Aligning Georgia Tech’s Education Abroad Programs with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
SDG Action and Awareness Week offers an opportunity to highlight some of the unique ways Georgia Tech is committed to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the Institute’s strategic plan.
The Education Abroad team in the Office of International Education (OIE) focuses on increasing participation in Georgia Tech programs that support students through international experiences, and many of the Institute’s education abroad programs not only provide students the opportunity to participate in life-changing international experiences but also align with the United Nations SDGs.
“Whatever students’ future career plans may entail, participation in an education abroad program can provide them with both theoretical and experiential knowledge directly connected to the SDGs,” said Jesse Malone Ferreira, associate director of education abroad.
According to Malone Ferreira, “when considering the goals and work of the SDGs, there is an obvious connection to education abroad programs and the Institute’s mission to develop leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.” A 2022 survey of Tech’s nearly 60 Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs revealed that over 90% of them align with one or more of the SDGs. “Education abroad programs that align with the SDGs support Georgia Tech’s mission and strategic plan, which focus on making a positive impact in the lives of people everywhere,” said Lorie Johns Páulez, director of education abroad.
To foster growth and encourage action connected to the SDGs, the Education Abroad team is collaborating with faculty and campus partners to support the development of new opportunities abroad that align with the SDGs, while identifying current program synergies with their locations, curriculum, and the SDGs. “During the initial program proposal process each year, program directors are encouraged to identify which SDGs might align with their proposed program and to consider ways they may incorporate content supportive of the SDGs into their program,” said Páulez.
While the incorporation of SDG learning objectives and activities might be new to some of Georgia Tech’s education abroad programs, other programs have been weaving SDG learning content into their curriculum and planning for some time. One such example is the Leadership for Social Good Study Abroad Program through the Scheller College of Business. This 10-week program travels to parts of Central and Eastern Europe, offering students an opportunity to earn 12 credit hours through a combination of lectures, case studies, readings, guest speakers, and direct engagement with nonprofit organizations.
Program Director Dori Pap says, “Students in the LSG program gain hands-on experience by working with a community partner on high-priority projects in Budapest, Hungary. Being able to quickly adapt and transition into a different culture requires an open mind, a positive attitude, and a willingness to grow. These experiences prepare students for the global workforce and set them apart in the marketplace.”
The program’s goal is for students to better grasp the realities of social entrepreneurship and the leadership required to develop strong civil societies.
“Students use the UN SDGs to map out all the social and environmental issues that they explore in class and experience through their internships,” said Pap. “Using this framework helps them identify similarities and differences in social innovation on a global scale.”
Another initiative that highlights the focus of the SDGs in our own Atlanta communities through a global lens is the new Think Global, Act Local: The United Nations' SDGs at Home and Abroad program. Co-developed and co-taught by Modern Languages and Serve-Learn-Sustain, this program is designed to help students see Atlanta from new perspectives — as a member of a variety of past and present global communities, and as leaders in advancing sustainable development in innovative ways. The initiative is being supported by OIE’s Global@Home program framework, developed by the Education Abroad team during the pandemic to continue global engagement for students during the period of travel bans.
“This new program is an example of innovation and collaboration in global and local community engagement, and really seeks to integrate curriculum with Georgia Tech’s support for the SDGs,” said Kelly Comfort, associate professor of Spanish and director of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Modern Languages, who serves as the program’s co-director.
According to Páulez, “The Education Abroad team will continue providing support to programs exploring ways to map SDGs to their programs and increasing student engagement with the SDGs on a global level.”