International student exchange programs, mobility at heart of upcoming event

Earth at night was holding in human hands. Earth day. Energy saving concept, Elements of this image furnished by NASA

By Elaine Smith

With the Sustainability on the Go 2022 (SOTG 2022) registration deadline upcoming, organizers have announced the three powerful keynote speakers for the Nov. 17 virtual event.

The theme of this year’s conference, co-organized by York International, the UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability and International Partners, is “Navigating the New Normal in Higher Education.” The conference seeks to bring together participants from around the world with an interest in student mobility in post-secondary education with an eye toward making it more inclusive and sustainable.

Leonardo Garnier, special advisor for the 2022 United Nations Transforming Education Summit in Costa Rica, is the country’s former minister of education (2006-14) who achieved a significant increase in the rate of enrollment, with important investments in rural and Indigenous education. He will address SOTG 2022’s first plenary session, which focuses on the topic of connecting the local and global classrooms.

The conference’s second plenary session targets sustainable and inclusive global learning. The keynote speaker will be Bhavani Rao, UNESCO Chair in Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University, India. Rao has been involved with technology-based women’s empowerment projects since 1995.

Canada’s Kenisha Arora, youth representative to the SDG 4 High-Level Steering Committee for UNESCO, will be the final plenary speaker, kicking off the session addressing local and global community engagement. Arora, a medical student at Western University in Ontario, is an education activist and founder of Hope Sisters, a non-profit supporting vulnerable members in the community.

Last year, SOTG 2021, the first edition of the conference, led to creation of the Toronto Declaration on the Future of Sustainable and Inclusive Internationalization in Higher Education. SOTG22 also has ambitious and important goals:

  1. Discussing COVID-19’s impact on sustainable and inclusive internationalization: What have we learned? What would we like to continue and move forward with post COVID-19? What would we like to leave behind?  
  2. Contributing to the future vision of sustainable and inclusive internationalization and mobility, informed by the cross-cutting issues of inclusivity, gender and education for sustainable development.  
  3. Providing a platform for dialogue on the role of ethical internationalization in higher education for the entirety of the SDGs including the sharing of innovative programs and practices in global learning. 
  4. Including different speakers and audiences with a focus on Youth (Youth Engagement Program), and historically underrepresented stakeholders by facilitating their participation and highlighting their contributions towards the future of internationalization in higher education. 
  5. Sharing experiences from implementing the commitments of the Toronto Declaration

Students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to contribute to and shape the future of global mobility and exchanges as they discuss the evolving landscape at educational institutions post pandemic. 

“The first SOTG Conference in January 2021 brought together many well-known experts from international education and sustainability who had not jointly looked at the field of global engagement in higher education,” said Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education Toward Sustainability at York. “This year, we have opened our conference with two global calls for submissions and a youth engagement program to new and especially young voices who we might have not heard from to foster new thought leadership for responsible and equitable yet impactful ways of internationalizing higher education.”

Vinitha Gengatharan, assistant vice-president, Global Engagement & Partnerships, added, “We are excited about the opportunity to advance the discussion about sustainable student mobility in post-secondary education. SOTG 2022 is another initiative in support of York University’s commitment to advancing global engagement and working in partnership, two pillars of the University Academic Plan, as well as its commitment to leading change that reflects UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Be part of the conversations yourself; the registration deadline is Nov. 10. Register here.

For more information, contact: Mario Guerrero (he/him), project officer, York International at