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Title:Student perceptions and definitions of sustainability
Author(s):Behm, Corrin L.
Advisor(s):Vining, Joanne
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Higher Education
Abstract:The term sustainability encompasses a variety of concepts and therefore many disparities and misconceptions exist. As the University of Illinois and many other higher education institutions begin prioritizing sustainability, understanding student perceptions and attitudes can inform spending of limited resources on more effective sustainability initiatives. In this exploratory study, freshmen were surveyed via an online questionnaire to gather information on how they perceived and defined sustainability. I analyzed the open ended responses to learn about student understanding of the concept in light of its three components: environment, society, and economy. Quantitative data were analyzed within the context of the interconnectedness with nature scale (INS) as developed by Shultz (2002) and with a practical focus to assist in university sustainability planning. A majority of participants alluded to sustainability in in terms of societal and environmental components. Most included reference to usage (e.g. maintain, conserve, improve) of resources and recognized a temporal aspect to that usage. However, complexity within individual responses was limited, with a focus on human needs as the most common element. Perceived importance levels of sustainability were moderately high, whereas knowledge and interest levels were moderately low. Students placed greatest importance on saving energy, developing renewable energy sources, and considering impacts on natural systems. Interest in personal education and development of green courses and sustainability initiatives was quite low.
Issue Date:2011-08-26
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Corrin L. Behm
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-27
Date Deposited:2011-08

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