Launched in 2009 with funding from the Learn and Serve America Higher Education program of the Corporation for National and Community Service and ongoing support from the Environmental Protection Agency, GLISTEN (the Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship through Education Network), harnesses the expertise and innovation of college faculty and undergraduate students to promote stewardship of the Great Lakes, an ecosystem containing 20% of the world’s fresh water.


Vision and Mission

By focusing undergraduate curriculum development efforts, academic courses, research, fieldwork, and other resources on a single but multi-faceted civic issue, GLISTEN builds the capacity of STEM faculty and departments to:

- improve learning in the STEM disciplines,

- engage students in direct action (i.e., service-learning) and community-based research to benefit resource-strapped governmental and community-based organizations,

- position students to take advantage of  “green” professional opportunities upon graduation,

- provide students with the 21st Century skills (such as critical thinking, capacity for collaboration, as well as associated civic engagement skills), and

- help students as well as members of the involved communities become enlightened stakeholders who practice active stewardship behaviors in their private and civic lives.


How GLISTEN works 

GLISTEN supports collaborative clusters in the 8 Great Lakes states.  Each cluster embraces at least one 4-year and one 2-year undergraduate institution where Great-Lakes-stewardship-focused courses are developed and offered. GLISTEN Clusters include community-based organizations, local governments and others as collaborators working to achieve goals for water quality, clean air, conservation, and other environmental improvement. Each cluster also includes representatives from at least one informal science education venue, such as a science museum, nature center or state or national park. Through these venues and others, the outcomes of cluster projects are shared with the general public to empower citizens to engage more effectively in scientifically-informed stewardship behaviors. While each cluster focuses on a particular Great Lakes stewardship challenge, all will share goals in the following three areas: 


Undergraduate student leadership development and career preparation

Undergraduate stewardship liaisons serve as the logistical “glue” linking participating faculty and community-based organizations who benefit from GLISTEN-sponsored service-learning and undergraduate research activities. These students provide critical project leadership, ensuring that each cluster maintains an optimal balance among curricular goals, community needs, and student interests. Student leaders also receive specialized training to prepare them to excel in the “green jobs” of the future.


Curriculum development, dissemination and the creation of a community of practice 

Within each cluster and across clusters, faculty collaborate to integrate on-the-ground stewardship activities to improve learning in their undergraduate STEM coursework. 


Evaluation and assessment to promote program effectiveness

To assess learning and civic engagement outcomes, GLISTEN-associated courses utilize the Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) and other assessment resources of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement.


Since 2009, GLISTEN-affiliated higher education institutions have enrolled over 3,000 undergraduate students in coursework incorporating Great Lakes stewardship activities. These activities - including water quality monitoring, restoring wetlands, and assessing and addressing aquatic and terrestrial non-native species invasions ? have benefited dozens of community-based organizations in 8 states undergoing challenges to their operational capacity due to the recent economic downturn (by anthony). Over 80 undergraduate stewardship liaisons have assisted faculty and community-based agencies with the coordination of these activities and formed a corps of future leaders in efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes. 




More Information



Learn more about GLISTEN by visiting



GLISTEN Contacts

David Burns

Principal Investigator

Glenn Odenbrett

Project Director



Image of the Great Lakes courtesy of VisibleEarth. Photograph of stewardship liaisons from the 2012 Capitol Hill Poster Session.