Higher Education Leadership on the SDGs

U.S. higher education institutions are advancing the SDGs through their courses, research, and community outreach. They are training the next generation of SDG experts and engaging their students and staff to create sustainable development solutions for more inclusive, resilient communities on and off campus. These institutions also work in partnership with local governments and businesses, providing the innovation and expertise to achieve the SDGs starting from the local level.

Recent developments

Times Higher Education ranks universities on their commitment to the SDGs, including 45 from the U.S.

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SDSN launches new guide on Accelerating Education for the SDGs at Universities

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Alexandra Hiniker, Director of the Sustainability Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University shares how universities can contribute to the Global Goals.

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Leadership Spotlight

Across the United States, higher education institutions and research organizations are leading the charge on the SDGs through research, courses, and community outreach. Here are a few examples of how students, faculty, staff, and researchers are creating a more sustainable future inside and outside of the classroom.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Voluntary University Review

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) created the first-ever Voluntary University Review (VUR) as a way to report progress on the SDGs and engage their community on sustainable development. A team of faculty, staff, and students reviewed how CMU’s teaching, research, and practices aligned with the SDGs. The process created a useful model for other higher-education institution.

CMU Completes Voluntary Review of SDGs >>

2020 Voluntary University Review of the SDGs >>

Sustainable Development Solutions Network USA (SDSN)

Hosted by three U.S. universities, SDSN USA connects more than 100 higher education institutions to mobilize expertise and research on the SDGs.  The network promotes education and outreach, while encouraging collaboration to address the complex challenges of sustainable development.


Takeaways from SDSN USA 2021 Network Meeting >>

Student SDG Cohorts in Los Angeles

Since 2018, Los Angeles has engaged over 120 undergraduate and graduate students on SDG implementation in the city. The summer 2020 cohort worked on nine projects overseen by clients in city departments, including ways to improve indoor air quality and creating a journey map for Angelenos experiencing housing insecurity. These projects offer students an opportunity for applied research and service-based learning while providing the government access to added capacity, expertise, and outside perspectives.

Los Angeles: How Universities can help cities achieve the SDGs >>

SDG Student Projects >>

Georgia Tech’s 17 Rooms-U

Universities have led the way in piloting their own “17 Rooms-U” efforts around the country, such as the “17 Zooms” event held at Georgia Tech in 2020. Each room included a mix of faculty, staff, and students who identified ideas for advancing their corresponding SDG at Georgia Tech. These were compiled into a report of 56 key takeaways. The report includes a description of each recommended action, connections to the university’s strategic plan, and an estimate of required resources.

Georgia Tech 17 Rooms Recommendation Action Report >>

Georgia Tech News: Ivan Allen College Faculty, Students, Participate in ‘17 Zooms’ >>

UNA-USA Campus Chapters

UNA-USA has a network of over 100 campus chapters at higher education institutions across the country. Campus chapters advocate for global progress at the UN by holding issue-based discussions, public events, fundraisers, service projects, and advocacy activities like meeting with local elected officials. Any student can join or start a chapter.

UNA-USA Youth & Student Programs >>

UNA-USA Find a Chapter >>

Start a UNA-USA Campus Chapter Today >>

Want to see other examples of American leadership on the SDGs and gain access to tools and resources?

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