Multiple Visions of Sustainability as an Organizing Principle for Change in Higher Education: How Faculty Conceptualizations of Sustainability in Higher Education Suggest the Need for Pluralism
Sylvestre, Paul Andre
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As the United Nation Decade of Education for Sustainable Development draws to a close, there are growing calls for a critical reappraisal of the state of sustainability in Higher Education. The emerging literature suggests that despite modest gains in some areas, Higher Education’s overall engagement with the principles of sustainability has been both piecemeal and accommodatory leading many to ask: what is blocking this transformation? The questions that guided this research were: how do academics conceptualize 1) sustainability, 2) sustainable universities, and 3) the role they see for the university in envisioning a sustainable future. The purpose was to better understand what a culturally sensitive vision of organizational change for sustainability at the university could resemble and to offer insight into how to negotiate cultural or values-based barriers to change. This thesis discusses how culturing a perspective of critical ‘sustainabilities,’ based in pluralism and critical openness, as a vision of change for sustainability at the university is likely to be more aligned with academic culture while concomitantly helping to foster the development of diverse and transformative notions of sustainability.