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Study seeks to understand student motivation to be environmental stewards

by UofL Today last modified Nov 19, 2010 02:07 PM

The University of Louisville's Urban Wildlife Research Lab is conducting a study on environmental awareness and stewardship among college students, and is surveying UofL students and those at 25 other universities.

Study seeks to understand student motivation to be environmental stewards

Tommy Parker

UofL Today recently asked Tommy Parker, assistant professor of biology, about the study.

UofL Today: What's the purpose of the study?

Parker: The purpose of this study is to better understand what drives college students to become better environmental stewards. College students have been at the forefront of every major movement in our country. As many campuses have experienced, as well as our own, students are a force in the current "go green" movement. However, the actual act of going green is simply a repackaging of a term that has existed for decades - environmental stewardship. What the "going green" movement is really describing is environmental stewardship. The goals of this study are: 1) to understand the factors that influence college students in decisions regarding environmental stewardship; 2) are these factors related to the student's major; 3) are these decisions related to students' social attitudes.  

UofL Today: Why is it important?

Parker: Understanding the drivers of the current movement is a necessity if we are to sustain the enthusiasm for concern about the environment. Additionally, it can provide insights as to how we can better our educational system regarding environmental issues for the general public.

UofL Today: What types of things will it measure?

Parker: This study will measure college students' awareness of environmental issues, knowledge of environmental concepts, and experiences with "green" activities. Their social, situational, and environmental attitudes along with basic demographic information will also be measured.

UofL Today: Is it through a national organization, if 25-plus universities are participating?

Parker: No. This is an interdisciplinary, ecology and psychology, nationwide study started at UofL.

The study manifested after conversations with a friend and colleague, Dr. Danielle D. Brown (Howard University, formerly of the psychology department here at UofL) regarding going green. My research focuses on the ecology of urban areas. To study ecological processes in urban areas, I have to incorporate the effects human behaviors and attitudes have on these processes. However, as a psychologist, Dr. Brown was interested in what factors lead to the development of those behaviors and attitudes. When discussing these topics one day in the hallway of Life Sciences, we thought it would be interesting if someone measured this across the two disciplines. The next week, we started working on developing this project.

UofL Today: What's the deadline for students to take the survey?

Parker: There is not a deadline. This will be an ongoing long-term study. The intent is to not only measure the drivers of environmental stewardship, but to also monitor the trends over time.

We are asking faculty to pass on information about the study to their students. University of Louisville students can participate in the study at www.surveymonkey.com/s/environmentalawarenessUofL. The study has been approved by the university's IRB (#10.0277).  Students and faculty can contact Dr. Tommy Parker (tommy.parker@louisville.edu) if they have any questions.

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