The modern, recently expanded facilities of the Brenau North Atlanta Campus in Norcross were the chosen location for the spring workshop of the Georgia Campus Sustainability Network. On March 7, sustainability faculty, administrators and students convened to collaborate in a day-long conference that included exchange of ideas, ways to “Advance Student Participation in Campus Sustainability” (the theme of the event), and a goal-setting work session that was held by Southeast Campus Field Coordinator of the National Wildlife Federation Eriqah Foreman-Williams, who convened the meeting under the Federation’s Campus Ecology program. Co-organizer Rudi Kiefer and members of Brenau’s Sustainability Committee, as well as Lauren Bell of Student Services and two Brenau students, enjoyed this opportunity for learning and networking with similar groups from other institutions across the state. Membership in the GCSN ranges from large schools like UGA, Emory and Georgia State to private institutions such as Agnes Scott, Morehouse College and of course Brenau University.
“We’re happy to welcome educators from so many places of higher learning to our North Atlanta Campus,” said campus director Yarden Hixson. “Our location is easy to reach from anywhere, and the layout of the facility provided for a very productive session.”
Dr. Nancy Bliwise of Emory University provided the keynote presentation on her research in sustainability and behavior. Her findings presented the group with some surprises in terms of student attitude toward energy conservation and changes toward better nutrition habits. The research work was based on Ajzen & Fishbein’s 1975 work on the “Theory of Reasoned Action,” which explains the interaction of subjective norms with community and personal factors. To this, Bliwise added factors like behavioral control (incentives or mandates provided by the institution); specific knowledge about the action (e.g. student awareness why recycling is important); and logistical barriers (they can’t recycle if there are no receptacles). Bliwise’s statistical model for predicting student behavior has an R2 near 0.65. To non-statisticians, this says that 65%, or nearly two-thirds, of the outcome is predicted by the factors included in the model. The rest is due to unknown factors or random variation.
Two case studies presented in the workshop were followed by an intensive goal-setting session conducted by Williams. “Goals, where we ask ourselves what we want to accomplish, must be set together with objectives as well as milestones – the milestones being indicators that we’re approaching a given goal,” Williams said. Soon, the room was buzzing with ideas, goals and objectives for the coming year in sustainability, with the Brenau group reinforced by a Morehouse College student who provided a welcome additional perspective.
Interest in the many topics at hand, and the opportunity to communicate with people from so many Georgia colleges and universities, had the discussions going into overtime, which may be unusual for conferences of this type. A healthy meal provided by La Panera, again with the assistance of Hixson and the Brenau North Atlanta staff, helped with keeping energy levels high until the participants left with a sense of accomplishment and inspiration.
This article includes a contribution by Dr. Robert Cuttino.