Open Collections

UBC Undergraduate Research

Fostering Student Engagement with the AMS Sustainability Action Plan (ASAP) Calapiz, Angelica; Cruz, Calvin; Wong, Andrew Lang; Schroer, Bridger; Ko, Leeann 2020-04-14

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Notice for Google Chrome users:
If you are having trouble viewing or searching the PDF with Google Chrome, please download it here instead.

Item Metadata


18861-Calapiz_A_et_al_PSYC_421_Fostering_student_final_report.pdf [ 885.2kB ]
JSON: 18861-1.0392717.json
JSON-LD: 18861-1.0392717-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 18861-1.0392717-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 18861-1.0392717-rdf.json
Turtle: 18861-1.0392717-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 18861-1.0392717-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 18861-1.0392717-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Sustainability Program Student Research Report         Fostering Student Engagement with the AMS Sustainability Action Plan (ASAP) Angelica Calapiz, Calvin Cruz, Andrew Lang Wong, Bridger Schroer, Leeann Ko (AiMS) University of British Columbia Course: PSYC 421 Themes: Community, Climate Date: April 14, 2020       Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS Sustainability Program provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student research project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore, readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Sustainability Program representative about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”. FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 2 Executive Summary  The current UBC AMS Sustainability Strategy lacks goals that the contemporary student body prioritizes, and can be improved by the integration of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). This study aimed to obtain student feedback to analyze the focus areas most valued by those the AMS represents, and what information dissemination methods students prefer with regards to sustainability progress within the AMS. A Qualtrics survey was distributed via social media and email newsletters, and was completed by 93 UBC students and alumni. The survey included questions asking participants to report familiarity with sustainability focus areas, AMS sustainability initiatives, the UNSDGs, and their perceived importance of sustainability focus areas. Participants were also asked to report preferred information dissemination methods. After conducting paired-sample t tests, we found that students did not place greater importance on focus areas that directly impacted student wellbeing, such as economic and social sustainability, but found that students were not familiar with these focus areas and current AMS sustainability initiatives. We also observed that participants preferred the most convenient dissemination methods. These findings suggest that lack of familiarity with sustainability focus areas may impact their perceived importance, and if information is made easily accessible, students are more likely to engage.                        FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 3 Fostering Student Engagement with the AMS Sustainability Action Plan  Introduction An extensive literature review of the sustainability plans of Canadian university student societies was conducted to assess the inclusion of both student input and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) into the framework of existing sustainability plans (United Nations, 2015). The initial intention of this literature review was to generate ideas about ways of engaging students in the creation of the AMS Sustainability Action Plan (ASAP) and of embedding the UNSDGs into the ASAP. However, this literature review revealed that none of the comparative student societies in focus stated either the inclusion of the UNSDGs or of student engagement in the creation of their sustainability plans. Of the top 10 doctoral universities in Canada according to Maclean's 2020 rankings, which includes prominent universities such as the University of Toronto, McGill University, University of Alberta, McMaster University, University of British Columbia, and several others, UBC's Alma Mater Society (AMS) is currently the only student union with a student-informed sustainability action plan (DSU, 2017; FAÉCUM, 2018; Laurent, 2018; Maclean’s, 2019; MSU, 2018; Queen’s AMS, 2017; SSMU, 2018; SU, 2018; UASU, 2011; UTSU, 2019; Western USC, 2018). Additionally, several societies do not provide any mention of sustainability plans outside of brief information about sustainability committees (DSU, 2017; FAÉCUM, 2018; Western USC, 2018).  While this literature review did not provide new idea generation for the content of the ASAP, a variety of the current goals already included in the ASAP were found in existing sustainability plans, such as the mention of providing sustainability workshops or events to engage students with sustainability concepts (SSMU, 2018, UTSU, 2019). Additionally, this literature review provided our client with a fundamental understanding of the broad context in which the AMS is operating, and the unprecedented inclusion of both the UNSDGs and student involvement in the ASAP.  Additional literature was reviewed to foster an understanding of the inclusion of the UNSDGs into organizational frameworks, such as into the curriculum and mechanisms of the University of Toronto. The University of Toronto (as an institution) analyzes existing co-curricular and extracurricular activities and categorizes which of the 17 UNSDGs each activity addresses (Brugmann et al., 2019). This linkage between existing activities and the UNSDGs then illustrates the strengths, gaps, and areas of opportunity in the university’s programming: a concept which can be applied to the ASAP to evaluate the quality of inclusion of the UNSDGs. In formulating the new ASAP, this study aimed to obtain student feedback to research what sustainability issues students at UBC value most, and what information dissemination methods UBC students prefer in regards to hearing about sustainability progress within the AMS. Research indicates individuals tend to engage in temporal discounting, where they postpone losses to the future, and are more invested in focus areas that have direct, instantaneous consequences to themselves (Rogers & Bazerman, 2008; Zhao, 2020, slide 26). Individuals are also less likely to act upon environmental issues if they lack attribution of immediacy and immorality, and more likely to react to issues that are perceived as having instantaneous, imminent, and immoral impacts (Zhao, 2020, slide 18). On top of this, people tend to participate more in sustainability initiatives if there are fewer perceived obstacles to participation, or if the initiative is more convenient to the participant (DiGiacomo et al., 2018).  Based on these psychological insights, we hypothesized: FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 4 1) Participants would place greater importance on focus areas of the ASAP that directly impact student wellbeing, which we operationalized as economic sustainability, social sustainability, increasing student access, and increasing organization collaborations. 2) Students would prefer information methods that are convenient and have the least perceived barrier to accessibility, such as progress report via email, or a display in an AMS space.  Methods Participants. A Qualtrics survey was distributed with the goal of reaching the widest (UBC) participant sample possible, including students and faculty, in order to collect data generalizable to those the AMS represents and serves. The survey was distributed through email newsletters and social media pages, such as Facebook groups titled “UBC Class of 2020”. During the timespan the survey was live (7 weeks), we received 102 responses. After excluding 9 incomplete datasets, we retained a sample size of ninety three (62 female, 30 male, 1 identified as ‘Other’), from 16 to 64 years old (75.5% in the 20-29 age range), with 46% in 4th year or above, and 21% in 3rd year (M = 3.06). Frequency of use varied widely, with 31.4% using AMS services 0-1 days per week, 41.2% using AMS services 2-4 days per week, and 26.5% using AMS services 5-7 days per week.  Conditions. Aiming to research whether students would place greater importance on focus areas that directly impact student wellbeing, we divided focus areas into two categories: those with indirect impacts on student wellbeing and those with direct impacts on student wellbeing. Focus areas participants had to rate perceived importance on included: Environmental Sustainability (within AMS facilities), Environmental Sustainability (regarding food services), Economic Sustainability, Social Sustainability, Increasing Student Access, and Increasing Organization Collaborations. Social Sustainability, Economic Sustainability, Increasing Student Access, and Increasing Organization Collaborations were classified as focus areas with direct impacts on student wellbeing, and included examples such as providing more affordable food options and reducing stigma around marginalized AMS services like the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC). Environmental Sustainability (facilities) and Environmental Sustainability (food) were operationalized as focus areas with indirect impacts on student wellbeing.   Measures. The Qualtrics survey collected several points of information. Firstly, basic demographic information was collected, including age, gender, year of study, UBC affiliation, and frequency of use of AMS services, such as Speakeasy, Safewalk, or the Nest. A set of questions were then asked assessing current familiarity with AMS sustainability initiatives, UNSDGs, environmental sustainability and social sustainability. Participants responded on a 10-point familiarity rating scale. Although 10-point scales rely on participants to make precise decisions with less gradation definition, we opted for the 10-point scale considering the fact that many people are familiar with the notion of rating “out of 10” (Dawkes, 2008). Next, we assessed the participants' perceived importance of the proposed ASAP sustainability goals, specifically, the six focus areas. Importance was assessed on a 10-point rating scale, with a score of 1 graded as ‘Not at all important’ and a score of 10 graded as ‘Extremely important’. Then, a multiple-choice question asking for preferred information dissemination methods was posed, where participants could select multiple preferred dissemination methods. This was followed by FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 5 a ‘Y/N’ question gauging willingness to provide ongoing feedback to the AMS. Finally, an open response text box asked for any other feedback pertaining to the project.  Procedure. The survey was mainly distributed through online email newsletters sent from the AMS to all students in the student body. The survey was also distributed through various online student groups on the social media platform Facebook, such as “UBC Class of 2020”. Initially, in-person survey response collection was planned to take place in the AMS nest to increase the sample size and receive feedback from students that are most affected by changes in AMS policy. Unfortunately, due to the changing circumstances as a result of COVID-19, in-person responses could not be collected. Therefore, all participants voluntarily filled out the survey on their own time through the links sent out virtually, and the survey took roughly five minutes to complete. Participants gave informed consent before continuing to the rest of the survey. Because participants were left to fill the survey on their own, several survey responses were either incomplete or inappropriate; as such, we discarded said entries and excluded them from our data analysis. The survey accepted responses from February 6, 2020 to March 24, 2020, for a total of 47 total days.  Results Hypothesis 1. To explore our first hypothesis, the potential ASAP focus areas data were aggregated into two categories: areas that have a direct impact on student wellbeing and areas that have an indirect impact on student wellbeing. Variables were categorized by the content of their descriptions on the Qualtrics survey, in which direct variables clearly stated that they benefited students economic or general wellbeing (Appendix B). A two-tailed paired-sample T-test was then conducted in JASP (Version 0.11.1) between the two aggregate variables to determine any statistical significance between the aggregate means.  The results of the paired sample T-test failed to reject the null hypothesis, and therefore showed no statistical significance in the results for direct (M = 7.65, SD = 2.26) and indirect (M = 8.40, SD = 1.99), conditions; t(185) = +/-1.98, p = 0.05. Therefore, we cannot conclude that students prefer ASAP focus areas that directly impact their wellbeing.   Hypothesis 2. Our hypothesis on information dissemination methods preferred by students was tested with a multiple-choice question in which students selected multiple methods to which they preferred to receive AMS sustainability information. As participants were allowed to select multiple methods, we counted the total number of selections made for each choice survey option and accumulated the totals to find the most preferred methods of information dissemination. As we hypothesized, the more convenient methods of email updates and physical displays in student union buildings were selected the most, with 64 and 54 votes for either respectively. The option for updates through the official AMS website was also frequently selected, receiving 51 votes. AMS sustainability events, as the most inconvenient information dissemination method with the most barriers to accessibility, had the fewest selections with 31 votes, supporting our hypothesis that more convenient dissemination methods would be preferred. Additionally, we included an open-ended option for participants to provide their own suggestions for other methods. Through this open-ended section, participants generated options such as social media updates (12 responses), posters (2), in-lecture announcements (2), and magazine and student newspaper updates (2). Through the majority of responses selecting methods that had fewer accessibility barriers and are therefore more convenient, we found support for our second hypothesis. FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 6 Additional Results. In addition to exploring our hypotheses, we performed various post-hoc analyses of data trends that may be of interest to our client. Firstly, our data set regarding familiarity with concepts suggested that students reported lower familiarity with current AMS initiatives than familiarity with the other polled concepts. This lack of familiarity with AMS sustainability initiatives indicates a precedence for increasing student access to information, and we therefore decided to explore the statistical significance of this data. To analyze this, we conducted a Repeated Measures ANOVA (RMANOVA) to test the significance between familiarity levels. Mauchly's Test of Sphericity indicated that the assumption of sphericity had been violated and therefore, a Greenhouse-Geisser correction was used. In addition to the RMANOVA, a post-hoc Bonferroni test was conducted to reduce type 1 error as suggested by JASP. The RMANOVA and Bonferroni correction indicated statistical significance between the means of all familiarity variables (t(92)=+/-1.67, p = 0.05), indicating that we can reject the null hypothesis and state that familiarity with AMS sustainability initiatives is significantly lower than the other three values.  Secondly, a correlation matrix was run between all of the quantifiable variables (Appendix B). Several correlations of interest were found. Among them was correlation between the reported familiarity with environmental sustainability and a number of the concepts gauged, including; familiarity with social sustainability (r=0.47), familiarity with UN sustainable development goals (r=0.53), and perceived importance of the following; environmental sustainability relating to facility operations (r=0.46), environmental sustainability relating to food (r=0.26), and social sustainability (r=0.24). This would suggest with greater self-reported knowledge of sustainability, participants also placed greater importance on the proposed ASAP goals. Additionally, there was a small but significant correlation (r=0.21) between familiarity with the UNSDGs and the familiarity of the current AMS sustainability policies. This may suggest that participants who are interested in broader sustainability goals are more interested in the practices of the university.  Finally, 68% of respondents stated interest in providing ongoing feedback to the AMS regarding sustainability; suggesting that implementing a convenient student feedback interface would encourage continuing student engagement in AMS sustainability initiatives (Appendix B).  Discussion  The main objective of our study is to gather feedback from students to examine and determine the focus areas most important by those the AMS represents, as well as the information dissemination methods students prefer the most with reference to sustainability initiatives currently being practiced by the AMS. The results of our study suggest that students are unaware of current AMS sustainability initiatives. However, this cannot be attributed to lack of familiarity with sustainability in general, as familiarity with current AMS sustainability initiatives was statistically lower than familiarity with current UN Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, students care about AMS Sustainability Action Plan focus areas that may not have a direct impact on them but are favourable for everyone, such as the environmental sustainability of AMS buildings and food services. Our study has two important limitations that FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 7 need to be discussed in order to further understand and create improvement for the same study. Firstly, additional measures or questions regarding which sustainability focus areas participants recognized as most directly impacting their social and economic wellbeing should be included. Another limitation of our study is the limited population of our sample, which was recruited through social media (such as Facebook UBC Class of 2020 group page), the AMS newsletter, and peers. Given the small sample size, it is challenging to create a more complex suggestion for AMS Sustainability Action Plan that is favourable for the over 50,000 students UBC Vancouver has (UBC, 2019). For future studies, we recommend putting a greater emphasis on information dissemination, especially given the lack of knowledge around current AMS sustainability initiatives. An experimental study can be conducted to test the efficacy of different methods of information dissemination. Finally, to keep the Sustainability Action Plan informed by students, we suggest conducting focus groups with samples from the student body to continuously collect feedback on sustainability initiatives.  Recommendations Most students are unfamiliar with the AMS’s sustainability initiative, which suggests that the methods of information dissemination the AMS is currently using is ineffective. First, convenience should have a great factor in creating the AMS Sustainability Action Plan because students prefer methods that can be accessed easily and readily available. Although the AMS sends out an email newsletter to the student body at the beginning of each month, we found that it is not the most suitable platform when reaching out to students for three important reasons: a) the newsletter provides an immense amount of information regarding everything AMS has done, is currently doing, and its future projects, b) it does not focus on one certain topic, and c) it is sent as a mass email, which usually goes through as a spam message rather than the primary mailbox. Social media is one of the most ideal mediums for information dissemination given that most students are usually more active on their social media platforms. Second, AMS should have resources that can provide students information with respect to ongoing sustainability initiatives and encourage feedback and discussions. As mentioned earlier, many students are unaware of the sustainability initiatives of the AMS, but the study suggests that students are willing to contribute feedback and ideas that are beneficial for everyone.                     FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 8 References  Alma Mater Society of Queen’s University (2017). AMS Environmental Procedures Manual  Government 2017-2019. Retrieved from:  Brugmann, R., Côté, N., Postma, N., Shaw, E., Pal, D., & Robinson, J. (2019). Expanding  Student Engagement in Sustainability: Using SDG- and CEL-Focused Inventories to Transform Curriculum at the University of Toronto. Sustainability, 11(2), 530. doi: 10.3390/su11020530 Dalhousie Student Union (2017). Ethical Investment Policy. Retrieved from:  Dawkes, J. (2008). Do data characteristics change according to the number of scale points used?  an experiment using 5-point, 7-point and 10-point scales. International Journal of Market Research, 50(1), 61-104. doi:10.1177/147078530805000106 DiGiacomo, A., Wu, D. W. -., Lenkic, P., Fraser, B., Zhao, J., & Kingstone, A. (2018).  Convenience improves composting and recycling rates in high-density residential buildings. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 61(2), 309-331. doi:10.1080/09640568.2017.1305332 Fédération des Associations Étudiantes du Campus de L'université de Montréal (2018).  Développement Durable. Retrieved from:  Laurent, A. (2018, September) Student Driven Sustainability Strategy. AMS.  Maclean’s (2019, October 3). Canada’s best Medical Doctoral universities: Rankings 2020. McMaster Students Union (2017). Environmental Sustainability Policy Paper. Retrieved from:  Rogers, T., & Bazerman, M. H. (2008). Future lock-in: Future implementation increases  selection of ‘should’ choices. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 106(1), 1-20. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2007.08.001 Students’ Society of McGill University (2018). U. Sustainability Policy. Retrieved from: United Nations General Assembly (2015, September 25). Transforming Our World: The 2030  Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:  University of Alberta Students’ Union (2011). Sustainability Summary Report and  Recommendations. Retrieved from: FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 9 University of British Columbia (2019). UBC Overview and Facts 2018/2019. Retrieved from:  University of Calgary Students’ Union (2018). Sustainability Policy. Retrieved from:  University of Toronto Students’ Union (2019). University of Toronto Students’ Union Policies.  Retrieved from:  Western University University Student Council (2018). EnviroWestern. Retrieved from: Wong, A.L., Calapiz, A.J., Schroer, B., Cruz, C.J., Ko, L., (2020, February 6). AMS  Sustainability Action Plan Survey.  Zhao, J. (2020, February 4). Lecture 7: Cognitive Barriers to Environmental Behaviour.                               FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 10 Appendix A: Qualtrics Survey  FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 11  FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 12 Appendix B: Results Direct and Indirect variables:  Direct Indirect  Economic Sustainability Improving economic sustainability by advocating for affordability of education costs, student housing, and by providing affordable food options. Social Sustainability Pursuing social sustainability by increasing policies and resources available to support student safety, health, and rights (existing programs include SASC, Safewalk, Vice, etc.) Environmental (Buildings) Sustainability Increasing the environmental sustainability of AMS buildings and operations through energy use, waste management, greywater recycling, etc Increasing Access to Services Increasing student access to AMS services by increasing the availability of skill development programs and reducing barriers to stigmatized services. Organization Collaboration Increasing collaborations with organizations that aim to promote a better quality of life for students such as SEEDS, USI, C+P. Environmental (Food) Sustainability Improving the environmental sustainability of AMS food services through local/ethical sourcing, reduction of single-use items, container sharing initiatives, etc.  Paired sample T-test Results:  Variable N Mean SD SE Direct 372 7.653 2.263 0.117 Indirect  186 8.403 1.985 0.146  Hypotheses Test t df p H1: μ1 ≠ μ2, H0: μdif= 0 Direct -Indirect -1.183 185 0.238  RMANOVA and Bonferroni Results: (Summarized) Level 1 Level 2 Mean Difference SE t p Bonferroni t critical (df=92, p = 0.05) AMS Environmental -4.624 0.263 -17.610 < 0.001 +/- 1.67 AMS Social -2.495 0.303 -8.224 < 0.001 +/- 1.67 AMS UNSDGs -1.333 0.368 -3.626 0.003 +/- 1.67     FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 13  Correlation Matrix Between Familiarity and Importance Variables Preferred Information Dissemination Methods Results: Progress Report via Email 64 votes Display in AMS Space 54 votes Webpage on AMS Website 51 votes Sustainability Event 31 votes Other 4 votes   FOSTERING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ASAP                 14  Interest in providing ongoing feedback results:           


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items