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AUS and Al Ghurair Foundation join forces to promote sustainability in higher education
Integrating sustainability initiatives in pandemic and post-pandemic higher education was the focus of a webinar series recently held by American University of Sharjah (AUS). Entitled “Education for Sustainable Development,” the two-day event featured renowned experts in the field and was organized by AUS Sustainability in collaboration with the university’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning?(CITL).
Under the theme “Something for Everyone,” AUS staff, faculty members and students had the opportunity to share innovations and research emphasizing sustainability in teaching and learning.
Dr. Sonia Ben Jaafar, CEO of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, provided the keynote address, discussing how education should prepare students to find sustainable solutions for present and future education challenges.
“Sustainability in higher education institutions is not only limited to embedding sustainable development goals into the curriculum as intended learning outcomes. We need to reorient education to sustainably with the understanding that it is at the heart of future jobs. This means a holistic institutional approach including integrating it into the teaching and learning practices intentionally to thread together economic,?social?and environmental dimensions for students. This event is just one example of how AUS is working towards making sure their graduates have a sustainability mindset in all that they study – and that is the way forward,” she said.
As part of her discussion on the role of higher education in sustainable education, Dr. Ben Jaafar invited two AUS alumni who were once Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education scholars to join the discussion. The alumni spoke about how their education at AUS impacted their understanding of sustainability issues and how they implement that in their current positions at international organizations.?
Following Dr. Ben Jaafar’s talk, a panel discussion was held on “Integrating Sustainability Principles in the Classroom” featuring Dr. Victoria Tait, Lecturer Practitioner in Education for Sustainability, Anglia Ruskin University, UK; and Camilo Cerro, Associate Professor of Architecture at the AUS College of Architecture, Art and Design; and Rania Tayeh, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Public Relations and Communications at EWINGS LLC.
Panel members emphasized the importance of helping students develop a sustainable mindset and to graduate future industry leaders who are prepared to meet world challenges and create change. They noted that sustainable education is a powerful tool as it allows students and faculty members to engage across all disciplines. The discussion further touched on issues related to introducing sustainable education at the school level and making it a mandatory subject at all education levels, changing the general student culture, and the lack of understanding of sustainability. Panel members urged students to choose from the wide spectrum of sustainability goals and get involved, join networks and online platforms, and find mentors to become part of the real conversation.?
On the final day of the event, the panel “Learning Design for Sustainable Development” featured Dr. Maria Toro-Troconis, International Consultant for the United Nations and Founder of the Learning Design Bootcamp; Katharine Reedy, Learning Designer at The Open University, UK; and Dr. Mohammed Ibrahine, Professor of Mass Communication at the College of Arts and Sciences, AUS.
The panel addressed design tool kits that help faculty embed sustainable education in their classrooms with a focus on the learners’ experience. It emphasized the need to contextualize sustainability and focus on teaching the skills that are in serious demand, such as future and system thinking, problem solving and collaboration, among others.???
The closing plenary session was given by Alex Malouf, Corporate Communications Director at Schneider Electric. He spoke about the impact on global warming on states, institutions and individuals. He addressed the growing importance of achieving sustainability in industries today, the major role of technology in achieving sustainability and a circular economy.
The event concluded with closing remarks by Dr. Susan Mumm, AUS Chancellor.
She said: “As a university, we have done a lot of work in the area of sustainability, but we are aware that there is more work to be done. Our goal is to make our students think about what it means to have a good life and examine this question more deeply away from any material aspects. We want our students to know how to live the values of sustainability and to graduate thinking about how to apply them to their work. They are the ones to hold the world accountable.”?
AUS is widely recognized in the region for its?sustainability initiatives. The university recently earned a STARS Silver rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the?Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), making it the highest rated university in the GCC for sustainability. In 2020, AUS became the Gulf region's first university to begin to remove single-use plastics across its campus, with all campus vendors banned from providing petroleum-based single-use items such as takeaway containers, plastic bags and others.?Additionally, the AUS Engineering and Sciences Building has been awarded the highly sought-after 2 Pearl rating by Estidama, a sustainable development initiative of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. AUS has also received the Green Audit Award as part of the Abu Dhabi Environmental Agency’s Sustainable Campus Initiative for university students.
For more information on AUS Sustainability, please visit?www.nhraunleashed.com/sustainability.