Category Archives: UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

AASHE 2020 Conference presentations (great news)

I have some great news…I’ve been formally notified that I’ve had two proposals for presentations accepted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for its 2020 Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education. AASHE has provided a welcoming venue for my research since 2016 and provided opportunities for my work to reach administrators, students, and faculty across higher education. I’m delighted to be part of this year’s virtual conference, which runs October 20-22. The theme of the conference is “Mobilizing for a Just Transition,” which I think is particularly fitting now because we will have numerous opportunities to challenge our thinking about why we do things the way we’ve done them as we eventually emerge to the “next normal.”

The first presentation is titled (Some of the) Surprising Findings About Living Wages in Higher Education During a Global Pandemic. I framed the presentation this way so I could include some of the most interesting and surprising things I learned through both my study of living wage policies and practices at 4-year institutions (first quarter of 2020) and my just concluded study of community colleges. This talk is in a 15-minute “On-Demand Lightning Talk” format, so this talk will be fast. I promise it will be informative, and I will do my best to make it fun.

The second presentation is titled: “Your Mileage May Vary”: Creating Your Institution’s Roadmap to Just Employment. This talk is also intended to be inclusive of attendees from both 4-year institutions and community colleges. I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned (primarily through interviews with Chief Human Resources Officers) about the different paths that institutions have taken to enacting written living wage policies or adopting unwritten living wage practices. Participants will be able to apply that information in a way that best fits their institution’s intentions and situation. This session was originally proposed as a half-day pre-conference workshop, but that format has been discontinued with the change to a virtual conference; it is now a 40-minute “SimuLive” session, which will include a live Q&A segment during the session. I’m very happy with both format changes, especially so for this session, which will be available to many more people within the basic conference price.

The terrific folks at AASHE are reimagining the conference from the ground up, and the peek I’ve had at behind-the-scenes looked awesome. You can catch all the details at the link at the top of this post.

I look forward to connecting at the conference with colleagues — both new and familiar — who are interested in social sustainability.  See you in October!

 

What do the 2019 AP Preseason Top 25 College Football Poll and our 2018 list of institutions with publicly-available living wage policies have in common? More than you might think.

You know autumn is just around the corner when the AP releases its annual pre-season poll of sportswriters and broadcasters ranking the top 25 college football teams. Since I both teach and earned my degrees at institutions that don’t play NCAA football, I don’t have a strong on-field rooting interest…

…but whenever I see a list a schools, I refer back to this project and last year’s (2018) list of 32 American higher education institutions (HEIs) with (either all or part of) a living wage policy publicly available on their institution’s website – that about 1% of all four year HEIs (see my AASHE webinar here).

It looks as though schools with (preseason) top-ranked football teams are more likely to have some form of living wage policy than the larger population of all institutions. Out of the 25 teams making the 2019 preseason poll, only 3 institutions were on last year’s living wage policy – that’s 12% of teams in the poll. Only 1 of the 21 teams “also receiving votes” in the poll is on the living wage policy list, so out of all 46 teams receiving votes, about 8.5% of the are on the living wage policy list.

The four teams/institutions are 16th ranked Auburn University (2018 Living Wage Policy score 40), 19th ranked University of Wisconsin (35), 25th ranked Stanford University of Wisconsin-Madison (90), and “also-receiving votes” but unranked Utah State University (20).

I’m pondering this: If all 3,000+ four year institutions in America had living wage policies at the same rate as the 46 vote-getting schools in the AP preseason football poll, there would be over 250 institutions with some sort of living wage policy (instead of 32).

This fall I’m soliciting participation from chief human resource officers (CHROs) in this project to answer that question. As before, I’ll be asking if living wage policies and/or practices are in effect. I’ll be asking institutions with policies to provide them, and I’ll be inviting CHROs at colleges with living wage policies or practices to be interviewed about their institution’s practices. Of particular interest to me is (a) how those living wage policies came about, and (b) the financial impact of those policies on institutions.

Reflecting on AASHE (with shout-outs!)

Presenting three talks at two very different conferences in a span of six days is a lot of input, particularly when the audiences have such different lenses on our common causes: improving our higher education institutions. This post is about the first conference (AASHE); in a separate post I’ll write about CUPA-HR.

At the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE, aashe.org) in Pittsburgh (Oct 3),  I talked with with an interesting mix of students, faculty, and staff in a variety of different roles. The conference theme was the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and there was heightened sense of urgency to take action on climate change was palpable; this past Monday the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its landmark report Global Warming of 1.5º C is sobering about what needs to be done.

This was my third consecutive year presenting at this conference; for folks unfamiliar with AASHE it is very broad “tent” with a primary emphasis toward environmental sustainability. The expo hall includes everything from electric cars/carts to customized recycling containers to bike share and campus scooter programs to carbon-footprint tracking and academic programs in sustainability from many different perspectives. There’s a whole lot of green building going on out there!

The sizable area of poster sessions at AASHE included everything from thermostat control initiatives (Wesleyan U) to “blender bikes” (Ohio U) to making “bag boards” from compressed plastic bags (UNC-Wilmington). Social sustainability – such as the focus of my project – is a bit of a niche within AASHE. If audience size from year to year is any indication, it is an area of growing interest – and concern – in American higher education. I was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our ongoing conversation.

It was a lot of fun to explore my material from different perspectives in each of my two AASHE talks. My introductory session on living wage policies attracted a number of students, and an intermediate level session for people familiar with the living wage concept, where were able to talk in greater detail about what I’ve learned so far through this project and compare notes with practitioners. And some folks came for both (you know who you are – thank you!).

Between the two sessions, I was able to chat with a public policy graduate student from just down the street here in Philadelphia, sustainability coordinators from coast to coast (and all points in between), and adjunct and tenure track faculty in public and private institutions.

I’m looking forward to continuing to work with AASHE, and I’ll keep you posted here whenever I have significant news. Next year’s AASHE conference is in Spokane WA, October 27-30, 2019. I hope to see you there.