• Social sustainability on university campuses

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has announced the finalists for its sustainability awards, which grant global recognition to the individuals and organizations who lead the higher-education sustainability movement. From more than 400 applications, 40 projects and research articles have been selected with the help of volunteer judges from the community to fulfill the organization’s mission to raise the visibility of higher-impact sustainability projects, pioneering research, and student leadership. The AASHE intends to achieve this mission by disseminating innovations and inspiring continued progress toward environmental, social, and economic health. Southwestern University is among these finalists for research recently published by SU faculty and students concerning issues of social sustainability and social injustice at institutions of higher education.

The article, titled “Intersectional Sustainability and Student Activism: A Framework for Achieving Social Sustainability on University Campuses,” was a collaboration between Southwestern University and the University of Sydney (Australia). It made the list of finalists for the Campus Sustainability Research Award in the category of Published Research:Engagement. The contributors included Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Joshua Long, Keara Hudler ’18, Lilly Dennis ’18, Nataley Ford ’18, and Joanna Mendez ’18 of Southwestern University and Muriel DiNella of the University of Sydney (Australia). The article addresses issues of sustainability at institutions of higher education.

“Student activism and campus education provided the foundation for this research. We used our voices to bring the fundamental interrelationship between justice, equity, and sustainability to the forefront of the campus community’s consciousness.”

Although universities have made progress toward environmental and financial sustainability in recent decades, many have failed to address issues regarding social sustainability and social injustice. As the number and severity of these issues have increased on college campuses, it has become more important than ever to raise awareness and implement measures that would support a constructive environment for resolving these issues. From a student activist perspective, the authors of the article assert that a comprehensive and intersectional approach toward university sustainability, with an emphasis on social sustainability, can empower students to form and engage in collaborative approaches to be a catalyst for change of policy formation on college campuses. Hudler, one of the leaders of the project, says, “Student activism and campus education provided the foundation for this research. We used our voices to bring the fundamental interrelationship between justice, equity, and sustainability to the forefront of the campus community’s consciousness. The university community’s support shows how this interrelationship was so clearly experienced by students and faculty.”

AASHE is the leading association for the advancement of sustainability in higher education. Its mission is to inspire and catalyze higher education to lead the global sustainability transformation and be a foundation for a thriving, equitable, and ecologically healthy world.

This year’s winners from among the list of finalists, along with the Lifetime Achievement Award winner, will be announced December 3, 2020, during a free virtual AASHE Sustainability Awards ceremony that begins at noon U.S. Eastern time.