Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 70.12
Liaison Amir Nadav
Submission Date March 5, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of St. Thomas
EN-6: Assessing Sustainability Culture

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Elise Amel
Faculty Director
Office of Sustainability Initiatives
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution conduct an assessment of sustainability culture?:
Yes

Which of the following best describes the cultural assessment? The assessment is administered to::
The entire campus community (students and employees) directly or by representative sample

Which of the following best describes the structure of the cultural assessment? The assessment is administered::
Longitudinally to measure change over time

A brief description of how and when the cultural assessment(s) were developed and/or adopted:

The sustainability culture assessment was developed by faculty and staff in the Office of Sustainability Initiatives in March 2018, drawing from two established sources: fellow AASHE institution University of New Hampshire, and the National Survey of Students Engagement (NSSE). Our assessment included constructs of awareness, interest, agency, commitment, behaviors, perceptions of institutional commitment and pervasiveness of sustainability.


A copy or sample of the questions related to sustainability culture:
A sample of the questions related to sustainability culture or the website URL where the assessment tool is available:
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A brief description of how representative samples were reached (if applicable) and how the cultural assessment is administered:

We administered surveys electronically via invitation of the university president. We used a pre- and post- approach comparing the same cohort of students and faculty as well as representative samples of faculty and staff in both pre-test and post-test. The pre- assessment was administered in April of 2018 and a post- assessment was conducted in October 2020. The assessment was structured in a way that enables longitudinal tracking of several different cohorts.

2020 Assessment
The post-survey was sent to all 1,901 employees (faculty and staff) and 9,793 students. For employees, the response rate was 39% (n=743) and completion rate was 35.5% (n=675). For students the response rate was 16.4% (n=1604) and completion rate was 13.1% (n=1282).

Among those completing the survey, full-time staff were slightly overrepresented (+12.9%) and adjunct faculty were slightly underrepresented (-10.1%). Among students, the male/female split of respondents was 37.8%/62.2%, while the population is roughly evenly split (50.2%/49.7%); graduate students (-9.2%) were slightly underrepresented; white respondents were slightly overrepresented (+7%).

The state of representation was similar to 2018 with the exception of first-year undergraduate students who were overrepresented this year by 7.7%, whereas they were underrepresented in 2018. This may be due to the focus on sustainability at new student orientation and the newly implemented First-Year Experience Theme Based Learning Community focused on sustainability.

2018 Assessment
The pre- survey was sent to all 1,955 employees (faculty and staff) and 9,436 students. For employees, the response rate was 42% (n=822) and completion rate was 39.3% (n=768). For students the response rate was 19% (n=1789) and completion rate was 15.8% (n=1488).

Among those completing the survey, full time staff were slightly overrepresented (+14.5%) and adjunct faculty were slightly underrepresented (-10%). Among students, the male/female split of respondents was 38.4%/61.5% while the population is roughly evenly split (50.8%/49.1%); graduate students (-4.1%) and freshmen (-3.5%) were slightly underrepresented; white respondents were slightly overrepresented (+5%)."


A brief summary of results from the cultural assessment:

Results for Students
There has been a noticeable improvement in student perceptions about and engagement in sustainability at St. Thomas. In 2020, 58% of students (compared to 28% in 2018) believe St. Thomas emphasizes learning about sustainability quite a bit or very much. This was more pronounced among first- and second-year students for whom sustainability was part of their orientation experience. Specifically, 38% of 1st/2nd-year students believed “very much” that St. Thomas emphasizes learning about sustainability while only 17% of juniors and seniors believed this strongly. Of the students who answered this question both in 2018 and 2020, 40% demonstrated a positive change.

Now 75% of students agree or strongly agree that they have become more sustainable since attending St. Thomas (compared to 65% in 2018). Of the students who answered this question both in 2018 and 2020, 42% demonstrated a positive change.

In 2020, 60% of student respondents had completed an assignment evaluating the sustainability of some activity, while in 2018 less than half (45%) had done so. Among the students who completed the question in both 2018 and 2020, there was a 39% increase in level of student engagement in such an assignment.

In 2020, 46% of student respondents participated in a campus or community sustainability project (an increase from 37% in 2018). Among the students who completed the question in both 2018 and 2020, 26% of respondents increased this kind of participation.

We created a scale of 12 sustainability initiatives that were included in both 2018 and 2020 surveys. When asked how much they knew about these efforts, 77% of students demonstrated increased knowledge with the average increase of 5 items. The biggest jump in knowledge over time was the university's carbon neutrality goal (33% to 53%), probably due to the publication of the university's sustainability strategic plan, which was among the new initiatives people knew the most about (73%). The second most known new initiative was campus compost bins (77%).

We created a Topical Interest scale using 16 items (e.g., water, energy, etc.). The percentage of students “very interested” increased most for racial equality (52% in 2018; 65% in 2020) and climate change (52% in 2018; 61% in 2020). Almost 62% of the students who completed the questions in both 2018 and 2020 demonstrated an increase in interest.

We created an Engagement scale comprised of 12 items (e.g., reducing waste, organizing sustainability events, etc.). Almost 74% of the students who completed the questions in both 2018 and 2020 demonstrated an increase in engagement. Important in this election year, one of the most significant increases among students is voting, for which ""Always"" responses increased from 37 to 62%. Also for students, attending sustainability events jumped from 45 to 57%.

There is still a gap between students considering sustainability when choosing to come to St. Thomas (25%) and perceived relevance of sustainability to their job/career (73%). Both of these measures increased, however, from 2018 when only 17% considered sustainability when choosing to enroll at St. Thomas, and 67% believed that sustainability knowledge, skills and experience are important for their career. Furthermore, of the students who answered these questions both in 2018 and 2020, considering sustainability when choosing St. Thomas remained the same (as you’d expect) while the importance of sustainability KSAOs increased for almost 37% of respondents.

Results for Employees
Improvements in perceptions of, and engagement in, sustainability also increased since 2018 when the last survey was conducted. 96% of employees (compared to 82% in 2018) believe St. Thomas emphasizes learning about sustainability (for those answering in both 2018 and 2020, over 51% reported a perceived increase in emphasis on learning about sustainability). Almost 39% of those surveyed in both 2018 and 2020 increased their perception that St. Thomas contributes to their acquisition of skills that can help organizations become more sustainable, with an overall increase to 70% (from 51% in 2018). And, there has been an increase in the proportion of employees (96% in 2020 compared to 89% in 2018) who alter their behavior to become more sustainable (for those answering in both 2018 and 2020, almost 29% reported increasing their sustainable behavior).

We created a scale of 12 sustainability initiatives that were included in both 2018 and 2020 surveys. When asked how much they knew about these efforts, 73% of employees demonstrated increased knowledge with the average increase of 4 items. The biggest jump in knowledge over time was about the university’s carbon neutrality goal (increase from 33% in 2018 to 66% in 2020). This was probably due to the publication of the university's sustainability strategic plan, which was among the new initiatives the most people knew about (85%). The second most known new initiative was campus compost bins (83%).

We created a Topical Interest scale using 16 items (e.g., water, energy, etc.). The percentage of people “very interested” increased for all 16 items. The topics exhibiting the largest increases in interest include racial equality (64% in 2018; 80% in 2020) and climate change (60% in 2018; 70% in 2020). Half of the employees who completed the questions in both 2018 and 2020 demonstrated an increase in interest.

We created an Engagement scale comprised of 12 items (e.g., reducing waste, organizing sustainability events, etc.). 53% of the employees who completed the questions in both 2018 and 2020 demonstrated an increase in engagement. Largest changes were in the number of employees always, or most of the time, conserving water (11 percentage point increase) and in the number never participating in gatherings to facilitate positive change (18 percentage point decrease).

Almost all responding employees (99%) are committed to contributing to sustainability at St. Thomas (an uptick from 94% in 2018)! Important for systemic change, 82% of employees agree or strongly agree that they feel empowered (compared to 69% in 2018) and, of the employees who answered the question both in 2018 and 2020, almost 34% reported an increase in sense of empowerment.


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