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Sustainability: A Solution to Student Retention? Kevin Adkins, Sustainability Officer LEED Associate Connie Frey Spurlock, Associate Professor of Sociology.

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Presentation on theme: "Sustainability: A Solution to Student Retention? Kevin Adkins, Sustainability Officer LEED Associate Connie Frey Spurlock, Associate Professor of Sociology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sustainability: A Solution to Student Retention? Kevin Adkins, Sustainability Officer LEED Associate Connie Frey Spurlock, Associate Professor of Sociology & Sustainability Fellow

2 The Sustainable University “Sustainability implies that the critical activities of a higher education institution are (at a minimum) ecologically sound, socially just, and economically viable, and that they will continue to be so for future generations. The institution would function as a sustainable community, embodying responsible consumption of food and energy, treating its diverse members with respect, and supporting these values in the surrounding community. A truly sustainable college or university would emphasize these concepts in its curriculum and research, preparing students to contribute as working citizens to an environmentally sound and socially just society.” -- Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (www.uslf.org)

3 Sustainability at SIUe Sustainability Advisory Group (SAG) Mississippi Project Office of Sustainability Student groups Student Organization for Sustainability (SOS) Focus the Nation Natural Connections 7 LEED Certified Buildings Bike Share Program Water Refill Stations

4 Retention & Graduation at SIUe Retention/Graduation rate: 70/52 Green schools: 83/63 Peer schools: 73/46 STARS schools: 83/66 Challenges: Transfers Off-campus Working Family

5 Student Success Advisory Council members Faculty, students, administrators, athletics, advising, etc. Goals: Increase 1 st and 2 nd year student retention by 1%/year Increase graduation rate to 55%

6 Council Recommendations Create & hire University Retention Director Financial Distress Warning Develop alternative degree maps, initially for limited-access majors, & expanding to all majors Create a collaborative referral system between Develop a bachelor’s degree that meets the needs of students with broad interests or for students whose first choice degree option is not available because of limited capacity. Promote existing programs to support sophomore engagement Social, academic, & economic supports

7 Tinto (2012) 1.Expectations Learning outcomes Sustainability-literacy assessment Teacher expectations (Tinto 2000) 2.Academic, social, & financial support 3.Assessment & feedback Frequent 1-minute papers

8 Tinto (2012) 4.Involvement/Engagement Experiential learning, Outdoor learning, Living on campus, Team projects Interaction with other students (Tinto 1997) Deep learning; problem based, project based learning (Crosling et al. 2009) Transformative (Sterling 2001) Authentic curriculum that is challenging and relevant to their lives and futures (Crosling et al. 2009)

9 The Present Study Independent variables – Sustainable Practices Sustainability Committee Require LEED buildings Sustainability Officer AASHE member STARS participation Dependent variables First year retention 6 year graduation rate

10 The Samples Group A Schools Princeton’s Green Schools Group B Schools Peer institutions (Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System) 10-20,000 students Public Institutions Flagship institutions removed Group C Schools STARS rated schools Group D Schools U.S. News & World Report, Regional Universities (Midwest)

11 Princeton’s Green Schools Criteria 1.Food expenditures 2.Encourage alternatives to single-passenger automobile use for students. 3.Formal sustainability committee with students 4.Buildings are required to be certified LEED Silver 5.Overall waste-diversion rate 6.Environmental studies major, minor or concentration 7.“Environmental literacy” requirement 8.Greenhouse gas emissions inventory & a climate action plan 9.Energy consumption derived from renewable sources 10.Dedicated full-time (or FTE) sustainability officer

12 U.S. News & World Report #9 Top Public School, Regional Universities (Midwest) Criteria Undergraduate academic reputation; Graduation and retention rates; Faculty resources; Student selectivity; Financial resources; Alumni giving; & Graduation rate performance. Curriculum? Sustainability?

13 Questions What is the relationship between sustainability practices and retention rates? What is the relationship between sustainability practices and graduation rates? Do institutions with higher STARS ratings have higher retention rates than institutions with no rating or lower ratings? Do institutions with higher STARS ratings have graduation rates than institutions with no rating or lower ratings? **Sustainable practices: Sustainability Committee, Require LEED buildings, Sustainability Officer, AASHE member, STARS participation

14 Preliminary Findings: Descriptive Data. Retention rateGraduation rate STARS (n=234)83%66% Princeton Green Schools (n=33) 82%62% Peer Schools (n=46)72%45% US News (n=33)71%47%

15 Overall averages compared to All Practices* Group * Sustainable practices: Sustainability Committee, Require LEED buildings, Sustainability Officer, AASHE member, STARS participation Retention rateGraduation rate Green Schools (n= 64/11) 84/87% +3% 63/68% +5% Peer Schools (n=65/11) 73/78% +5% 46/53% +7% US News (n=39/5) 72/75% +3% 50/49% -1%

16 STARS rating & Rates No statistical significance between groups in either case. Retention rateGraduation rate Gold (n = 50)86%70% Silver (n = 128)85%68% Bronze (n = 56)77%57% All (n = 234)83%66%

17 Unexpected Finding Sequential ordering of Sustainable Practices 1.LEED buildings 2.Sustainability Committee 3.Sustainability Officer 4.AASHE member 5.STARS What is the next… ???

18 Tentative Conclusions Do retention and graduation rates even matter?

19 Education for a Sustainable Society “enables people to develop the knowledge, values, and skills to participate in decisions…, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future.” -- Debra Rowe

20 “Soft” Skills & Employers Oral & written communication & problem solving skills over applied & industry-specific skills Well-rounded over industry experience Communication & critical thinking over STEM degrees -- Northeastern University

21 Top 10 Qualities (or Soft Skills) of Job Candidates 1.Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside & outside the organization. 2.Ability to work in a team structure. 3.Ability to make decisions & solve problems. 4.Ability to plan, organize & prioritize work. 5.Ability to obtain & process information. 6.Ability to analyze quantitative data. 7.Technical knowledge related to the job. 8.Proficiency with computer software programs. 9.Ability to create &/or edit written reports. 10.Ability to sell or influence others. -- National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)

22 Learning Outcomes Define sustainability. Explain how sustainability relates to their lives & their values, & how their actions impact issues of sustainability. Utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits & consumer mentality. Explain how systems are interrelated. Learn change agent skills. Learn how to apply concepts of sustainability to their campus & community by engaging in the challenges & solutions of sustainability on their campus. Learn how to apply concepts of sustainability globally by engaging in the challenges & the solutions of sustainability in a world context. --ACPA's Presidential Task Force on Sustainability

23 Works Cited Northeastern University. “Innovation Imperative: Enhancing Higher Education Outcomes.” Crosling, Glenda, Margaret Heagney, & Liz Thomas “Improving Student Retention in Higher Education: Improving Teaching & Learning.” Australian Universities Review. 51: Gardner, Kathleen & Kathleen G. Kerr "ACPA's Presidential Task Force on Sustainability” at Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium Meeting, Washington, D.C., January 10, National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Sterling, Stephen Sustainable Education: Re-Visioning Learning & Change. UK: Schumacher Society.

24 Works Cited cont. Tinto, Vincent Completing College: Rethinking Institutional Action. Chicago: University of Chicago Press , “Reconstructing the first year of college.” In Student Support Services Model Retention Strategies for Two-year Colleges, Washington DC: Council for Opportunity in Education “Colleges as communities: Exploring the educational character of student persistence.” Journal of Higher Education, 68,


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