Students to present results of pilot SDGs in Action Challenge

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Students participating in York University’s inaugural Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Action Student Challenge will share their SDG action projects with the public virtually at the March 28 Go Global SDGs in Action Knowledge Fair. The fair begins at 6:30 p.m. and registration is required.

By Elaine Smith

Since January, York students and their peers from partner universities have been working with mentors to design projects that will help communities achieve four United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): UN SDG 4 (quality education), UN SDG 5 (gender equality), UN SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and UN SDG 13 (climate action), working within the framework of UN SDG 17 (partnerships).

The four-year challenge is designed to engage underrepresented students in contributing to the SDGs and participating in study or work abroad opportunities, especially Indigenous, Black, people of colour and low-income students, as well as students living with disabilities and is funded by York and the federal government’s Global Skills Opportunity program. York International (YI) has coordinated the pilot of the program with support of York University Faculties and international partners.

“The students have accepted the challenge and tackled it with energy, creativity and enthusiasm,” says Helen Balderama, director, global engagement and partnerships, York International. “We are excited to share the results of their work publicly and look forward to the impact the projects will have once they are finalized.”

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Create local-global impact
A global skills opportunity
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Twelve teams of students have tackled the SDGs and their project plans are as varied as the students themselves. They include:

  • Designing a home water purifier for use in rural Mexico and educational materials to teach families how to build it themselves.
  • Creating a computational thinking module focused on programming for students in Bangladesh who may not have computers, in hopes to partner with tech academies there.
  • Designing digital modules that allow for women to have ease of access to information on sexual and reproductive health, while also developing feminine hygiene kits that will include menstrual products and information guides, in partnership with the South Asian diaspora in Canada and an organization in the Philippines.

Once the students have made their presentations, there will be an awards ceremony to recognize:

  • SDGs in Partnership Award: given to the project that demonstrates outstanding collaboration and community engagement.
  • Creative Solutions Award: given to the project with the highest degree of interdisciplinary thinking to mobilize and engage communities to act on the SDGs. 
  • Best Overall Project: awarded to the project that achieved meaningful action towards the SDG, exhibiting strong intercultural and interdisciplinary collaboration and sense of community.

The project plans are a culmination of a three-month process that included:

  • Explore: A series of SDG workshop, project management and community engagement skills bootcamps.
  • Engage: Implementation of SDG projects.
  • Exemplify: Showcase of projects at the SDGs Knowledge in Action event.

Beyond these three stages, students are encouraged to continue their projects into their experiences abroad through academic exchanges, internships, research and extra curricular work ahead.

“I am inspired and delighted by the thought and passion that has gone into the development of this innovative student-centered program and am excited to hear the students speak from a position of knowing as they present these passion projects,” said York Provostial Fellow Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, associate professor in the School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and associate professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and the Childhood and Youth Studies Program, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies.

“The SDGs in Action Student Challenge is one way to further York University’s commitment to the SDGs as expressed in the University Academic Plan (2020-25). There is so much interest and activity concerning the UN SDGS across campus, and the group of fellows are just thrilled with this program and its continuance,” said van Daaelen Smith. “Indeed, student-led ideas and initiatives such as the SDGs in Action Student Challenge assist our university partner with communities in a collaborative effort to inch closer and closer to achieving important SDGs. The passion of the students, the commitment of the mentors and the around-the-clock support of York International also demonstrate that if we all take steps to achieve these goals in a small corner of the world, they will eventually add up to major changes globally. And isn’t that what we are all after in the long run?”

The next round of the Student SDGs in Action Challenge will begin in September 2022. Register and learn more at the Go Global SDGs in Action Knowledge Fair.