‘Advancing the SDG’s Together’: a US/UK Student Symposium

Grace Barker

Loyola Study Abroad Center Manager

Global Opportunities, International Office

What did you do?

Working with a partner institution to host an online event where students shared experiences and ideas for advancing a particular Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in their location.

Who is involved?

Loyola University Maryland and Newcastle University, working from within our international offices to draw in relevant staff and experts. Students from particular courses, as well as across the University, were invited to participate.

Newcastle campus and Loyola campus

How did you do it?

Loyola had an International Education Month planned, and so we decided to do something together under their broader banner of “Educating Together for a Better World”.

  • We chose SDGs we felt were of interest to students and relevant to their city context.
  • I made a registration form where students could select two SDGs they were interested in. This helped us with pre-allocating the groups for discussions.
  • We also asked students if they would be interested in being a Student Facilitator. This person would help with keeping the conversation moving in the discussion time.
  • We asked a professor in Sustainable Management at Loyola to deliver the keynote at the start.
  • We invited staff to act as ‘listeners’ in the group feedback session, and also invited them to share their work with other colleagues in an informal breakout room whilst the students were in theirs.
  • I created a briefing document for staff and for student facilitators to help them prepare for the session.
  • I created a Poll for Zoom ahead of time so I could get some snapshot feedback.

This was our running order for the event:

Time GMT/EST Activity
16:00 / 11:00 Welcome
16:10 / 11:10 Keynote Presentation
16:30 / 11:30 Breakout Rooms/ Staff Room
17:15 / 12:15 Discussion Feedback
17:45 / 12:45 Final remarks
  • On the day, I acted as ‘host’ and a colleague from Newcastle and colleague from Loyola were supporting with practical tasks.
  • We used Zoom’s feature of pre-allocating breakout rooms – this worked with limited success, but I would still recommend preparing who will be in which room to aid a speedy manual sort if needed.
  • The keynote speaker asked students to use Google Slides to capture their conversations – this worked really well as we now have a record of what was discussed and key themes in the breakout room discussions.
  • My colleagues popped into the rooms to see how conversations were going but left them fairly quickly too so as not to stop the flow of conversation or change the dynamic to “talking to a staff member”.

Why did you do it?

  • We want to increase student engagement in our partnership, and both sides are keen to develop virtual initiatives as a part of this.
  • We want to support the University’s commitment to sustainable and global education.
  • We had co-hosted a similar event last year between our Institutions so knew the format worked well.
  • We wanted to grow our collaborative activity around the SDG’s.
  • Highlighting the students’ discussions as the main part of the event was to help build a culture of student involvement in tackling SDG issues.
  • Including staff ‘listeners’ was an idea to also help communicate a culture of shared endeavour, and to position the student as ‘expert’ in the conversation.

Does it work?

We had over 100 sign ups to the event, which shows that the title and idea for the event was popular with students.
We had 43 participants, 31 completed our Exit Poll:

Response Number / %  of respondents
Full of good conversation 24/  77%
I felt able to contribute 20/ 65%
I gained in some way from participating 19/ 61%
I would attend another cross-institution event 18/ 58%
I would attend another SDG event, 20/ 65%

I also received a couple of personal emails from students to say they had enjoyed the event.

Student Voice

“It was a really nice experience to socially interact with all these students from both universities.”

“I feel like there are a lot of ways to make ideas happen and to implement it into our everyday lives.”

“Thanks for having me, it was a well informative and productive session.”

“I found the afternoon session insightful.”

Graduate Framework

This approach develops the following attributes:

  • Future-focused
  • Critical thinker
  • Socially responsible
  • Creative, innovative and enterprising
  • Engaged
  • Collaborative

Find out more about the Graduate Framework.

Contact Details

Grace Barker, International Office, grace.barker@ncl.ac.uk

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