Georgia Tech president: Fostering global collaboration, local action in 21st century
By David Pendered
Georgia Tech President Angel Cabrera portrays a new e-learning program on sustainability as a result of the type of university-based global coalition needed to solve big problems in the 21st century.
Cabrera cited vaccine research into COVID-19 as an example of a global response to a global challenge: Because researchers in China provided the world with the gene sequence early in the pandemic, in January, researchers throughout the world could turn immediately to developing an effective vaccine. This approach to problem solving is embodied in the new course.
“Global collaboration is essential, as is local action,” Cabrera said. “This situation we’re in is teaching us that, to make a difference, we have to collaborate globally while acting locally to find new approaches that none of us, alone, could come up with.”
Nadia Theodore, the consul general of Canada based in Atlanta, joined Cabrera in noting the interconnected nature of devising potential solutions to global concerns.
“Now, more than ever, we see disparities that exist not only between countries, but within nations,” Theodore said. “Canada knows this is unacceptable. We are working together … to ensure we leave no one behind.”
Cabrera and Theodore were among more than 100 who gathered via webinar on Wednesday evening to launch the e-learning program, Youth and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Turner Foundation provided a grant that funded development of the course.
There’s no charge to take the class. It’s expected to take six weeks to complete, working two to four hours a week for a total of 16 hours. Participation is open to folks of all ages, though the course is aimed at college-age students.
Almost 300 individuals from 73 countries had pre-registered for the course by Wednesday, according to Binbin Jiang, executive director of Kennesaw State University’s Division of Global Affairs and director of CIFAL Atlanta. CIFAL Atlanta hosted the virtual showcase.
The online course is hosted by UNITAR, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. The purpose is to teach about the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which address topics including poverty, inequality, climate change, environment, peace and justice.
An example of one student project that promotes a UN sustainability goal is a climate vulnerability assessment map of Downtown Atlanta.
Students worked under the guidance of Jairo Garcia, a lecturer at Tech who specializes in spatial data analysis for ecological assessments. Students did their work after dividing into four teams that harnessed their knowledge of their majors: engineering, policy, economics, and science/technology.
The most fascinating result of their work as reported by students: “Each map has a description, source, implications why it matters, and possible connections with other maps.”
Here’s a snapshot of the course description:
- “The main objective of this six-week e-learning program is to provide intensive training to youth on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its targets, while encouraging them to design and implement a community project related to one of the SDGs. Through interactive content, animations, pop-up questions and comprehensive quizzes, participants will test and practice their knowledge on sustainable development.”
The course has been designed over the past year by a global consortium that includes folks at Georgia Tech’s Serve Learn and Sustain Center; Kennesaw State University; the Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development of Greater Atlanta; Geneva-based UNITAR, and the International Training Centre for Authorities and Leaders in Atlanta (CIFAL Atlanta).