Zhejiang University: Zhejiang University inspires youngsters in response to UN’s 2030 Agenda

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The 2022 Zhejiang University (ZJU) SDG Global Summer School, entitled “SDG for a Better Future”, came to an end on Aug 15. Nearly 1,000 talented students from over 350 universities in more than 80 countries and regions participated in the 14-day program, during which they explored solutions to six of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through challenging academic modules and exciting non-curricular activities.

This program, as part of “A Global ZJU for Social Good (Z4G)”— the university’s sustainability action plan launched last year in an effort to align with the 2030 Agenda, aims to guide young people to understand the opportunities and challenges in the new era, and encourage them to explore, enrich and empower the global community.

“As a responsible leading university, we wish to further incorporate SDGs into our education, research and governance through a series of specific actions. In the meantime, we want to maximize the university’s positive impact on youth and the world together with our global partners,” said Wu Zhaohui, president of ZJU, at the opening ceremony on Aug 1.

This year’s summer school was held online, with the opening ceremony taking place in an innovative Yaotai Metaverse, which was one of the biggest highlights of the program. Supported by cutting-edge digital technology, it provided attendants with an immersive virtual-reality environment, where they can socialize with others and take online campus tours.

“My best memory from this year’s summer school was the opening ceremony. It was both interactive and innovative,” said Singh Alicja Amrit from Italy. “The welcoming ceremony gave me a really great experience of virtual reality. I really felt like I was in China, like I was physically there,” said Musubuga Job Neloson from Uganda.

Consisting of three academic modules (Smart City, Inclusive Development and Carbon Neutrality), the summer school offered interdisciplinary and critical approaches to the world’s most critical sustainable issues, inspiring students to think, discuss and find solutions. The courses were given by 36 professors from ZJU and another nine world-class universities, such as Cambridge University, Imperial College London, and Yale University.

“The summer school program is highly educational, interactive and informative, giving students the chance to interact with many professors from around the world and students as well,” said Kiryowa Idrisa, a student from India.

Stephanie Ann, a summer school participant from Singapore, spoke highly of the Carbon Neutrality module. “The holistic approach to climate change is what makes the ZJU SDG Summer School very insightful. The lecturers, assignments and group tasks not only allow us to apply the knowledge we have learnt but also propel us to ponder and explore the topics on our own.”

As a supplement to academic study, two non-curricular activities, 14-Day Tasks and Model United Nations, were organized to inspire students to discover the fusion of tradition and modernity and encourage them to learn from their peers with diverse academic and cultural backgrounds.

“Being part of the summer school is helping me to learn more about China, since I’m taking part in the 14-Day tasks, which teach me about Chinese culture and Zhejiang University,” said Melisa Zeybecik from Turkey. “My favorite part would be the 14-Day tasks since I’m learning Chinese and already interested in the beautiful culture.”

The extreme heat wave this summer is posing a tremendous threat to the world. At the beginning of 2022, Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of United Nations, called on the international community to take urgent action to tackle three major challenges: climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental pollution.

Higher education institutions play an indispensable role in realizing the SDGs. In addition to its efforts in education, ZJU has been devoted to achieving a sustainable future through research and operations. From 2011 to 2020, ZJU contributed over 10,000 articles in Net Zero research, ranking among the top institutions globally in terms of scholarly output, according to Elsevier’s report Pathways to Net Zero: The Impact of Clean Energy Research published last October. Meanwhile, its International Campus is the first college campus in China to join the Eco-Campus certification system and won a platinum award for its leading sustainable operations and management capacity. Just two months ago, the Green Origin Association, one of ZJU’s 231 student associations, won the 2022 PRME Student Award for excellence in SDG impact out of over 300 student associations worldwide.

“SDG for a better future is not only the theme of our summer school, but also our shared vision,” said Wu. “On this interactive and inclusive journey towards a sustainable future, we look forward to joining hands with global stakeholders to realize our shared vision.”

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