York University kicks off Student SDGs in Action Challenge

York University’s new Go Global Student SDGs in Action Challenge kicks into high gear this week with an orientation session for the successful student applicants to the program.

By Elaine Smith

The four-year program, funded by York and the federal government’s Global Skills Opportunity program ($500,000 for four years), will empower a group of York students each year to work toward achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through community action projects they design themselves in collaboration with students from York partners and supported by faculties and mentors. Along the way, they will develop global competencies, leadership, digital fluency, and project management skills through facilitated discussions, workshops and immersive travel abroad, funded by the program.

The program is designed to engage underrepresented students in international opportunities, especially Indigenous, Black, People of Colour, and low-income students, as well as students living with disabilities. At the same time, travel and in-person mobility opportunities will prioritize York partner universities and communities in Asia, Africa, or Latin America. Travel bursaries will range from $2,000 to $8,000, depending on the length of a student’s program abroad.

For this Winter 2022 pilot, participants will focus on SDGs 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 13 (climate action), while SDG 17 (partnerships for the goal) will be a recurring SDG throughout the four-year program.

“York’s commitment to the UN SDGs is clear in our current University Academic Plan and the Go Global Student SDGs in Action Challenge is one more way of bringing that commitment to life,” said Philip Kelly, associate dean, research, graduate and global affairs, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change. “In addition, the funding will provide travel opportunities to students who might not otherwise be able to afford them, which fulfils York’s core commitment to accessibility.”

Program activities start this week, coinciding with 2022 International Education Day, when York International (YI) and the pan-University project team host the student orientation and SDG workshops. Student participants will be from Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Philippines and the United States.

The Student SDGs Action Challenge comprises four phases:

  • Explore. A series of SDG workshop, project management and community engagement skills bootcamps in Jan. 2022;
  • Engage. Implementation of SDG projects, Feb. and March 2022;
  • Exemplify. Showcase of projects at the SDGs Knowledge in Action event, March 2022; and
  • Experience. Participate in exchanges, field visits, internships or study abroad, beginning in April 2022.

“The Student SDGs Action Challenge is an outstanding opportunity for students to discover that they can have an impact on the wider world while honing skills that will later serve them well as in their future careers that will impact societies,” said Vinitha Gengatharan, executive director, YI. “We are very appreciative of the federal government’s commitment to outbound student mobility, which is part of Canada’s International Education Strategy.

“We were delighted to receive a strong response from faculty members interested in leading workshops about key SDGs; in supporting students as they design, pitch and execute their project ideas; and in evaluating their work at the culminating Knowledge Fair in March 2022. It’s an opportunity for faculty members to mentor the changemakers of tomorrow while broadening their own networks through our partner universities.”

YI is serving as the project lead, working with a pan-university committee of faculty, staff and administrators to ensure the program’s success and smooth operation and liaising with the Global Skills Opportunity program.

For more updates on the program, visit the project page at  https://yorkinternational.yorku.ca/sdgaction/.

Questions can be directed by email to goglobal@yorku.ca with “SDGs in Action” in the subject line.