During the 12th Global RCE (Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development) Conference last month, two RCE Greater Atlanta regional sustainability education network initiatives — Building Effective ESD in Higher Education through Multi-Institutional and Community Collaboration and EQUINOX: Catalyzing Community-Centered Scholarships and Partnerships — were announced as 2021 RCE award winners.

Both projects are part of the RCE Greater Atlanta’s Higher Education Learning Community. The Effective ESD project is led by Georgia Tech’s Serve-Learn-Sustain, and EQUINOX is led by Kennesaw State University faculty. Established in 2012, the Global RCE Award celebrates projects and programs in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) that connect local and global education and action through the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), advance transformative and community-engaged curriculum and research, and build capacity among partners.

The award-winning RCE Greater Atlanta ESD initiative benefits from SLS’ many strong partnerships, both within and outside of Georgia Tech. “Collaboration is essential,” explained Rebecca Watts Hull, a service-learning and partnerships specialist in SLS and Greater Atlanta ESD initiative lead. “By partnering with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the Atlanta Global Studies Center, and other RCE Greater Atlanta member institutions to help faculty incorporate sustainability and the SDGs into their teaching, we enrich the support we can provide for sustainability education here at Georgia Tech while also helping drive SDG curriculum innovation across the region.”

The RCE Greater Atlanta was recognized in December 2017 by the United Nations University as a Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. RCE Greater Atlanta brings together universities and colleges across metro Atlanta with nonprofit, community, government, and business partners to advance sustainable development education and action with a strong equity and justice focus.

“Advancing the U.N. SDGs through teaching, experiential learning, and community-engaged research is at the heart of Georgia Tech’s strategic plan,” Steven W. McLaughlin, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, said. “By leading this crucial faculty development work through the RCE Greater Atlanta regional partnership, we can enhance and amplify the impact of our curricular innovation.”

The Effective ESD award submission highlighted three 2021 projects that advance SDG teaching and practices in metro Atlanta. The first, Going Global: A Sustainable Development Goals Curriculum Design Workshopwas planned by Georgia Tech’s SLS and CTL with other members of the RCE Greater Atlanta Higher Education Learning Community, including Georgia Tech faculty, the Atlanta Global Studies Center, and faculty and staff from Georgia State, Kennesaw State, and Spelman College. Workshop participants included nearly 50 faculty members from 14 colleges and universities across the U.S., Europe, and South America, all interested in teaching with the SDGs. A number of the participants learned about the workshop through the University Global Coalition (UGC), a group of higher education leaders from around the world who work together to advance the SDGs through education, research, service, and campus operations.

A multi-institutional Faculty Learning Community (FLC), the second project included in the award, built upon the course design workshop and further extended collaboration between Georgia Tech’s SLS and CTL and Kennesaw State’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. This FLC enabled Kennesaw State and Georgia Tech faculty, along with one member from Tec de Monterrey in Mexico — a UGC partner institution — to learn together. “Partnering with SLS and other centers for teaching and learning to support faculty in course redesign with the SDGs strengthens our impact,” said Carol Subiño Sullivan, assistant director for Faculty Teaching and Learning Initiatives with Georgia Tech’s CTL. “By integrating key concepts and pedagogies from ESD with best practices in course design, we can help faculty incorporate the SDGs more effectively and empower students to use their disciplinary knowledge to create change. Working across institutions creates a rich opportunity for faculty to expand their sense of community around teaching with the SDGs and to draw inspiration from a broader range of ideas and examples.”

The final component of the Effective ESD initiative extends RCE Greater Atlanta-inspired partnerships beyond universities to collaborate with community-based organizations. The Community Science Collaboratory Design Project, funded by an AGREC (Atlanta Global Research and Education Collaborative) grant, aims to advance long-term community science research that centers community priorities and supports powerful experiential learning opportunities. The design team includes faculty at Georgia Tech, Emory, Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Spelman, and Morehouse College with community leaders from West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, Eco-Action, and several other community-based groups.

“We’re working to build a sustainable model for collaborating on community-based research that advances our mission and engages students in partnerships that advance the SDGs,” Darryl Haddock, environmental education director at West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA), said. In addition to Greater Atlanta partners like WAWA, the project leverages the Global RCE Network to engage community science collaborators in the RCE KwaZulu-Natal and RCE Saskatchewan. The group’s December workshop featured presentations and discussions with these global partners, extending social innovation collaboration and advancing community science and ESD across the globe.

Related Links


Learn more about the RCE Greater Atlanta

Read about the 12th Global RCE Network Conference and award-winning projects

Atlanta Global Research and Education Collaborative (AGREC)

Atlanta Global Studies Center (AGSC)