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ChangEDucation, ready or not?

Only 11% of WU students may be familiar with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The 6th annual Nachhaltigkeitstag / Sustainable Transformation Day took a step toward raising the SDG awareness...

The WU Nachhaltigkeitstag / WU Vienna Sustainable Transformation Day took place for the 6th consecutive year on May 14, 2019, under the title ChangEDucation. It was a collaborative initiative, organized by STaR, WU Umweltmanagement, and representatives of several student organizations: ÖH WU, oikos Vienna, össfo, and forum n. Though a long standing tradition at our university, this year’s event had several new features: it was longer (a full day, with six specialized Workshops), more inclusive of non-German speakers, and it introduced a thematic focus around the UN Agenda 2030 SDGs, namely – SDG4 (Quality Education).

The SDGs are at the heart of the work of the over fifteen non-profit and student organizations represented at the all-day ChangEDucation forum. They were also the focal point of small-group discussions (“Kamingespräche”), moderated by Helene Dallinger, where forum participants and event visitors had the opportunity to share their views and concerns regarding sustainable development, ask critical questions, and propose creative solutions. Some spoke about frustrations, others expressed optimism, and not surprisingly, many shared both, which brings this reflection to the following question:

How well are the SDGs known among our university’s students?

Weeks before the event, the organizing team conducted an informal survey including nearly 950 WU students (mostly, though not only, undergraduate). We “primed” the respondents by indicating beforehand that the question was related to sustainability. 109 – slightly over 11% – of the students asked knew what SDGs were (similarly to the 2017 Eurobarometer results for general population). There is little argument that this number is of concern, given that educational and research institutions like WU, as well as the private sector, in which many of our alumni will be eventually employed, have been called upon to take on a more active role in contributing to the achievement of the SDGs.

The above, and other related issues, were further tackled during the panel discussion at the end of the day. Our diverse group of panelists included: Viola Christian (Ban Ki-moon Center for Global Citizens), Jesus Crespo Cuaresma (Head of the WU Institute for Macroeconomics), Gillian Joanne Foster (Researcher and Former e-Developer at the WU Institute for Ecological Economics), Benjamin Seyer (student representative, sustainability unit of ÖH WU), and Johanna Warm (staff member at WU Vienna Teaching and Learning Development). The panelists discussed the importance of critical thinking, transferrable skills, role-modeling, and the integration of sustainability awareness into business school curriculum, within and beyond the classroom experience. The core of discussion is well reflected in an email from a member of the audience (external to WU) that STaR team received the day after the event. The letter reminded us all that: “Target 4.7 of the SDGs is for each and every person, and in order to achieve sustainability and regeneration (in a very holistic sense), they have to permeate deeply into all fields of study and inquiry, not only making them part of our way of thinking but more so of being a sustainable/ regenerative human.”

If you have additional comments, concerns or ideas of how to move things forward please do not hesitate to email us at star@wu.ac.at.

For the readers of this post, thank you for your attention, and for all of those who have been involved in ChangEDucation: we know it is not always easy, but keep the hard work up!

Stay tuned for event pictures and participants’ feedback on workshops (coming soon on our Events site).

Event coordinators: STaR Fellows Marlene Gruber and Laura Bauer

Core organizing team: Gregor Bauer, Sarah Beranek, Marius Brand, Sebastian Bruckbauer,Beata Boor, Helene Dallinger, Clara Hofer, Christian Hütter-Schrottenbaum, Daniel Preglau, Renata Krenn, Livia Regen,  Benjamin Seyer, Susan Üstün Eva Wagner, Ulrich Weber, Rainer Wicke.

We would also like to extend a special thanks to our on-site volunteers and to Josefine Schulze (for her creative graphic recording during the panel discussion)!

This text was written by: Milda Žilinskaitė, manager and senior scientist at STaR  



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