27 July 2018

Seton Hall University promotes the UN SDG Challenge to engage students with innovative solutions

The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), as part of its outreach efforts about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, shares this story submitted by Seton Hall University, a UNAI member institution, on an initiative in line with the UNAI principle on sustainability.

27 July 2018 - Seton Hall University (United States), a member institution of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), though its Center for UN and Global Governance Studies, invites every year high school and college students to propose innovative solutions that will bring the world closer to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposals under the framework of the UN SDG Challenge, take aim at ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, improving and expanding educational opportunities, and tackling climate change, among other ideas. 

"The UN SDG Challenge is becoming a UN Center event around which prospective students, the School, and our colleagues from the United Nations, civil society, and academia can gather with excitement",  explained Father Brian Muzás, the Center's director and an assistant professor at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations. The project, he said, "is a way to crowdsource ideas from diverse sources". For this year's edition, students traveled to campus from as far away as the Philippines. Several of the 15 finalists presented their inspiring proposals via Skype from countries such as India and Australia.

Throughout the actual day of the event, students took questions from a panel of judges that included former UN SDG Challenge winners, as well as distinguished international relations practitioners, diplomats and scholars. They discussed how the project is linked to specific SDGs, and considered ways in which some ideas could be expanded beyond a pilot phase. "We need the energy of youth because that's where the desire for change will really come from. We will learn from those who are just beginning their careers", Courtney Smith, senior associate dean at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations remarked. 

Joseph Todaro, a high school junior, took up the challenge of helping people in Sub-Saharan Africa gain access to clean water. Moved by the fact that 500 children die from water-related diseases each day, Todaro's Operation Waterworks project aims to involve local communities in installing and maintaining fog nets, a low-cost water capture system that he said could produce 2,000 liters of clean water a day. Colin Smith, a high school sophomore, linked his idea to stamp out malaria by providing mosquito bed nets in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Improving education for girls in the developing world is the mission of HER, a project launched by a group of high school friends. The project so far helped establish seven libraries in girls schools in Pakistan. Project founder Zoha Siddiqui entered HER – which stands for HER Education is HER Right – in the UN SDG Challenge and took first place in the college competition. Girls schools, she explained, are typically underfunded and often lack books and other sorely needed supplies. "Establishing libraries was a sustainable, cost-efficient way of helping the schools", she shared.

The fourth annual UN SDG Challenge returns to Seton Hall University in 2019. Proposals are due in early March. For details and submission directions, please visit the project website here.