Tree Award

Learn about the 2016 honoree:

Penn State News featured a story written by former co-chair Kayla Susko about the 2016 Tree Award.

Nikhil Bharadwaj, rising junior, spreads soil around the base of the tree planted in his honor.

Nikhil Bharadwaj is a rising junior majoring in Energy Engineering with a minor in Environmental Engineering.

Nikhil accepting the SSAC Tree Award from co-chairs Kayla Susko (2015-16) and Dylan Humenik (2016).

Nikhil accepting the SSAC Tree Award from co-chairs Kayla Susko (2015-16) and Dylan Humenik (2016).

Nikhil’s internship with TATA BP Solar last summer was particularly influential of his passion for solar energy. Through the internship, Nikhil was introduced to photo-voltaic layout designs and line diagrams for rooftop solar installations and developed an off-grid solar powered bus station for Penn State. This experience led Nikhil to the American Solar Energy Society where he is now the project manager for a solar picnic table to be installed in downtown State College. He has also contributed to the community through his role as special projects chair for the Green Energy Challenge as Park Forest Middle School. In addition, Nikhil was a major contributor to one participant’s solar array design proposal for the class gift. His impressive schematic plot outline earned him selection by the National Electronic Contractors Association to travel to Honduras and install a solar array in an underdeveloped community.

Nikhil is just as impressive academically. He recently accepted a research position that involves building electric bikes for commercial applications. An element of this research will be crafting a business plan that can assist in an entire community’s shift to human/electric hybrid vehicles.

While Nikhil is heavily involved, he still makes time for his friends. One of the nominations by Nikhil’s friend described him as an “incredible and charismatic person.”

His passion and ability to juggle many commitments at once while maintaining strong relationships are sure to guide Nikhil to an “energizing” and impactful future.


Many onlookers came out to watch the tree planting at the MorningStar Solar Home!


Learn about the 2015 honorees:

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The Tree Award recipients listen while co-chairs Emily Newman and Kayla Susko read their accomplishments to the crowd at the MorningStar Solar Home.


Learn about the 2014 honorees:

Nichole Heil


Nichole Heil adds fill to the roots around the tree planted in her honors at the MorningStar Solar Home.



Jon Taiclet. Photo credit: Penn State University.

In 2014, the SSAC also posthumously honored Jon Taiclet with the Tree Award for his service to the Penn State sustainability community throughout his time at Penn State before tragically passing away while still attending.

One of our members at the time, Pamela Gramlich, wrote a Penn State News story to cover this dedication ceremony.


“By awarding Jon with this tree, it is the hope of the SSAC that his legacy will not be forgotten at Penn State, and that it may inspire others to lead sustainable efforts in the same capacity as Jon.”

— Pamela Gramlich, SSAC representative

“(Jon) was loved by his classmates as someone who spoke not to show how much he knew, which was quite a lot, but to move the whole class forward.”

— Denice Wardrop, Sustainability Institute director

Source: Penn State News

Learn about the 2013 honorees:

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SSAC Co-Chair Matt Barnes stands with David Riley outside the MorningStar Solar Home.

April 22, 2013

The Student Sustainability Leadership Award recipients were recognized on Earth Day this year, April 22.  The Student Sustainability Advisory Council (SSAC) hosted a tree planting ceremony to honor the recipients, at which Dr. David Riley, who is an Associate Professor in Architectural Engineering and is on the new management team for the Sustainability Institute, offered remarks and awarded the students.  Students and staff gathered outside of the beautiful, new Morningstar Solar Home.  Pictured here is 2012-13 Co-chair Matt Barnes and Dr. Riley.



The two students being honored are Jordan Crolly and Serena Fulton:

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Jordan Crolly shovels soil into the pit around the tree planted in his honor at the MorningStar Solar Home.

Jordan Crolly is a junior majoring in Energy Engineering with a minor in Environmental Engineering.  As president of the Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), Jordan created and help build the Smoothie Cart project–a food cart that runs exclusively on solar energy.  The larger goal of the project is to educate people on the practical uses of solar energy.  In addition to this role, Jordan also serves as the president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). Through this, Jordan leads the organization members to participate in the Green Energy Challenge and audit various buildings on campus in order to increase energy efficiency and implement renewable energy.  He also participates in the PSU chapter of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) where Jordan has helped design a solar array system to be installed on university buildings.  Finally, Jordan also takes part in Fight the Power: Eaast Halls Energy Challenge by conducting energy audits on East Halls as an energy engineering intern at the Office of Physical Plant.  Jordan’s peers describe him as deeply committed to sustainability personally and professionally.  The tree planted in his honor is the Red Oak which symbolizes strength.

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Serena Fulton hard at work planting the tree in her honor outside the MorningStar Solar Home.

Serena Fulton is a senior Psychology major.   Serena has been involved with the New Leaf Initiative for most of her time here at Penn State.  In this collaborative think tank, Serena has created her own website, to help connect all the sustainability initiatives in the areas by listing such vendors and organizations as local farmer’s markets, university clubs that support sustainability, and local environmental associations.  Also in this role, Serena has also been a key player in the Friends and Farmer’s Cooperative, an initiative to create a community grocery store in State College that supports local economy.  In her free time, Serena also volunteers her time at Shaver’s Creek to further educate her community on environmental issues.  Serena is described as passionate and enthusiastic about sustainability and is eager to educate and reach out to others about how to be more sustainable.  The tree planted in her honor is the Sweetbay Magnolia which means “to brighten.”

Please join us in celebrating these two individuals’ accomplishments and helping further green the Morningstar Solar home and the Sustainability Institute.

A tree inventory of all the trees on campus can be found on our web site ( and in the narrative associated with these trees we will include a statement that they were planted in honor of our recipient’s contributions to sustainability.

The tree awards were started last year and have become an annual tradition to recognize student leader’s commitment to sustainability.  Next year’s call for applications will be sent out in March of next year.


Learn about the 2012 honoree:


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Onlookers listen to our honoree’s accomplishments.





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One of our great faculty members, Steve Maruszewski of OPP, reads aloud the 2012 honoree’s accomplishments.

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The shovel used to plant the tree rests atop the mount of soil used for the tree, with onlookers on the Chambers lawn.





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