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Sustainability is a no brainer!

Saturday, 4 March 2023

Sustainability is a no brainer!

4TU.CEE kicked off the new year with a webinar on ‘Sustainability in Engineering Education’. The webinar had two inspiring presentations by Iris Moonen (TU/e) and Reina Boerrigter (4TU.High-Tech Materials) and an interactive discussion led by Anna Wieczorek (TU/e ambassador for sustainability) with a diverse group of participants of the 4TU.

Iris Moonen presented the first phase of the 4TU.CEE ‘Sustainability in Education’ project at TU/e that was completed last December. The project defined on one hand the current situation of the sustainability topic in the TU/e curriculum, and on the other hand how to gather this knowledge. Iris was happy to get the confirmation at this webinar that it is a topic that is important to both teachers and students. Students want to reach out to help teachers in making their education more related to sustainability. According to Iris the main key to making our engineering education more related to sustainability is by working together not only at the university scale but also at the broader higher education level. “If we stay open for discussion on the subject, share the knowledge we gain and the paths we have tried and why that did or didn’t work, we can learn a lot from each other. And by that, we can improve all students’ education”.

Reina Boerrigter presented an example of a CBL course focused on sustainability for Master Honours students: the ‘4TU.Responsibility Sustainability Challenge’, that is currently taking place. It is a collaboration of the 4TU.Centres High-Tech Materials, 4TU.centre for ethics & Technology, and Energy. Here teachers and students from the 4TU as well as external stakeholders collaborate intensively on different topics related to developments in technology aiming at increasing sustainability in society related to the EU Green Deal.

For Anna Wieczorek it was a pleasure to meet a number of colleagues, teachers, professionals and students from other universities in the webinar on sustainable engineering education. She offered an introduction into the webinar and guided the discussion. “I felt that there is a uniform and unspoken agreement, also increasingly among broader public and student cohorts, that sustainability is a responsibility of the future engineers. There is a clear shift in perceiving sustainability away from seeing it as an ideology towards recognition of the interconnected nature of economic, social and ecological aspects of societal development. In such a view, it is not the others but us who have a job to do” said Anna.

From the discussion Anna concluded that “The UN Sustainable Development Goals, the famous SDGs, are increasingly mobilised by various organisations, also universities, to navigate their work on sustainability. We agree however, that alone, single SDGs are failing to provide effective guidance. Just like life is highly complex, it is the interconnection of a number of SDGs that should be considered when revising not only the education curricula of higher education. Fortunately, there is a lot of low hanging fruit to pick. Many courses are, in essence, about sustainability, or they touch upon aspects of sustainable development, or they allow to reflect on technological development in the context of reaching a more sustainable livelihood. What we need to do as a first step, is to make it visible and articulated, so that all students are aware of the current challenges and can consciously chose to work towards addressing them. Involvement of students in guiding other students or even teachers in their revision of courses, is another powerful way of 'getting things done'. We do not have to make sustainability as an obligatory course at every university. Universities should stay places that allow for the freedom of thought. It is enough if we start small, where the energy is and show that in fact sustainability is a no brainer! Thank you to one of the participants for this observation and all for this enlightening discussion!”

The project Sustainability in Engineering Education will now enter a new phase where the focus will be on the implementation of this gained knowledge. More information on this project can be found on the Innovation Map.


Contact: 4tu.cee@tue.nl


Green And Yellow Leaves In A Sunny Forest by jc werly from NounProject.com