Sense of Place, Place Attachment, and Student Perceptions of Sustainability in the Salt River Valley
The purpose of this study was to investigate undergraduate sustainability students' engagement with sustainability in relation to their sense of place in the broader Salt River Valley community. The study was guided by two research questions 1) How do undergraduate Sustainability students explain their sense of place in the Valley with relation to their perceptions of sustainability? 2) Does residency in a different city, town, or state prior to entering the Sustainability program influence students' sense of place in the Valley? The study consisted of two distinct parts. In the first part, twenty students were interviewed using a narrative inquiry process to understand their perceptions of sustainability, their sense of place in the Valley, and how those two components influenced their engagement with sustainability in their communities. In the second part, these narratives were analyzed, synthesized, and samples of the stories were placed into a creative nonfiction collection to express an overall picture of sustainability in the Valley. Results showed that students generally relied on academic, professional, and social factors to identify places in which they could practice or engage with sustainability. Regardless of previous residencies, students expressed similar frustrations or limitations in expressing their sense of place, as related to sustainability, in the Valley.