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AUS students participate in Future Sustainability Leaders Program as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week
Two students from American University of Sharjah (AUS) will learn about the latest best practices in sustainability and connect with global business leaders, policymakers and technology pioneers through the Future Sustainability Leaders (FSL) program. The program is organized as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which began yesterday, January 18.
The FSL program provides core knowledge, skills training, hands-on work experience and numerous networking opportunities through events that take place over a 12-month period. Students learn about the outlook of the sustainability agenda and gain a better understanding of how to positively contribute to the implementation of global sustainable development goals. Applicants went through a rigorous selection process prior to joining the program.
“I was compelled to apply and seize this unique opportunity to build the knowledge and skills that are most important for our generation. The theme for this year is empowering youth in sustainability and addressing the skills required for the future,” said Ishraq Abdalla, a final-year student majoring in environmental sciences with a minor in environmental policy.
The program includes an online aspect focusing on knowledge, people and skills. It also incorporates innovation and entrepreneurial challenges aligned with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals and the UAE’s National Agenda. Two ECOthon programs allow student teams to learn about problem-solving, ideation, collaboration and prototyping.
“My ultimate goal is to gain extensive experience in renewable energy and to develop an innovative project by the end of the program with my teammates. This will not only enhance my education, but also serve me professionally as I go out into the real world after graduation,” said Abdalla, who has also been serving as an EcoRep with the AUS Sustainability Office since 2019.
Established in 2018 at AUS, the EcoRep Program recruits four students every year to promote sustainable change on campus. They educate and work with their student peers on issues such as waste reduction, energy conservation, diversity and tolerance. The program is one of the many initiatives of the AUS Sustainability Office. The office was established as part of the university’s social responsibility, designed to confront challenges of climate change and deepen students’ understanding of sustainability issues so that they are able to address them, no matter where they are.
“Despite COVID-19, we continued to work virtually through social media and to host collaborative events with different student groups. It is our generation that will face the consequences of global policies, which we must now influence with the voice of the youth. We have the opportunity to lead the change using our knowledge and innovation,” said Abdalla.
Second-year mechanical engineering and mathematics student Megan Ghaly chose to apply for the FSL program even though it was not directly connected to her major fields of study. She said: “This is a great program that teaches youth how to become leaders in the field of sustainability, which I find extremely necessary to learn. We have a duty to work together as a society to help the environment, ourselves and future generations. This is why it is important for students from all majors to learn about sustainability.”
Reflecting on her sustainability habits, Ghaly said: “I have become very aware of my consumption habits. I am also the treasurer of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and we were successful in collaborating with Grundfos, the largest pump manufacturer in the world, to host competitions for engineering students that focus on designing a sustainable city. The aim was to encourage engineering students to think about sustainability. I am looking forward to starting the FSL program and very excited about what is to come.”
This was not the first time AUS students were selected to participate in the FSL program. Electrical engineering alumna and previous AUS EcoRep Khawla Alnuaimi, who participated in the FSL program in 2019, said the program made her realize that saving the environment is a collective responsibility. She said: “The program expanded my views on sustainability. Attending workshops and communicating with my peers made me think about my impact on the environment from various aspects—my daily routines, the waste I produce, the energy I consume, my water usage and my carbon footprint.”
AUS is widely recognized for its sustainability initiatives and is the MENA region's best performing university in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. In 2020, AUS became the Gulf region's first university to begin to ban single-use plastics across its campus, with all campus vendors banned from selling plastic water containers holding less than 500 millimeters of water. The plastics-ban initiative followed the launch of the university’s new Engineering and Sciences Building, which was awarded the highly sought after 2 Pearl rating by Estidama, a sustainable development initiative of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. AUS also received the Green Audit Award as part of the Abu Dhabi Environmental Agency’s Sustainable Campus Initiative for university students.