- POSTER ABSTRACT: This study seeks to diagnose systemic issues facing the Oregon State University (OSU) Student Sustainability Initiative (SSI) and identify solutions with the greatest potential to improve the program. This study has to potential to provide similarly sized, structured, and focused organizations with a starting place for their own auditing and development efforts, and could guide further research on this aspect of such organizations. The study collected qualitative data through as series of 50-minute in-depth interviews with (A) employees of OSU directly responsible for some aspect of the SSI, and (B) members of groups, organizations, and parties that a member of group A identified as having collaborated with the SSI on a project on. Responses were then compared to each other to identify: (1) specific systemic issues, (2) issue categories, (3) potential priorities, and (4) potential solutions. (During this period, existing literature was referenced to verify validity and expand the potential solutions.) While there are some limitations to the study due to structure and execution, the validity of the findings isn’t in question. At this point, there are a handful of issues that have been identified as potentially important: (1) communication, (2) turnover, (3) responsiveness and reliability, (4) clarity and reasonableness of expectations, (5) different views, agendas, and cultures, (6) sufficient internal and external support, and (7) student participation and engagement. More important, though, is this finding: OSU ranks among the top universities in the world when it comes to sustainability efforts, and this audit is revealing that the SSI still sees considerable room for growth.
- THESIS ABSTRACT: Student-coordinated programs such as the Oregon State University (OSU) Student Sustainability Initiative (SSI) provide important opportunities for future leaders to explore passions and develop experience. Unfortunately, recent trends may be putting those programs at risk (Hilliard, 2010). This study was created to investigate systemic issues facing the SSI and identify (1) their potential causes and impacts, and (2) a handful of solutions that could have the greatest potential to improve the program. A sample of (A) employees of OSU directly responsible for some aspect of the SSI, and (B) members of groups, organizations, and parties that had collaborated with the SSI on a project were interviewed. The findings of those interviews were then compared to the existing literature to verify their validity and clarify their context. The results suggest (1) that the SSI may face issues surrounding communication, capacity, support, engagement, and knowledge, and (2) that student-coordinated programs can endure, and benefit from, ongoing assessment and improvement. The implications of this are that all student-coordinated programs likely have potential for improvement, and it is likely that some have room to improve in the same areas as the SSI.