Overall Rating Bronze
Overall Score 34.87
Liaison Courtney Gallaher
Submission Date June 4, 2024

STARS v2.2

Northern Illinois University
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 4.00 Courtney Gallaher
Associate Professor, Sustainability Coordinator
Earth, Atmosphere and Environment
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution conduct an assessment of the sustainability literacy of its students?:

Which of the following best describes the literacy assessment? The assessment is administered to::
A subset of students or a sample that may not be representative of the predominant student body

Which of the following best describes the structure of the assessment? The assessment is administered as a::
Standalone evaluation without a follow-up assessment of the same cohort or representative samples

A copy of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment(s):
A list or sample of the questions included in the sustainability literacy assessment or the website URL where the assessment tool may be found:

The attached document has the complete list of survey questions asked.  

A brief description of how the literacy assessment was developed and/or when it was adopted:

The literacy assessment and scale comes from unpublished work one of our professors did as a grad student at a previous institution. They developed their own scale and tried to publish on it. Which is cited here: Kuehl, C., Sparks, A., Hodges, H., Smith, E. R. A. N. & Maynard, K. Measuring sustainability literacy - developing and assessing a measure of sustainability literacy on a UC Campus. In 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (American Political Science Association, 2016).

This survey was conducted in 2018 at NIU and then repeated in Fall 2023.  

A brief description of how a representative sample was reached (if applicable) and how the assessment(s) were administered :

The survey was fielded completely online using Qualtrics survey software. The survey aimed to understand sustainability attitudes of the campus, so invitations were sent to all NIU students, faculty, and staff. To induce participation, respondents could enter a raffle for one of 15 $20 gift cards to Huskie Books and Gear. Overall, 976 quality responses were recorded for an overall response rate of 5.25% (Student – 3.6%; Staff – 10.7; Faculty – 15.8%). Though seemingly low, this rate was in line with expectations and industry standards.  

Invitations to complete this survey were initially sent to the NIU community on September 28th, 2023, with several follow-up and reminder emails sent throughout the month of October. Flyers and QR codes linked directly to the survey were used to recruit respondents. In addition, tabling efforts in Barsema Hall were made by students to gain further attention of the College of Business faculty, staff, and students. The highest response rate came from NIU Today/other university emails sent from end of September through October. Emails were sent to all students a total of five times -- twice through BARKS dedicated emails and three times through The Weekly Scroll. Emails were also sent to students, staff, and faculty through NIU Today on four occasions. The survey was closed on October 20th, 2024. 

A brief summary of results from the literacy assessment(s):

First, the report suggests strong support for sustainability and concern for environmental issues across campus. Students, faculty, and staff all expressed high levels of support for the importance of sustainability and are concerned about environmental issues like climate change. Many are already performing a wide variety of pro-environmental behaviors to reduce their own impact.

Second, there is broad support for the variety of ongoing sustainability initiatives on campus. However, there was also room for improvement. Only half of respondents believe NIU is a leader in sustainability. There is broad interest in sustainability opportunities in the classroom and through on-campus activities. For example, one third of respondents reported not engaging with sustainability themes in any of their classes. Meanwhile, a common theme in open-ended responses was the preference for more on campus sustainability programming.

Finally, the report examines attitudes toward many of the primary areas of environmental impact that occur on campus. Residence halls, campus dining, energy, and transportation play outsize roles in the university’s effect on environmental sustainability. In general, there appears to be broad support for existing sustainability efforts. Yet there is plenty of room for improvement to help members of the campus community make sustainable decisions, such as making recycling available on campus, and make the university more sustainable.

Website URL where information about the sustainability literacy assessment is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

This credit has been updated with data collected in Fall 2023.  The full report is available on the website in the optional url field.  

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.