Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 86.09
Liaison Jennifer Andrews
Submission Date Aug. 16, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of New Hampshire
AC-6: Sustainability Literacy Assessment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Fiona Wilson
Director/Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer
Sustainability Institute/UNH
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

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

Which of the following best describes the literacy assessment? The assessment is administered to::
The entire (or predominate) student body, directly or by representative sample

Which of the following best describes the structure of the assessment? The assessment is administered as a::
Pre- and post-assessment to the same cohort or to representative samples in both a pre- and post-test

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:

Full questions are included in the uploaded copy of the survey instrument above. These questions test understanding of the definitions and a series of factual questions on sustainability issues and concepts. (Please note in 2017 and 2020 we administered a combined sustainability literacy and values/behaviors/beliefs survey. Starting in 2021 we have separated the two surveys, with a survey of values/behaviors and beliefs that will be administered every other year to all students (as well as faculty and staff) and the (new) student survey of sustainability literacy which will be administered every other year (in the opposite years.)

For example:

Which of the following is the United Nations’ definition of sustainable development?
o Ensuring that people continue to buy more goods and use more resources, indefinitely (1)
o Setting aside resources for preservation, never to be used (2)
o Meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (3)
o Only using recycled materials for production (4)
Food and dietary choices impact which of the following?
o Public health (1)
o Land use (2)
o Biodiversity (3)
o Climate change (4)
o All of the above (5)

Historically, which of the following has been the leading cause of the depletion of fish stocks?
o Global overfishing (1)
o Reduced fish fertility due to genetic hybridization (2)
o Ocean pollution (3)
o Global climate change (4)

Which of the following is the definition of economic viability within a sustainability framework?
o Maximizing the share price of a company's stock (1)
o Long-term profitability, that considers employees' wellbeing and efficient use of resources (2)
o When costs equal revenue (3)
o Continually expanding market share (4)

Over the past 3 decades, what has happened to the difference between the richest and poorest Americans?
o Income disparity has increased (1)
o Income disparity has stayed about the same (2)
o Income disparity has decreased (3)


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

Our student sustainability literacy survey is an instrument we have been using for several years. It was originally developed by assessing best practices for sustainability literacy assessments at other AASHE institutions. Our survey was developed and then vetted by the UNH Research Office. The first assessment was undertaken in November 2016. A follow-up assessment was administered in April 2017. We repeated the survey again in the Spring of 2020 to allow us to assess students who would have been first years in 2017 and now seniors. While we used the 2017 instrument for our 2020 survey to allow meaningful longitudinal data, starting in Spring 2022 we will be redesigning the literacy assessment to reflect evolving terminology and best practices in the field of sustainability.


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

We work collaboratively with the UNH Survey Center, our professional on-campus quantitative research experts. They host the assessment on UNH's Qualtrics platform. All undergraduate students at UNH are sent an initial email, with subsequent follow-up emails, introducing them to the assessment, linking it to UNH's commitment to sustainability, and encouraging them to participate.

Invitations to complete this survey were sent to all 12,472 undergraduate UNH students on April 21, 2020 and a reminder was sent on April 27. Of those, 433 UNH undergraduate students responded, yielding a response rate of 3.5%. The response rate was lower than in previous years (15%) but understandable given the timing in the first few months of the global health pandemic, and still provided a robust summary for meaningful analysis. Twenty-six percent of responding UNH students were currently Freshmen, another 26% Sophomores, 23% Juniors, 25% Seniors, and 1% another academic standing. Only 4% of responding UNH students are between 15 and 18 years old, while nearly nine in ten (89%) are between 18 and 24. Five percent of respondents are between 25 and 34 years old and 1% each are between 35 and 44 or between 45 and 54. Three in ten (30%) responding UNH students say they are pursuing their degree in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture while 21% are pursuing their degree in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Slightly fewer responding students are
pursuing their degree in the College of Liberal Arts (17%), the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics (15%), or the College of Health and Human Services (15%). The response rate by college was a little different to the distribution of the student body by college, with slight over-representation among COLSA students, and underrepresentation by COLA and PAUL students.


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

Factual Questions: Responding UNH students were slightly less knowledgeable than in 2017 when asked to identify the correct answers to a series of factual questions concerning sustainability. Just over a quarter of respondents answered 90% or more of the questions correctly, while three in ten answered less than 80% correctly. Participants were particularly less likely than in 2017 to be able to correctly identify why many economists argue that electricity prices in the U.S. are too low, the primary function of wetlands, and the primary reason for the depletion of fish stocks. Those who do not consider sustainability to be overly important on average answered fewer questions correctly.
Agreement with Sustainability Concepts: Nearly all responding UNH students agree that sustainability includes cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors


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

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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.