Spring 2022 Sustainability Fellows: Juan Arguelles Ortiz and Gabriella Benacquisto

Gabby and Juan Opening Slide

Partner: Sustainable Campus

Project: Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Analysis of FSU Research and Teaching

Students: Juan Arguelles Ortiz, First Year Graduate Student in Public Health, and Gabriella Benacquisto, First Year Graduate Student in Urban and Regional Affairs

In Spring 2022, Juan and Gabby worked with Sustainable Campus to categorize FSU sustainability researchers and courses by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN SDGs are a collection of seventeen interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. By connecting FSU researchers and courses with the SDGs, FSU can better identify how its academic work aligns with international efforts to combat climate change and further sustainable development.

Juan and Gabby worked with Laurelin Haas, Academics and Partnerships Coordinator, to analyze 334 sustainability researchers and 417 sustainability courses and identify which SDGs their work or curriculum aligned with. Many researchers and courses aligned with more than one SDG.

To begin their work, the team created internal definitions and keywords for each of the SDGs and conducted a coding test. The team selected a small sample of ten researchers and courses, which each team member individually coded. Then the team compared their results, modifying their definitions accordingly until everyone categorized the researchers and courses in the same way.

Over the next eight weeks, the team divided the list of researchers and courses and individually categorized their selections by the SDGs. Finally, the team undertook an analysis of their findings, creating summary graphs and charts and comparing their results to an automated formula that had been designed to automatically categorize researchers and courses by SDG using a database of key words. The automated formula produced the same results as the team 79% of the time. Additional research and formula validation will be undertaken to address the 21% of variation from the human coders in future semesters.

Reflecting on his experience designing the formula, Juan said, “The coding aspect is something that I picked up when we started this project. It was really cool, and I was excited to figure out how to make this portion of our work sustainable. Eventually, new researchers and classes are going to be added to our list and allocating four months out of the year to categorize them is unsustainable.” Juan hopes that by making the formula more accurate, the coding process can become more streamlined and efficient in the future.

Overall, the team found that FSU sustainability courses were most likely to address SDG 11, SDG 16, and SDG 8 while FSU sustainability researchers were most likely to address SDG 13, SDG 11, and SDG 10. In addition, the team was able to show the distribution of SDGs in each FSU college through a series of pie charts. Finally, the team identified the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and the College of Arts and Sciences as the highest performing in terms of courses and researchers that align with the SDGs.  

“I see the SDGs everywhere I go now,” said Gabby. “This project has definitely made it clear that sustainability is really, really important to me. I also fell into the position of graphic designer for the team, which was very interesting. It was encouraging to see that I could pick up a new skill!”

The team recommended that there be further engagement with students and faculty to educate and facilitate further progress toward the SDGs, such as a class search filter or an annual report. The team also suggested that a template could help Sustainable Campus provide a continuous analysis of classes and researchers. Finally, the team recommended that additional efforts be undertaken to connect projects, students, faculty, and funding.

Mike Mitchell, Strategic Initiatives Manager for the Office of Research Development, said, “This work is really incredible, and I think it is going to be a very powerful tool for the university. I can see a lot of different ways we could use this both for research and academics and classes.”

To learn more about the Sustainability Fellows program, visit sustainablecampus.fsu.edu/sustainability-fellows