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COP27: American University of Sharjah students share plan for embedding sustainability awareness in higher education
Students and alumni from American University of Sharjah (AUS) have called for greater collaboration between university communities and governments to tackle pressing sustainability issues. The group used the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), held in Egypt, to share their ideas with an international audience.
Facilitating an event hosted by the UAE Pavilion at COP27, the group of current AUS students and AUS alumni presented to COP27 attendees about how sustainability competencies could be more comprehensively integrated into higher education learning. Students included Sabiha Ameen of the College of Architecture, Art and Design; Dana Malouf of the College of Arts and Sciences; Alina Anas and Muhammad Junaid, both of the College of Engineering.
The group called for the establishment of a network to connect UAE students, faculty, alumni, industry and government to work together to ensure knowledge about sustainability was more integrated into university curricula. Such a network would help to embed UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals into higher education programs. This would help students to achieve a broad mind set around sustainability that they can take with them after graduation into their future workplaces.
Nour Attia, who graduated from AUS in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, is now working as a Sustainability Associate at Majid Al Futtaim. She took part in this event, saying of her experience:
“AUS has shaped my sustainability career by providing opportunities, exposure and education beyond my student years. COP27 was an experience of a lifetime where I sat in on the negotiations representing the UAE and attended intellectually stimulating discussions that reignited my passion and drive beyond COP27. The call to action and implementation beyond commitments and promises was reflected in the energy and ambition of the public and private representations equally.”
AUS was invited by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCE) to be a part of the country’s official delegation to COP27. Along with current students, AUS Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jeannette Vinke, AUS Head of Sustainability Rose Armour, and AUS Professor of Environmental Sciences Dr. Fatin Samara were also part of the delegation.
A number of AUS alumni were also present at COP27, showcasing the UAE’s achievements in addressing climate change. One of these alumni included Maissam El Kouche, Sustainability Manager at Majid Al Futtaim and an Arab Youth Council for Climate Change Member. She said of her participation at COP27:
“Youth inclusion was very apparent at COP27. There were plenty of opportunities for youth to voice their opinions and showcase their climate solutions. It goes without saying that the role of youth is crucial in driving climate action, and the Arab Youth Council for Climate Change is a fundamental medium in facilitating that.”
Armour said of the AUS contribution to COP27:
“Having the voices of students heard in an environment like COP27 is so important. It helps students shape the global conversation around climate change and contribute solutions that they believe will have impact. The AUS students involved came from a variety of university programs, showing that sustainability can very much be a part of the student experience at AUS, regardless of the major a student chooses. I look forward to working with these students and the wider student community over the coming months to prepare for AUS’ contribution at COP28, to be held next year in the UAE.”
AUS is widely recognized for its sustainability initiatives. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), AUS is one of the top five institutions worldwide for community engagement in sustainability, according to AASHE’s 2022 Sustainable Campus Index (SCI). Aligning its sustainability efforts with the UAE’s Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative, AUS has developed its first comprehensive Climate Action Plan with the goal to reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, the university’s Engineering and Sciences Building received a highly sought-after 2 Pearl rating by Estidama, a sustainable development initiative of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. AUS was also the recipient of the Green Audit Award as part of the Abu Dhabi Environmental Agency’s Sustainable Campus Initiative for university students.