Global Aggies: Lessons from a Virtual Sustainable Development Goals Internship
Students gain experience in global responsibility during global precarity
Committed to fueling awareness and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across the university, UC Davis Global Affairs created an SDG Internship so that students could more directly advance these goals by harnessing larger campus involvement toward their achievement. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this internship is currently taking place 100% remotely.
The inaugural SDG Interns are Christal Juarez, a fourth-year anthropology major in the College of Letters and Science, and Jeanett Lor, a fourth-year human development major in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Through the SDG framework, which provides concrete steps to achieve sustainable development across the planet’s economic, social and environmental dimensions, these interns are working with a shared global ethos and connecting with people throughout the world who are also dedicated to their fulfillment.
“I think studying abroad in South Korea and learning more about education in a global context—along with the SDGs—really sparked my passion for being more engaged in global affairs,” she says. And with the objectives for the course honing in on cross-cultural understanding and global awareness, the SDGs were an ideal fit for the content.
“One of our main assignments was a research project to identify an SDG that could be most effectively addressed by education,” says Lor. “I became increasingly interested in the SDGs while conducting research for this project. So when I came across the Global Affairs SDG Internship offering, I knew I had to take advantage of the chance to further engage with them.”
Juarez also learned about the SDGs while studying abroad in Switzerland through the summer program The Politics of Global Inequality, which included visiting international organizations in Geneva like UNESCO.
“The vitality of their work resonated with me deeply, but since then I’ve struggled with how I could do more to contribute,” says Juarez. “Because the SDG internship outlined potential projects for collaborating on these goals, I knew I wanted to be a part of the team to make that happen.”
In addition to teaching Juarez about global responsibility, the internship has put these lessons into practice by connecting her with like-minded students and faculty from around the world.
Collaborating Virtually and Internationally
“Many of the conferences, webinars, and gatherings that were happening outside of Davis have gone virtual, which means I’ve actually been able to participate in events that may have otherwise been limited to me geographically,” says Juarez. “So I’m grateful for the new opportunities that arise even during periods of hardship.”
One such event: the 24-Hour Webinar on Earth Day. Hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Juarez was able to listen in on programming from the world’s leading climate experts during two different sessions, which was incredibly significant for her.
“The fifth session was actually in Spanish as it was led by SDSN South America, so I felt delighted to engage in global learning in my first language,” she says. “Additionally, COVID-19 has provided a new and urgent global framework to think through, as many of us—despite geographical location—are experiencing a similar situation. So these social, economic, and environmental circumstances have given us all a new way to consider the significance of the SDGs.”
One of her first projects as an SDG intern has been to identify how UC Davis faculty, students and the wider community can actively contribute to advancing the SDGs. Another project entails researching how a voluntary university review of the SDGs may be conducted at UC Davis and sent to the UN.
“I believe this idea is phenomenal,” says Juarez. “The UN relies significantly on countries’ voluntary reviews to report their progress and impact with the SDGs. At this time there have not been any completed voluntary university reviews that we are aware of from universities in the U.S. As we all know, universities are amazing sites for innovation and collaboration, and I truly think our campus is capable and willing to work toward this project once the plan has been developed.”
Together, Juarez and Lor have remotely delved into researching the only cities in the U.S. that have reported a voluntary local review: New York and Los Angeles.
“Both have been great to research into as we start to get an idea for how we may apply such a project to UC Davis,” says Juarez.
For Lor, the “remote” aspect of the SDG internship has also opened up new opportunities to interact on a larger level with the global community. Currently, she is most focused on SDG 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for people of all ages.
“Due to all that is happening right now with COVID-19, I think this goal is really important because the whole world is affected by this pandemic, both physically and emotionally,” she says. “It would be a lot more effective right now for the world to come together and try to solve the issue together instead of placing the blame and responsibility on one another. In order for societies to prosper and for the world to continue harmoniously, people have to promote and protect the health of not only themselves but everyone around them.”
For Juarez, SDG 4—Quality Education—has always touched home.
“I am a first-generation college student and soon to be a college graduate, so I intensely understand and recognize that the opportunities to pursue education are not always available, and in some places, they are scarce. Even in cases where education at all levels is available, it is evident that even the best educational systems have a long way to go to provide quality education for all students and families across gender, race, language, and economic lines.”
All in a Day’s (Remote) Work
Juarez and Lor meet weekly over Zoom with their internship supervisor Jolynn Shoemaker, director of global engagements in Global Affairs, and are also directly supporting collaboration with Camille Kirk and the team in the Office of Sustainability.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned from having a remote internship is that it requires you to manage your time well,” says Lor. “Although I discuss projects and ideas with the internship coordinators and my fellow intern, it is my responsibility to decide how and when I complete my tasks.”
For Juarez, the remote aspect of the SDG internship has also provided her with flexibility and self-direction, regardless of schedule changes or project modifications.
“This has been great for me because I feel that I am not missing out on any important discussions and that my presence is valued,” she says. “As students, we all know that we reach peak work weeks and sometimes less busy weeks. So this internship has been really beneficial for me because I feel like I am being heard and have control over my internship routine.”
In addition, the interns have taken it upon themselves to regularly check in with each other, splitting tasks accordingly and comparing work for uniformity.
“So far, interning remotely—while not what I imagined—has been monumental in my own understanding of how to work collaboratively in a virtual setting,” Juarez says.
Thanks to this collaborative effort both interns now recognize how incredibly effective the SDGs are when taken as a roadmap that individuals and communities can implement in ways that meet their respective local, regional and national needs, regardless of their geographical location.
“Because the world has become so interconnected in all aspects, the SDGs are so important,” Lor says. “I think it is everyone’s responsibility to make the world a better place and start living together more peacefully, and the SDGs provide a way to do this.”
About Global Affairs at UC Davis
Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty learning and researching internationally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world’s most pressing challenges through more than 150 global partnerships.
Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.