Giselle's List is a weekly newsletter and idea database aimed at inspiring doers in their efforts to mainstream sustainability into higher education, especially business education. If you would like to receive this newsletter in your inbox every Monday, please subscribe here.
This week’s list focuses on student engagement in the Sustainable Development Goals.
1.STUDENTS ARE NOT ENGAGED ENOUGH
(RESEARCH) It’s 2021, yet too many business graduates are still receiving little to no exposure to the SDGs. To get a better understanding of how schools are engaging in the SDGs and how this has changed over time, I analysed every SIP report (Sharing Information on Progress - Business School Sustainability reports submitted to the UN PRME) submitted between May 1st, 2015, and June 2021. I wrote up the results in two papers, one of which is focused specifically on student engagement in the SDGs (between 2015 and 2020). This was recently published in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. The research found that very few schools are engaging students in the SDGs and too often this engagement doesn’t relate to core business topics and only reaches a small subsection of students. The paper also outlines the different ways students are being engaged along with a methodology to measure engagement. The main paper looking at what extent and how business schools are engaging in the SDGs across the curriculum, campus and strategy is coming soon – stay tuned!
+Did you report on how students were engaged in the SDGs in your university? Click here to share your thoughts.
2. GIVE STUDENTS OPPORTUNITIES
(STUDENT ENGAGEMENT) The majority of business schools don’t seem to involve students in strategic initiatives to embed the SDGs into their operations and curriculum, but they should. Desautels Faculty of Management in Canada, for example, has an interdisciplinary, undergraduate credit-based fellowship programme where students work on faculty projects and design and implement their own initiatives that address the SDGs. Students also attend a course that bridges the link between the work Fellows do on their faculty projects and the work they do on their impact initiatives. Faculty projects can be either academic research such as literature or conducting interviews, or partnership development such as mapping and outreach to stakeholders.
+ How do you provide opportunities for students to actively engage in the SDGs in the curriculum? Click here to share your thoughts.
3. GET STUDENTS TO DESIGN IT
(STUDENT ENGAGEMENT) While BI Norwegian Business School’s National Case Competition usually invites students to suggest solutions to challenges raised by companies, recently it came up with its own challenge. Student teams were tasked with suggesting how the school could develop an innovation community on campus, a space for students interested in starting their own businesses. The results were presented to management. BI has also revised their quality system to ensure that student voices are more prominently heard in formal and informal feedback loops with the faculty responsible for revision of academic courses. For example, in 2019 three bachelor students conducted face to face interviews with almost 200 students to gauge their knowledge in the SDGs.
+ How do you engage your students in the development of new programmes and initiatives? Click here to share your thoughts.
4. STUDENTS AS A DRIVING FORCE
(STUDENT ENGAGEMENT) Grenoble Ecole Management (GEM)’s Sustainability Committee is a collaborative community of faculty and staff but co-piloted with students. In addition to an active Sustainability Student Association on campus, which is involved in carrying out annual carbon footprint measures on campus, students are also self-organising to drive this change in multiple ways on campus. For example, in 2019 a group of 4th year students came together to advocate for change in the curriculum. They surveyed the students and found that 90% wanted these topics integrated into the core curriculum. They presented their results to management and have been driving transformation. GEM has also recently set up an innovative pedagogical tool for students to co create their own sustainability pathway while at GEM.
+ What say do students have in your sustainability efforts? Click here to share your thoughts.
5. USE THE CLASSROOM AS A WAY OF LEARNING BY CONTRIBUTING
(STUDENT ENGAGEMENT) Students taking HULT International Business School’s required core Business and Global Society course are challenged for their main assignment to create a company led “system” to solve a specific SDG. Proposals ranged from recycling waste in Peru to creating affordable cement, use the Internet of Things and 3D Printing to create affordable housing structures in Dhaka to training FARC rebels to meet employment needs while helping them to re-integrate into Colombian society. The proposals need to make business sense and engage the right players to create an eco-system that benefits each. It is not about choosing whether you succeed or whether you have social impact. It is not either/or, but and.
+ + How do you incorporate engagement in the classroom? Click here to share your thoughts.
6. ARE STUDENTS STILL BEING LEFT BEHIND?
A few years ago, I wrote an article for AACSB about how many students were being left behind when it comes to the SDGs. This is still very much the case, despite an increase in innovative and inspiring approaches in some schools. Based my research.
- Students are not being engaged in strategic initiatives around the SDGs
- Students are not part of initiatives that aim to contribute to the SDGs
- The focus is very much on raising general awareness rather than connecting the SDGs to core learnings and future careers.
- It is unclear how many students are being reached and to what extent (most initiatives are volunteer, aimed at a small subsection and not connected to the core).
- Almost nothing was reported on in PhD and Executive Education programmes.
Finally, it is worth noting that less than 5% of reports made any mention of engaging students in the SDGs being part of their future goals.
+ Does the initiative connect the SDGs with what the student is learning, or it is just adding on? How many students are being reached? Are students engaged in the SDGs or just passive recipients of the messages? Click here to share your thoughts.
7. THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE
In the spring of 2019 and 2020, students of the Food and Environment Programme at JAMK carried out an assessment of the environmental impact of a meal (including food miles) or dish of their choice. Some of the groups also presented their work to the JAMK University canteen (which I hope resulted in some changes to the menu). Go beyond food miles to looking at the companies that source these items. An investigation by The Guardian found that almost 80% of dozens of everyday grocery items are supplied by just a handful of companies (over 80% of chocolate is sold by just three companies). Have a quick play of their game America’s giant food monopoly to learn more.
+What are you eating tonight?
For more examples of student engagement, check out the database under STUDENTS at list.giselleweybrecht.com