferences and workshops not supported by grant funding will require a break-even registration fee.