A collaborative faculty-student research project focused on enhancing sustainability efforts on campus has won Hope College’s annual “Social Sciences Young Investigators Award.”

The team, led by Dr. Stephen Scogin, an assistant professor of biology and education, received the recognition for “Welkoming a Greener Campus? It’s Up to You!”  The student researchers were senior Cindy Alexander, junior Regan Jekkals, junior Christopher Kruger, 2016 graduate Chelsea Steinfeldt and December graduate Marissa (Smith) Marks.

Conducted in the spring of 2016 with support from the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, the project surveyed students living in 16 cottages — college-owned homes in the neighborhood around campus — regarding their energy and water use and sustainability practices such as recycling.  In addition, the study analyzed energy efficiency ratings of 23 cottages.  The team then made recommendations based on the results for how to enhance energy stewardship, including awareness campaigns and residential energy competitions.

Scogin and his research students are continuing with an expanded effort.  This spring, they distributed surveys to all students living on campus, obtaining responses from 700 that they’ll be compiling and analyzing this summer.  “With the larger sample size from our follow-up survey, our hope is to get a baseline for the kinds of things that Hope students are doing with regard to energy use, water use and recycling,” Scogin said.

“Ultimately, what we want to try to do as a community is build awareness of what students can do,” he said.  “Even if it’s something small — like turning off the lights or the computer when not using them, or knowing that there’s a recycle bin nearby — if we can do those things consistently, the totality is going to be impactful.”

Sustainability is an ongoing process at Hope that includes not only individual and departmental efforts but the coordinating work of a Sustainability Advisory Committee “Green Team” comprised of faculty, administrators and students. 

Activities and practices at the college have ranged from green purchasing policies, increased recycling and trayless dining to reduce food waste; to replacing residence halls’ windows with better-insulated models and adding insulation to the cottages’ attics; to the creation of academic minors in both environmental science and environmental studies.  The Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts earned LEED Silver certification earlier this year; in 2015 Hope College Dining received Gold-level recognition in the SEED sustainability program of Creative Dining Services; and Hope received statewide recognition for its environmental stewardship through its grounds management practices with certification from the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program in 2014.

The college is a partner with the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works in the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, which was established in 2014 and is based at Hope.  Hope is also among the institutions that have signed the international Talloires Declaration, a 10-point plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations, and outreach at colleges and universities, and is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).  Hope has also partnered with Albion College, Antioch College, DePauw University and Oberlin College in the Great Lakes Colleges Association-supported Environmental Dashboard focused on enhancing sustainability initiatives at the five institutions through collaboration.

More information about sustainability efforts at Hope and in the area is available at green.hope.edu and hope.edu/sustainability-institute.

The “Social Sciences Young Investigators Award” is designed to recognize and encourage junior faculty to partner with students in research collaborations that further the scholarship goals of the faculty member while developing the skills of critical inquiry and analysis in his or her students.  It includes funding for the faculty and student team to present the work at a professional conference.

The competition is open to junior social science faculty who worked with students on a significant research project, with at least one of the students returning for the next academic year.  The selection is made from among the eligible social science projects highlighted during the college’s annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Performance, which was held on Friday, April 21, this year.

Scogin, who joined the Hope faculty in 2014, completed Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in biology and originally worked in industry, primarily focusing on responsible water waste management programs to preserve natural ecology and protect water resources.  After several years in private industry, he transitioned into teaching and has been involved with classroom learning in some capacity ever since.  He has taught science at many levels, including junior high, high school and college, and beginning in 2005 served for six years as the head of school for a private school in Texas.  He completed an Ed.S. in educational administration in 2010 and a Ph.D. in science education in 2014, shortly before coming to Hope.

His primary teaching assignment at the college is the Organisms and Environments course for future elementary teachers.  In addition to including the sustainability-oriented projects, his research — in which he regularly involves Hope students collaboratively — generally focuses on K-12 science teaching and learning.