News, Student Voice

No excuse not to embed Sustainable Development in the Curriculum: The Sustainability Champions are here!

They are finally here. In partnership with the Students’ Union, we have spent over a year creating hype and slowly introducing the roles of Sustainability Champions at the University of Bristol.

As I explained in my previous blog, these 11 Champions will be working on catalysing the transition towards Education for Sustainable Development and, after meeting many of them, I am certainly confident that their outstanding enthusiasm and commitment will make a difference this year – there should not be excuses to embed Sustainable Development in the curriculum now!

Here are some of the faces and demands from of our colleagues:

Patty Miranda – Law School

It’s essential to see the Law School’s education action plan, which is a ‘living document’ that records the school’s educational priorities and actions, assessed and mapped against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This information should be easily accessible, with multiple pathways for students and staff to directly participate as we continue to push for inclusive and positive change together.

My experiences in the Philippines, which is hit by an average of 20 typhoons annually, fuel my profound interest in sustainability and public health. Last year, I testified at the People’s Health Hearing to emphasise that the climate crisis is also a global inequality crisis.

Shandin Rickard-Hughes – working on sustainability and climate action for the School of Education and SU

I came back to school after 10 years working in HE to do my MSc Education at UoB because I knew I needed to do more for my communities and the planet. I am now learning how I can contribute to climate literacy and sustainable development, and how to work in community outreach and collective action.

The School of Education has a Climate Action Group which I’ve recently joined, and a willing network of academics and staff keen to make changes and improve their curriculum. There is work to do, but I am excited and inspired by the opportunities and enthusiasm to make a difference.

Flo Ingram – CAME/Engineering

Do you think that the University is considering sustainability on the educational level? How?

Yes and no – the university has made steps towards education for sustainable development, such as through the introduction of the SD module and short course among a few other things, but I believe it should go one step further. I believe the natural progression is to embed sustainable development into every module, to build awareness of this topic and demonstrate how it interacts with everyday life.

What would you like to see happening at the university?

A few things – firstly I would love to see lecturers make links between lectures and the sustainable development goals consistently. Over the long term, I believe that if the university wants to position itself as a leader for ESD, then it should consider opening a Centre for Sustainable Development like the University of Cambridge has done, to demonstrate that the University of Bristol is serious when it comes to this topic.

What would you like to accomplish this year? Do you have any ideas in mind?

This year I’m planning on carrying out a review of ESD within the CAME School of Engineering (Civil, Aero and Mech), gathering feedback for students and presenting it to the School. One other area of work I’m really hoping to spend time on is a way that lecturers within the faculty who have a passion or interest in Sustainable Development can be recognised by the student body for this, in a hope that this will initiate meaningful conversations and debate.

Matthias Mitra – School of Health Sciences

As a medical student at the University of Bristol, I often witness the vast amount of waste produced by the healthcare industry. Though this normally attributes to sanitary protocol and has the best interests of the patient in mind, there is no reason why we should not strive for improvements in sustainability, especially in our current climate. At the university, I work with lecturers in the school of health sciences and the student union to help implement sustainability teaching into curricula to help educate a new generation of more globally aware health professionals.

Poppy Silk – School of Physics

Hi, I’m Poppy and I’m currently working on including education for sustainability in the Physics curriculum! We currently learn close to nothing about sustainability issues which is pretty ridiculous considering that physicists have such an important job to do in tackling the climate crisis. This year my aim is to make sure students leave university with a knowledge of how they can use their degree in a positive way.

We also regularly get emails about job offers in the defense sector, as well as fossil fuel companies and banks that invest heavily in fossil fuels. This is something I have been trying to change during my 3 years at Bristol and I am glad that we are starting to get more options in industries having a positive impact on the planet. However, there is definitely still work to be done to encourage students to think seriously about whether the job they want to go in will contribute to the climate and ecological crisis.

Sasha Mulvey – Sociology

I think that Sustainability and the climate catastrophe is a social issue. Although parts of it are being taught, and some units primarily centre on these areas, I think more change is necessary to sustainability in our education.

Studying sociology for the past 1 ½ years has been inspiring, and the school certainly encourages students to think about the interconnectedness of different social issues. However, I think sustainability is still missing and want to see it present in every subject, to go hand-in-hand with decolonising the discipline and postcolonialism.

This year I would love to create projects with other Sustainability Champions, students and academics. I hope to establish a strong case for sustainability in education, so that it can be implemented in the school and the student voice can be heard. Sustainability and the environment shouldn’t be an extra topic for those interested; it ought to be incorporated into the curriculum itself.

Let’s see what we can accomplish with such a team! I really hope that the necessary bonds between the student body, the Sustainability Department, and the Education bodies at the university are strengthened to ensure that we students are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools to contribute to sustainable development. I will share a list of all the champions below:

Florence Ingram – Civil Engineering – Faculty of Engineering

Patricia Miranda  – Law – Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Iolo Jones – Environmental Geosciences – Faculty of Sciences

Ellie White – Italian and Spanish – Faculty of Arts

Poppy Silk – Physics – School of Sciences

Phil Smith – Physics –           School of Sciences

Vatsala Chauhan – Public Policy – Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Sasha Mulvey – Sociology – SPAIS

Mehwish Kareem – Marketing – School of Management

Matthias Mitra – Medicine – School of Health Sciences

Shandin Rickard-Hughes – Education (Policy and International Development) – School of Education

We expect to continue with this scheme across the next few years, so this is just the start. Kudos to the UWE’s SU for sharing the good practices of sustainability practices in the Higher Education Sector, for our University’s SU for the logistical support, and for the philanthropic donors in providing the budget for launching schemes like this.

Carlos Shanka Boissy Diaz is a BILT Student Fellow and President of the Bristol University Sustainability Team. Read Carlos’ other blogs here.

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