Purchase College is a public state university in New York that focuses on liberal arts but holds the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the center of all its efforts. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Anne Kern, dean for global strategy and international programs and director of the center of engagement at the college itself, explains how the college’s prioritization of justice, equity and environmental sustainability in all aspects of the campus, both in and outside the classroom, came from the college’s ongoing commitment to incorporate both social justice and sustainability on the campus in order to play a role in the fight against global poverty. Purchase College’s dedication to reducing global poverty is visible in its commitment to the 17 SDGs.
In spring 2021, Purchase College collaborated with the United Nations University Global Coalition, aiming to engage globally-focused colleges and institutions in joint efforts for a sustainable future. The partnership focuses on addressing critical global issues, aligning with the United Nations’ 17 SDGs. According to Kern, Purchase College students will encounter these goals in their professional lives, and she emphasizes the importance of their awareness to equip them for success. This initiative reflects the college’s commitment to social justice, sustainability and preparing students for a globally impactful future.
Goals of the United Nations University Global Coalition
The United Nations University Global Coalition commits to broadening students’ awareness of the world’s most pressing issues outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By urging students to actively participate in creating change and proposing innovative solutions, the coalition aims to equip them with the required skills and leadership qualities for effective collaboration across cultural and national boundaries, as well as various disciplines and sectors.
Through engaging in practical research, sharing knowledge and innovating with local and international organizations, students will contribute to novel approaches to achieving the SDGs. This experiential learning will empower them to interact with both private and public entities, playing leadership roles and providing guidance for local, national and global responses to these goals.
Recognizing the impact of each entity’s operations on critical sustainable development challenges, students will act responsibly to address these issues. Serving as exemplars, they will communicate their efforts publicly and uphold accountability for the results achieved. This comprehensive approach aims to foster a sustainable future through collective and informed action.
In the past, Kern attended a kick-off event to join the Brookings Institution’s Community of Practice on learning to implement a 17 Rooms event on Purchase College’s campus, which aims to provide a fun and energizing approach to convening 17 disparate specialist communities under the same roof in order to identify high-impact actions to improve SDG outcomes. The 17 Rooms project was launched by The Brookings Institution and The Rockefeller Foundation in September 2018, on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, as an experiment to spark new kinds of action toward the 17 SDGs. Since then, 17 Rooms has developed into two different paths. The first is a yearly worldwide flagship process aimed at addressing international-scale SDG difficulties, while the second is “17 Rooms-X,” a broadly accessible technique designed to assist local communities in taking real actions toward local SDG objectives.
Moreover, 17 Rooms assembles participants from diverse professional communities to convene in separate “Rooms,” each dedicated to one of the 17 SDGs. Within each room, the shared objective is to choose collaborative actions for the upcoming 12–18 months. Ideas that emerge are then circulated across rooms, facilitating the identification of potential areas for cooperation. This approach effectively brings together natural allies, promoting familiarity for collaboration while ensuring sufficient diversity to generate innovative ideas and avenues for action.
Anne Kern’s Opinions on 17 Rooms
When asked why she decided to participate in Brookings Institution’s 17 Rooms event in the first place and how she thinks Purchase College could benefit from an event like this, Kern told The Borgen Project that she thinks it’s a good idea for young collegegoers to know that they have the ability to take on issues within the world with the college’s assistance through an event such as 17 Rooms, and she thinks that Purchase College could benefit from it because it will open up the doors to many wonderful opportunities the college could have through foreign relations relating to aid hailing from students who attend Purchase College itself.
Purchase College Inspired by 17 Rooms
In August 2023, Purchase College hosted an event inspired by the Brookings Institution’s 17 Rooms initiative, where the college’s Sustainability Office and the Office for Global Education collaborated to put on an event where like-minded students discussed pressing global issues such as the environment, justice and equity. Faculty and staff from various departments across the institution led small breakout discussion groups to educate and engage incoming students about the SDGs. Additionally, students had the opportunity to focus on one SDG, learn how Purchase advances it, and set goals to make a change on campus while forming connections with peers, faculty and staff.
To this day, Purchase College, along with Anne Kern, continues to help take on issues within the world through its commitment to the 17 SDGs, thanks to its Sustainability Office and the Office for Global Education, who help them along the way.
– Deon Roberts