What makes an effective campus climate action plan?
Over the course of Spring Semester 2021, eight undergraduate students from a wide variety of majors and disciplines enrolled in a 3 credit directed independent study course in Human Geography (GPHY 492) led by Dr. Julia Haggerty and Dr. Paul LaChapelle to understand how universities develop climate action plans, identify which methods work best, and use this research to inform and enhance Montana State University's climate action plan update scheduled to begin May 2021. The students conducted a literature review, researched and read climate action plans from universities across the United States, developed a rubric to select those most relevant to Montana State University, and interviewed sustainability and facilities staff at each selected site. The students compiled their research and interview data into a report with recommendations for Montana State University. They also presented their research to the Campus Sustainability Advisory Council and the Campus Planning Council, which oversees the implementation of Montana State University's Strategic Plan.
This student led research raised awareness across campus and with stakeholders about key elements of successful climate action plans, the pressing need for climate action planning, and has informed the structure of the Climate Action Task Force assigned to update Montana State University's carbon neutrality goal and climate action plan. Their research has had an immediate, and positive, impact on Montana State University that will inform the process for years to come.