University or Other Affiliation

California State University, Fresno


As California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) continues to develop institutional capacity to improve sustainability within the contexts of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the university mission, and strategic objectives identified by the California State University (CSU), student activism has played a critical role in establishing the groundwork for current efforts. Despite progress towards an overarching goal of integrating sustainability into all parts of the institution, near constant turnover within the institution and student-led organizations often leaves uncertainties about institutionalization, with questions often arising about the respective roles of faculty, staff, and students. It is also often unclear whether the sustainability efforts contributed by students acts to empower them or if it serves as an additional burden. In our research, we compare a case-study of our student-led efforts towards the integration of sustainability at Fresno State to a landscape analysis of integrative sustainability efforts findable across websites of all other CSUs. The aim of this paper is to examine the current roles that students are playing in both campus and system-wide sustainability efforts. Case study and landscape analysis results suggest that while students look to their campuses to provide sustainability leadership, youth-led efforts are apparently the most numerous in advancing efforts across the CSU system. This supports more contemporary views of students and the need for asset-mindedness, as well as the idea that educational institutions--who are charged with leading sustainability (i.e., AASHE)--can increase equity and reduce student burdens by recognizing, supporting, and intentionally collaborating with leading student efforts.