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May 4, 2017

Emory’s Top Ranking Among U.S. Research Universities in “Green Space” Linked to Higher Retention and Graduation Rates

Emory University ranked fifth nationwide in a “Campus Score” to measure the “urbanism, greenness and on-campus living” of 103 research-intensive universities in the US. Emory ranked first for the most greenspace of the campuses surveyed. The study cited by Times Higher Education and conducted by Amir Hajrasouliha, assistant professor in city and regional planning at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, found a positive relationship between the physical environment and first-year student retention rates.

The research examined ten qualities, including the proportion of pervious open space, density of tree canopies, proportion of surface parking areas, proportion of students living on campus, campus compactness, diversity of land uses, and the centrality of the campus to its county. The research found that universities with the highest campus scores tended to have a higher proportion of students who stayed at the university after their first year and a higher proportion of students who graduated within six years. Professor Hajrasouliha said that the research shows that physical campus characteristics “matter more than universities realize.” He continues, “The most common strategies to improve retention and graduation rates are financial- and academic-related strategies, such as revising the financial aid strategy, reregulating student selectivity policy, investing in academic and advisory services, and revising curriculums and programs. But sometimes we forget that a valuable asset for student success can be the physical campus itself and its surroundings.”

“This research validates Emory’s commitment to preserving our green spaces which impact student satisfaction and enhance mental, spiritual, intellectual and physical well-being,” says Ciannat Howett, director of Sustainability for Emory University and Emory Healthcare. “Natural spaces, like Lullwater Preserve, Baker Woodlands, and other pockets of greenspace throughout campus are critical assets for protection and care by the University and create a sense of belonging and community that support students staying and succeeding at Emory.”

As part of Emory’s 2025 Sustainability Vision, the University has committed to goals of enhancing greenspace even more by shifting from a No Net Loss policy for forest canopy to Net Positive forest canopy policy, enhancing pedestrian shade by planting 200 new trees by Emory’s 200th anniversary, and exploring opportunities to enhance Emory’s original vision of a campus in a forest, among others.

To read the full report by Times Higher Education, click here.


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