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Survey seeks to map Emory's sustainability community

This week, students, faculty and staff who are actively involved in sustainability can contribute to a mapping project to visualize Emory's sustainability community by filling out a social network survey at

During the fall 2014 semester, a multidisciplinary student research team from Emory's Graduate Sustainability Group (GSG) conducted a pilot social network analysis (SNA) of the graduate student sustainability community. Rather than focusing on individuals, SNA looks at relationships between people and can be used to visualize the connectivity and cohesiveness of social networks. The pilot focused on graduate students who are actively working to further sustainability on and off Emory's campus.

"Our findings revealed limited collaboration between different groups. Students are most likely to collaborate with others in their program or school, but they seldom have the opportunity to cross disciplinary boundaries," says GSG president and project lead Ioulia Fenton.

The research was able to identify key people who act as connectors across different groups. It also found that 37 percent of the current graduate student network is set to graduate in 2015. The group is using these findings for evidence-based strategy and programming designed to benefit the graduate student body.

Following pilot success, the team received a $3,800 Sustainability Incentives Fund grant award from Emory's Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) to expand their research to encompass Emory's entire sustainability network.

"We want to understand who is actively engaged in sustainability on campus — including students, faculty and staff — the type of work they do, and to what extent these individuals and groups collaborate," explains team member Melanie Aleman.

The research coincides with the creation of a 2015-2025 Emory Sustainability Vision and Strategic Goals document that a committee of faculty, staff and student leaders is currently working on. To include as many voices in the document as possible, the research survey will ask participants to weigh in on what a sustainable Emory should look like over the next decade.

"We are really excited to be able to not only visualize our entire community, but to make the creation of an Emory sustainability vision a truly participatory process," adds Fenton.

The project will conduct participatory data analysis by inviting stakeholders to interpret the results and use them for their own purposes, such as evidence-based strategic decisions. "This work can help OSI determine what kind of support it can best provide to our community's sustainability efforts and strategize on fund allocation for sustainability programs on campus," says OSI director Ciannat Howett.

In order to be successful, the team needs the community's help.

"So far, we have identified over 600 students, faculty and staff on Emory's main and Oxford campuses who are actively engaged in sustainability. For best results, we will need at least half of them to fill out our survey," Fenton says.

Over the next week, the team will send out individual emails to more than 600 identified network members and one in five participants will receive a $10 gift card. If you have been involved in sustainability at Emory in the last three years and you would like to have your say on Emory's sustainability vision, you can fill out the research survey by following this link:

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