17 December 2019

Partnering Globally and Locally to Advance the SDGs

One year ago United Nations Academic Impact announced the inauguration of the UNAI SDG Hubs, UNAI member institutions selected as exemplars for their innovative scholarship and engagement related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) who serve as resources for best practices for the UNAI network, currently composed of over 1,400 universities and colleges in more than 130 countries.

On the anniversary of the program launch, we’re taking this opportunity to check in with some of the hub schools to highlight their scholarship and activities over the past twelve months and look ahead to future initiatives. The last school profiled in our anniversary series is the American University in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), hub for SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.   

The American University in Dubai (AUD) has two goals within its mission that are directly connected with core components of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to foster intercultural understanding as a basis for preparing students to be members of a global community, and to contribute to the economic and societal development of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and beyond. With this in mind, between 2018 and 2019 AUD has expanded its work related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Goal 17 in particular, is a guiding principle of the wide range of international activities conducted by AUD, not only to advance its own mission but to help with the actual implementation of the 2030 Agenda, in particular at the national and regional level. Partnerships are at the core of any successful collaboration, from public-private sector work and with entrepreneurs, to academic institutions and research centers.

Over the past year, AUD has sustained and enhanced its partnerships with various stakeholders to address global issues and prepare students for a life of global service and citizenship. For example, the university partners with diplomatic missions to the UAE to regularly host the Diplomatic Speaker series with ambassadors in order to discuss global affairs. AUD is a strong proponent of open discussions on different topics of interest to help raise awareness among its students and better equip them with the skills needed to operate in today’s world.

In 2019 AUD launched its YPO Partnership, connecting youth and students with top employers in the region. Partnerships are fundamental as they allow young students to be able to witness achievements first-hand and learn the ropes going forward. Accessing such a network is not always as straightforward in the Middle East and fresh graduates may often struggle to secure a job, particularly in a region where unemployment is considered relatively high.

“Partnerships have always proven to yield great success in different fields,” said Dr. David A. Schmidt, President of AUD. “By striking up different partnerships across multiple sectors, AUD ensures it covers all grounds to provide as many opportunities to its students as possible. Partnerships allow diversification, added resources and a broader network that students are able to tap into for their own success and self-development. In today’s world, partnerships are not only vital, they are necessary.”

In 2019 AUD also organized the STEP Conference, which hosted more than 1,000 start-ups. The large experiential technology festival included interactive workshops and prominent tech leaders. Students were able to interact with the world’s most sought-after technologists, investors, entrepreneurs and creatives. In a similar fashion, the university invited Acciona, a multinational company that focuses on sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy to showcase sustainable energy solutions in the automotive sector. AUD’s School of Engineering collaborates with Acciona to develop such solutions.

The Middle East in general, and the Gulf in particular, is home to some of the world’s largest oil reserves. But with predictions that the world will run out of oil in 2030 and other fossil fuels in 2050 and the dire need for environmental action, renewable energy is increasingly viewed as the way forward for the region. AUD views this shift as a key opportunity and it has found massive potential in partnerships to help meet the UAE’s future demand in the energy field.

The AUD School of Engineering and the university as a whole are part of the ongoing strategic partnership created with the Institution of Structural Engineers to organize joint events for students, faculty, and the general public with the objective of bridging the gap between the academic and professional sectors in the UAE. In September 2019 for example, a panel of experts took place within this framework to promote sustainable development and discuss the role of civil engineers in advancing the SDGs.

Recently, AUD renewed its partnership with Harvard University for the Harvard College in Asia Partnership, in which it offers cross-cultural seminars and workshops on regional technology and media. The university also invites external parties to share their cultures at the university and in 2019, the Year of Tolerance, AUD hosted a global conference with the participation of several non-governmental organizations on how to integrate and build tolerance, a critical topic in the UAE, a melting pot of different nationalities and religions.

The American University in Dubai will continue to build and sustain partnerships across sectors to advance solutions to pressing global issues, and prepare future leaders to tackle these challenges locally and globally.  

To learn more about the UNAI SDG Hubs, including the American University in Dubai, visit the United Nations Academic Impact SDG Hubs.