Date of Award

12-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Laura Lindenfeld

Second Committee Member

Linda Silka

Third Committee Member

Eric Peterson

Abstract

With the receipt of a $20 million, five year National Science Foundation grant, Maine has set for itself a challenging agenda: arriving at solutions to sustainability problems that range across a variety of environmental issues that are likely to shape Maine’s economic, social, and environmental future. Higher education in Maine is deeply involved in this endeavor, but unlike most higher education efforts in which just a single institution is engaged with various partners, in Maine several higher education institutions (public and private, four year and graduate) are attempting to work together to bring coordinated research to bear on the sustainability challenges that confront the state. Stakeholders are now in the process of identifying with their higher education partners those problems that are most urgently in need of sustainability research. The foundation of this study uses a communication strategy that is theory driven and place-based because communication is increasingly showing itself to be central to the success of this work. Furthermore, aross the emerging projects, a knowledge-to-action communication strategy is emerging that reduces communication time, increases information sharing across discipline, context, and problem type, and produces science that is solution-focused and is responsive to the needs of diverse stakeholders. The following thesis is close examination of the individuals and teams involved in this network of sustainability science across Maine. More specifically, this research discusses the structure of this complex network through the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods. In the first part of this study, an online survey was distributed to assess the current communication needs of the network. The second part of this study entailed the use of both interviews and focus groups to gather a robust understanding about those involved in the network and determine where/how communication effects those participants. This paper will describe the strategy of using communication research to consider the implications for (1) linking theory and practice in network communication, (2) identifying where structural components of the organization effect the overall success of the network, and (3) provide recommendations for states and regions that intend to undertake similar sustainability efforts.

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