Campus Sustainability, Community Context: Engaged Anthropology to Advanced Stewardship

Research Overview
This engaged ethnographic research is being conducted with, and about, University of Louisville campus sustainability efforts, focusing on projects with significant student participation. Conceptually, our work is framed by interdisciplinary scholarship in Urban Political Ecology that seeks to understand environmental work within the context of relationships of power experienced across scales from the local to the global (cf. Checker 2005; Rademacher 2015; M’Gonigle & Starke 2006). This theoretical frame prompts us to explore questions of responsibility, engagement, efficacy, and outcome, and to embed these questions within an understanding of how sustainability programs work at UofL and across university campuses in the U.S. and internationally at a time of ecological crisis.

Research Team - Spring 2021
Project PI: Dr. Angela Storey, Anthropology
Graduate Research Assistant: Bevin Hardy, Sustainability MS
Undergraduate Research Assistants:
Henny Ransdell (ANTH, SUST, ENGL)
Megan Husted (ANTH)
Maria Cora (ANTH, SUST)
Josh Cagle (SUST)
Lexi Lilly (ANTH, SUST)
Community Partner: Partnership for a Green City
Campus Partner: UofL Sustainability Initiatives

Research Question:
Our objective is to better understand the relationship between students, staff, administrators, and faculty within sustainability initiatives at UofL. This research will examine the engagement, efficacy, and impact of campus actors within various programs.

Semester Work 1: Research Design
Working collaboratively, the research team conducted literature reviews, collected background information on campus programs, and wrote our research proposal. We drafted all documents, submitted them, and had approved coverage for this research from the UofL Human Subjects Protection Program during the Spring semester.

Semester Work 2: Data Collection
Early data collection included interviews with students participating and coordinating sustainability efforts across multiple projects, including: campus composting, the Cardinal Cupboard, the Food Recovery Network, ELSB, and other programs. We also collected participant observation data from in-person (outside) and digital sustainability events.

Semester Work 3: Podcasts
Separate from the data collection covered by our IRB, students also sought to make known the work of campus sustainability through the creation of podcasts. One of the podcasts was aired on Forward Radio and can be heard here.

Source: Campus Sustainability, Community Context: Engaged Anthropology to Advanced Stewardship (UofL CCTSJR Research Spotlight, May 17, 2021)