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Putting sustainability research into practice on the university campus: An example from a Caribbean small island state

Maarten B. Eppinga (Department of Geography, University of Zurich Faculty of Science, Zurich, Switzerland; University Research Priority Program in Global Change and Biodiversity, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland and Academic Foundation Year, University of Aruba, Oranjestad, Aruba)
Jenny Lozano-Cosme (Academic Foundation Year, University of Aruba, Oranjestad, Aruba)
Tobia de Scisciolo (Academic Foundation Year, University of Aruba, Oranjestad, Aruba)
Patrick Arens (Rectorate, University of Aruba, Oranjestad, Aruba)
Maria J. Santos (Department of Geography, University of Zurich Faculty of Science, Zurich, Switzerland and University Research Priority Program in Global Change and Biodiversity, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland)
Eric N. Mijts (University of Aruba Faculty of Law, Oranjestad, Aruba; Academic Foundation Year, University of Aruba, Oranjestad, Aruba and Rectorate, University of Aruba, Oranjestad, Aruba)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 28 October 2019

Issue publication date: 9 January 2020

Abstract

Purpose

Despite increasing efforts to incorporate sustainability in curricula and practices of institutions of higher education, effective implementation remains challenging. The purpose of this study is to present an approach to incorporate sustainability into a practice-oriented research skills course, which was implemented at a small island state university in the Caribbean.

Design/methodology/approach

First-year university students followed a four-week course module, starting with the introduction of the sustainable development goals, and culminating in a symposium in which the students present the findings of their research projects to the campus community. Pre-course module and post-course module surveys measured the students’ knowledge and perceptions regarding sustainability. These survey results were also compared with the result of a similar survey held for the university’s employees.

Findings

The survey results suggested that following the course module increased students’ knowledge about sustainable development, as well as their support for the university campus and its community putting more emphasis on teaching, practicing and encouraging sustainability. Interestingly, university employees scored significantly higher on the latter component than students, suggesting that in this case a lack of interest of the staff is not a barrier toward a sustainable campus.

Originality/value

The presented course module offers a novel and low-cost approach to introducing sustainability into a broad range of academic curricula, specifically tailored to the needs of institutes of higher education in small island states. The survey results suggest that this type of education may not only ensure reaching academic goals but also increase students’ interest in sustainable development within their local environment.

Keywords

Citation

Eppinga, M.B., Lozano-Cosme, J., de Scisciolo, T., Arens, P., Santos, M.J. and Mijts, E.N. (2020), "Putting sustainability research into practice on the university campus: An example from a Caribbean small island state", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 54-75. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-03-2019-0131

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited