Deciphering Students’Conceptualizations of Campus Sustainability between years of study on Dalhousie’s Studley Campus using the Photovoice Method
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Education has been recognized as having a significant influence on environmental consciousness and individual behaviour. However, experts emphasize that traditional education is not enough to transform behaviour. Rather, instructors must engage and empower students to develop a vested interest in sustainability so they may become environmentally conscious citizens (Hungerford & Yolk, 1990) . The development of the College of Sustainability at Dalhousie University is an incredible example of an innovative and experiential alternative to traditional learning. By incorporating multidisciplinary and multifaceted approaches to environmental education, the College of Sustainability aims to produce leaders capable of instilling sustainable change. Using the Dalhousie Studley campus as a laboratory, our research team employed the photovoice research method to explore how students majoring in Environmental Sustainability and Society (ESS) conceptualize campus sustainability. Our ultimate goal was to decipher whether there was a difference in the conceptualization of the term ‘sustainability’ between students in different years of study. Our research identified common themes represented by the photo submissions, revealing aspects of sustainability on campus that are important to ESS students. Common themes included community, food, transportation, nature connection and building efficiency. Themes were further coded into tangible and abstract aspects of sustainability. It was found that tangible themes were generally more frequent; interestingly though, the most frequent theme overall was community, an abstract concept. No correlation was identified between year of study and campus sustainability conceptualizations. Based on our findings, we suggest that further research should be conducted to determine themes in conceptualizations among students enrolled in higher education sustainability programs. Themes in conceptualization are vital in confronting the multifaceted, wicked sustainability problems facing our planet.