Institutional Commitment to Sustainability: An Evaluation of Natural Resource Extension Programs in Universities in Alabama and Oregon.
Broussard, Shorna; Bliss, John
Purpose – The purpose of this research is to determine institutional commitment to sustainability by examining Natural Resource Extension program inputs, activities, and participation. Design/methodology/approach – A document analysis of Natural Resource Extension planning and reporting documents was conducted to provide contextual and historical data for the study and 58 in‐depth interviews were conducted with Natural Resource Extension personnel in the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Oregon State University Extension Service. Findings – This research moves beyond the familiar teaching and research functions of higher education institutions and focuses on Cooperative Extension, which is the outreach arm of universities. The paper discusses challenges and opportunities associated with implementing sustainability through these outreach education programs. In both Alabama and Oregon, the Agriculture, Home Economics, and 4‐H programs dominate human and economic resource investment in Cooperative Extension. Natural Resource Extension programs in Alabama and Oregon represents 6 and 14 percent, respectively, of all program expenditures in Cooperative Extension. Both states have educational programs that address sustainability of natural resources and those programs were interdisciplinary in nature. Little evidence is found extensive participation in Natural Resource Extension programs by environmental groups, minorities, and other non‐traditional clientele. Lastly, Oregon's political context was more conducive to broadening Natural Resource Extension program work in sustainability. Practical implications – Educational institutions such as Natural Resource Extension programs at universities play a significant role in educating private landowners, the public, and professionals about various aspects of forestry and natural resources. Based on this study of Natural Resource Extension programs in Alabama and Oregon, the following are needed for extension to address natural resource sustainability through its educational programs: sufficient intellectual and financial commitment to sustainability, diverse and inclusive participation in programs, and collaborative interdisciplinary programming. The analysis presented here can aid other educators as they explore sustainability through educational programming. Originality/value – Since, Natural Resource Extension programs address societal concerns through problem solving, grassroots education, and research and technology dissemination, they are poised to do work in the sustainability arena. No study to date has examined sustainability from the aspect of Natural Resource Extension educators in Oregon and Alabama. An understanding of current investment in sustainability through education is fundamental to building a strong Extension program in this area.
Previously Published As
International Journal of Sustainability Higher Education 8(3): 272-284
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
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