Greening the campus: a theoretical extension of the dialogic communication approach

Serena Carpenter (School of Journalism, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)
Bruno Takahashi (Department of Communication, School of Journalism, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)
Alisa P. Lertpratchya (Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)
Carie Cunningham (School of Journalism, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 4 July 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine the strategic organization-public dialogic communication practices of universities in the USA. The authors used the dialogic model of communication to explore the extent to which higher education sustainability leaders (SL) at the top 25 USA sustainable engage in relational communication strategies.

Design/methodology/approach

The qualitative study involved semi-structured interviews with campus sustainability and student group leaders from a mix of regional areas in the USA. The authors examined the transcripts for concepts argued to exist within the dialogic model of communication from the public relations field.

Findings

Results reveal that SL rely on dialogic communication strategies to recruit active participants, build stakeholder bridges across campus and empower individuals to have an impact within specific sustainability areas. Communicators most likely engaged in empathy, followed by propinquity, mutuality, commitment and risk of the dialogic model.

Research limitations/implications

The authors extended the dialogic model of communication by identifying theoretical issues and scale items that can be used to measure each dimension of the model in future work.

Practical implications

The results reveal several ways that institutes of higher education could successfully use relational strategies to promote sustainability across multiple campus groups and departments by recruiting campus ambassadors, collectively defining sustainability and sharing public progress reports.

Originality/value

Few studies of sustainability in higher education holistically examine the relationship building practices of organizations that promote sustainability, despite the fact that communication is identified as a key factor in the successful implementation of sustainable actions.

Keywords

Citation

Carpenter, S., Takahashi, B., Lertpratchya, A. and Cunningham, C. (2016), "Greening the campus: a theoretical extension of the dialogic communication approach", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 520-539. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-02-2015-0036

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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