Date of Award

5-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geography and Environmental Resources

First Advisor

Duram, Lesli

Abstract

Higher Education has the resources available to serve as a leader in sustainability, specifically by preparing graduates to address issues associated with global climate change through the use of interdisciplinary and hands-on learning. However, institutional barriers may limit large-scale restructuring of curriculum and institutional structures. Small initiatives and broad networking may help to provide sustainability education while also paving the way for broader curriculum and institutional adaptations. The potential of community gardens to serve as sustainability and community interventions make them a desirable study site to gain insight into the power of small initiatives, yet very few studies have assessed the role of community garden projects in campus settings. Through the use of an email survey sent to campus garden managers across the United States and Canada, the power of these initiatives to advance higher education sustainability can be better understood. The study sought to answer the following research questions: (1) What are the demographic characteristics of university food gardens?, (2) Do university gardens serve as sites for formal and informal education, (3) What obstacles and benefits occur within university food gardens, and (4) What factors affect the long-term resilience of university food garden initiatives? It was found that when institutional support, strong networking, and consistent participation are present, university food gardens enhance the overall sustainability of higher education institutions while also providing valuable sources of interdisciplinary and hands-on learning. Gardens receiving the greatest support from their institution exhibit strong resilience and provide numerous benefits that aid increase the overall sustainability of their institution. This study asserts the power of small sustainability initiatives within higher education institutions, while also addressing key factors which ensure the long-term resilience of these valuable sites.

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