Award Date

Spring 2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Environmental Science

Advisor 1

David Hassenzahl, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

Sheniz Moonie

Second Committee Member

Thomas Piechota

Graduate Faculty Representative

Carl Reiber

Number of Pages

223

Abstract

Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) have increasingly committed to become more sustainable in recent years. Despite this commitment, academic publications in the sustainability field assert that progress has been slower at IHEs than expected and that most IHEs have found sustainability initiatives difficult to implement. Comprehensive sustainability initiatives require cooperation from a broad set of constituents with diverse and sometimes conflicting goals. Creating a sustainable IHE also requires changes in both physical infrastructure and individual behavior. Any number of institutional factors can advance or limit progress towards these objectives.

Previous investigations have assessed individual case studies, compared IHEs in a region, and surveyed IHE administrators and students to describe sustainable practices. Most previous research into campus sustainability has lacked a quantitative focus. In this study, I extend previous work by quantitatively analyzing how individuals with operational responsibilities at IHEs make decisions about sustainability and what impact these decisions have upon the overall goal of a sustainable IHE.

The focus population for this research is mid-level decision makers and research faculty (MLD-RF) at IHEs. For this study MLD-RF is defined as mid-level decision makers heading environmental health and safety, facilities maintenance, and purchasing departments as well as research faculty with laboratories at IHEs.

The goals of this research are to evaluate MLD-RF's attitudes towards sustainability and understand variability in these attitudes among MLD-RF. Also, this research will evaluate how MLD-RF impact overall campus sustainability activities and the extent to which MLD-RF communicate their campus sustainability activities. Finally, this research will assess the extent and type of support for sustainability at these IHEs within the purview of MLD-RF.

The methodologies used in this study include content analysis and survey. For both methodologies, IHEs were selected for inclusion using a stratified random sampling design. The content analysis was web-based and focused on MLD-RF websites as well as central sustainability websites. The survey was on-line and fed into a database for analysis. Statistical analysis was performed on both the content analysis and survey methodologies to provide generalizable results for individuals managing campus sustainability. Using these two methodologies allows for triangulation of data and an assessment of validity.

There were significant differences between different types of MLD-RF but all had positive reactions toward the concept of sustainability. Facilities maintenance respondents were the most positive toward and most involved in campus sustainability. The level of involvement by all MLD-RF was lower than what their interest level would predict. MLD-RF should be targeted by sustainability coordinators for inclusion in campus sustainability initiatives.

Keywords

Attitudes; Campus; Campus operations; Decision making; Environment; Facilities maintenance; Sustainability

Disciplines

Environmental Sciences | Higher Education Administration | Sustainability

Language

English


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