2018 Winner: Bridging Theory & Practice: A Critical Understanding of Sustainability at UCSC

Project Information
Bridging Theory & Practice: A Critical Understanding of Sustainability at UCSC
Social Sciences
ENVS 195A, ENVS 195B
At UCSC, concerns about environmental sustainability are deeply embedded within the DNA of our institution. For example, the most recent 2017-2022 Campus Sustainability Plan was just launched, every year the Student Environmental Center drafts its Sustainability Blueprint, and Rachel Carson College has a Sustainability Minor. However, how different members of our university community define and understand “sustainability” has been largely unexplored. My research will ask the following questions: How do members of UCSC campus articulate, define, understand “sustainability”? How do these understandings vary by race/ethnicity, gender, and other aspects of positionality? My findings will provide insight and contribute to sustainability-related dialogue held throughout campus and will influence campus sustainability efforts. As elaborated above, “sustainability” is a concept and effort central to our campus identity and mission, and is largely perceived as an unqualified good. People’s definitions, understandings, and operationalization of this term are conceptual debates that center our values and work as a campus. This research is important as it examines a fundamental aspect of our campus through a unique lense shaped by a positionality that strays from the dominant narrative. As our campus continues to change and transform, it necessary to further develop a culture and understanding of sustainability that reflects the diverse campus community. As a leader in sustainability, UCSC as an institution provides an example for other UC’s to develop “inclusive sustainability” ideology and practices that moves beyond an ecocentric understanding. Furthermore, this research will contribute to literature regarding institutional sustainability within higher education. Very little research exists examining the positionality as it relates to understands of sustainability.
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  • Cristal Santamaria Gonzalez (Oakes)