NAFSA isn’t the organization that sends you up into space (you’re thinking of someone else), but down here on the blue planet, it is one of the biggest stars in the international education conference circuit.
Touching down in Washington DC on May 30th 2023, thousands of international education professionals will attend this conference and expo to connect, share, learn, grow, inspire and help to build a more inclusive future for this diverse and exciting sector we call home.
The event is one small step for veteran NAFSA pilot Alejandra Otero, geNEOus' Founder & CEO but, well, let’s say a bigger step for geNEOus' Managing Director, Sole Palamenghi, who is attending for the first time.
But the biggest leap is perhaps reserved for geNEOus itself; attending for the first time with our renewed brand.
Alejandra’s “small step” is misleading, because in fact, there is a first for her at NAFSA 2023 as well. For the first time, Alejandra will be a speaker at the event, and this is a talk you won’t want to miss.
NAFSA is all about “bold ideas and global perspectives”, and so, the perfect space to talk about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in HigherEd marketing, especially through an employability and student recruitment lens.
Joined by EAIE President Piet Van Hove, Daniel Ponce-Taylor of International Outreach Initiative and Expertise in Labour Mobility Director Nanette Ripmeester, the panel will be asking whether SDGs can become a differentiator in Higher Ed marketing, whether new generations have higher expectations of social responsibility, and what's the importance of the SDGs.
POV- You are Gen Alpha (they say POV btw). You are coming up through a K12 school system in which sustainability is embedded. There are environmental action groups, the LGBTQ+ group meets once a week, and global citizenship is framed throughout your education. Words like equity and diversity are commonplace, and you are encouraged to care for the world and its people around you.
You are immersed in a news cycle of “AI will disrupt every job” and “we can’t predict the future”. The climate talk is one of doomism, and phrases like “tipping point” and “faster than previously expected” are ringing in your ears.
You want to be involved in the things you care about, and you want to see your values reflected in the next place you study. Clicking on the university website, however, there is an absence of these themes. There is a sustainability policy, some talk of values, but it is mainly about employability and graduate success, based only on the world as it currently is. This is a huge disconnect.
In a survey by Students Organising for Sustainability, 92% of the 7000 respondents felt that “sustainable development is something which all universities and colleges should actively incorporate and promote.”
A huge 90% of respondents also said they would be willing to “accept a salary sacrifice to work in a company with a good environmental and social record”.
So now we see the connection. Embedding the lens of sustainability in HigherEd learning is no longer a nice-to-have, but part of the sector assuming its role as a transformative change agent. How else will the net generation build the mindset, agency, competencies, and skills to build a better world in a rapidly closing window of time?
Education for Sustainable Development is coming into the sector at varying speeds, but what we fail to see is that message being communicated externally. There is a typical focus on “green”; that narrow part of sustainability that only deals with the environmental dimension and not the social or economic.
Building adaptable skill sets and complex problem-solving abilities, understanding the key drivers of sustainability in our future sectors, and how to react to the potential disruptors ahead; this is what students need to hear. Employability is fluid in a changing environment, but core transferable skills are perennial.
Threading their education with the underlying theme of climate justice and social equity, cross-cultural skills and a normative understanding of different approaches and values across global societies; this is what students need to feel.
The world is smaller, and more fragile than ever. A marketing approach that does not put a sustainable future for all as front and center, is not in tune with a generation that will have to deal with the mess we have left them. Failing to center sustainability in our messaging is missing the tone of an entire generation.
And the best of it? The SDGs are a human story. Storytelling-that most potent of narratives, which lights up more brain sectors than almost anything else- is key to SDG communication. How our institutions remove barriers to access, support diverse learners, contribute to the communities around them, and open up the issues we must explore and confront; these are stories that must be heard by a generation that has the entire world on its shoulders.
So if that resonates with you, then do come to our session on Thursday, June 1, 2023 at 9:30AM and let’s explore how your institution can start to bring this messaging and tune in to a generation that needs and deserves our leadership on this.