To What Degree Does Attendance of the ESS Lectures Relate to Levels of Civic
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Dalhousie University employs the environment, sustainability and society (ESS) lecture series to engage students, staff and the broader community with academia on a variety of ESS topics. Although it is understood that these lectures play an important role in fostering community engagement among local populations, it has been determined that there is not sufficient information related to attendance and the impacts of ESS lectures on attendees. With the use of a non-probabilistic questionnaire to provide information from respondents, a process was derived that allowed the analysis of lecture attendance, levels of social capital, and application of ESS lecture content within attendees’ communities as measures of Dalhousie’s success at contributing to community engagement. Due to limitations associated with the study, results could not be generalized, however, the conclusions certainly indicate that future research of this nature should be conducted. Research was performed on March 26 through the application of a questionnaire at the ESS lecture series, presented in Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Arts & Social Sciences Building, 6135 University Avenue, Halifax. All attendees of the lecture on this date were subject to the questionnaire, 88% of which returned their forms. This meant that there was a response rate of 88% received. 80% of respondents were undergraduate students, 1.6% were Dalhousie graduate students, 9% were community members, 3.9% were Dalhousie faculty members, 0.78% were Dalhousie staff members, and 3.15% were affiliated with another university. It was discovered that 80% of respondents agreed, either fully or somewhat, that they felt engaged with their community. When asked if respondents trusted their fellow community members, 91% of respondents indicated that they did trust their fellow community members to some extent. Thirdly, when asked if respondents felt responsible for their fellow community members, 74% of respondents shared that they felt responsible, at least somewhat, for their fellow community members. These findings provided important data evidencing that at an existential level, most respondents felt engaged with their communities. Upon finer analysis, the research confirmed that 38% of respondents were involved in a social activity once weekly, and 38% of respondents were involved in volunteer work at least once daily, weekly, monthly or annually. Of those involved most often in volunteer work, community members exhibited the highest level of engagement, which was the primary premise demonstrating one of the key findings of this study, that the highest level of social capital among ESS lecture attendees who responded to the questionnaires existed among community members. Determinations regarding the level of engagement among Dalhousie grad students, Dalhousie faculty members, Dalhousie staff members, students, faculty, or staff from another university, and other (self-reported) subpopulations were not conclusive, as these groups did not have statistically representative samples within the population. Overall, the clearest trend observable throughout the research, aside from the high level of engagement among community members, is that the majority of respondents replied ‘somewhat agree’ to questions intended to measure social capital. Ultimately, the research team recommends that the work and findings of this report be subject to additional research to further gather useful research that can display conclusive results. Additionally, the ability to employ a probabilistic sampling technique within the methodology of this study will ensure that results may be generalized to the weekly lecture population. If these additional steps were taken to expand upon this study, the results could be useful for administrators, decision-makers and the College of Sustainability in improving and promoting the ESS lecture series.