Two College of Communication Arts and Sciences faculty members have been named 2015 MSU Sustainability Fellows for their environmental sustainability-themed online survey of MSU undergraduate students.
John Besley, Associate Professor and Ellis N. Brandt Chair in Public Relations in the Department of Advertising + Public Relations, and Bruno Takahashi, Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the School of Journalism and Department of Communication and Research Director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, worked on the initial sustainability survey along with Adam Zwickle, Assistant Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy Program and the School of Criminal Justice in the College of Social Science.
The survey includes questions gauging environmental sustainability and scientific knowledge, norms and practices surrounding sustainability related behaviors, and attitudes toward environmental responsibility. The plan is to make the survey an annual project.
“The Sustainability Office, specially Ann Erhardt (Director of MSU Sustainability), has recognized the importance of evidence-based communication. In that sense, we are hoping the results of the survey will help inform the communication initiatives at MSU,” Takahashi said. “From a research perspective, there are very few empirical studies examining educational settings that attempt to understand the factors that explain the engagement in sustainability behaviors by students. We are trying to push the envelope in the study of environmentalism, behaviors, and well being among students.”
Data from the initial survey was collected at the end of the spring 2015 semester. Students were randomly selected to participate with more than 2,800 completed surveys received.
The research team plans to produce a report for the Sustainability Office with some recommendations and are working on two academic studies, one on the relationship between values and environmental behaviors, and another one examining differences in environmental behaviors based on cohorts (freshman, sophomore, etc.).
“The assumption for the second one is that students' attitudes, knowledge about science and the environment, perception of social norms, among other factors change as they move forward with their degrees, and that this affects behaviors,” Takahashi said.
Plans are already underway for a 2016 survey as well as identifying areas for targeted campaigns.
“We want to make the survey an annual thing so that we can use it to track the impact of the college experience on students’ views and behavior,” Besley said.
MSU Sustainability’s fellowship program uses the MSU campus as a laboratory to address issues related to greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, waste reduction, water conservation, sustainable transportation, education, engagement, social responsibility and more.
The program funds research projects that focus on aspects of environmental responsibility and sustainability specific to MSU.
"The work is driven by real challenges faced by the university," Erhardt said. “The fellowship program connects researchers with campus decision-makers in order to effectively plan for the future sustainability of MSU's campus."
For more information on these and other sustainability efforts, see the MSU Sustainability website.Share via these networks: