Within the framework of Manchester Metropolitan University’s sustainability strategy, Rise Academy, part of RISE, a United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) member institution in the UK, is an initiative that seeks to provide answers to the following questions: How can we engage Students in Sustainability? What is the role of online learning, creativity, innovation and community building in this process? RISE provides wide opportunities for students to explore various extra-curricular events with activities, projects and internships.
These offer free courses in college, increase community involvement, and provide new skills to enhance career readiness. One of the key aspects of UDAY is collaboration with external partners and staff from various departments of the University. In 2021, Rise wanted to share its proposals with new university students. After a year of distance learning and pandemic-hit tertiary education, recent high school graduates were provided a unique opportunity to begin their university journey through the goal of sustainability.
Uday Academy was released as part of Uday. It constitutes a leading combination of members of the academic community, peers acting as advisors, sustainability “ambassadors”, the university’s faculties and services, as well as external partners. Over 80 participants from across the UK attended the event. Rise Academy has also partnered with Hubb, a sustainability initiative with an active campaign center in the city of Manchester. Hubb tackles challenges focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to fashion, food and nature.
Participants did not require prior knowledge of sustainability: only a willingness to learn, a creative spirit, and a commitment to participate in the nine weekly sessions. Rise Academy combined online learning, mentoring and group work to build a community of students, present and future, with sustainability as a core value. In addition, participants collaborate with experts in the field to learn through practical examples of sustainable practices. The week-by-week focused sessions on each of the focus areas of the SDGs were dynamic and interactive.
Hubb’s guest speakers, providing a national and global perspective, were joined by representatives of local sustainability initiatives. In addition, each week experts from Manchester Metropolitan University also participated, sharing examples of sustainability within the university itself: from opportunities for student engagement to more comprehensive planning and development strategies. All guests were prepared to answer questions, and encourage questions and discussions from students. Along with the participants, university students from various disciplines also participated as mentors.
These mentors wanted to participate because of their passion for mentoring others, and received tailored training as online facilitators. When the academy reached its halfway point and sustainability challenges surfaced, the focus shifted to peer-to-peer learning. Mentors and participants selected areas to focus on in order to respond to the various challenges. This experience allowed you to develop new connections, with the added ability to see the progress of completing your ideas with Rise. Overall, creating a sense of belonging to a community was a key factor in the success of Rise Academy.
This sense of belonging allowed a better understanding of the ideas of responsibility, participation, commitment and enthusiasm. This quintessential microcosm demonstrated how inspiration, inspiration and opportunity can foster innovation and entrepreneurship around a commitment to sustainable practices. As they nurtured and developed their ideas, sustainability ‘ambassadors’ and former and freshmen also shared their perspectives and advice with the groups.
One of the decisive stages was the presentation of the prizes selected by the jury. The results were extraordinary and culminated in an awards ceremony, with responses including honorable mentions from Instagram and TikTok magazines and tutorials, a nature trail by various artists, beehives, unfinished fruits and vegetables recycled as donations to schools Trash cans, or an interactive Flexitarian cookbook. “I’m incredibly proud of the students who participate,” said C.-Jay. Foster, director of Rise Academy.
“When they left us, our participants were full of ideas about how they could make a difference, both small and big,” he said. “We all grew during this experience and it was wonderful to create a community space based on knowledge” […] It is a successful model that provides an opportunity for students from different fields of study to work together, strengthen community spirit, learn and innovate through creative approaches to address sustainability”, he emphasized. “I am inspired by these highly motivated and passionate participants,” she concluded.