I-Week goes virtual to reach a global audience

For the first time since its inception in 1986, the University’s largest extracurricular event will live entirely online.

Ashley Rabinovitch - 12 January 2021

When University of Alberta International kicks off the 36th iteration of its annual International Week (I-Week) on February 1, it will look a little different. For the first time since its inception in 1986, the University’s largest extracurricular event will live entirely online.

Spearheaded by the Global Education Program (GEP) within UAlberta International (UAI), I-Week presents a key opportunity for the university to cultivate citizenship worldwide by addressing ongoing global issues.

For the third consecutive year, I-Week will highlight the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a sweeping vision for global change adopted in 2015. Calling on governments and citizens alike to take tangible steps toward a more equitable, prosperous world, the 17 SDGs serve as benchmarks for social, economic, and environmental progress.

Carrie Malloy has organized I-Week since 2017. As Global Education Coordinator, she understands the importance of facilitating discourse around the SDGs at every opportunity. “If we don’t set goals, we don’t have anything to reach for,” she explains. “It’s important that we keep the SDGs in mind as we move forward as UN member states and as individuals.”

The COVID-19 pandemic lends fresh urgency to the SDGs. “We’ve fallen even further behind because of COVID,” Malloy affirms. “We’re looking at more than 70 million more people in extreme poverty, a lack of access to equal opportunities, and that’s just scratching the surface.”

As the pandemic exacerbates global inequities, UAlberta International has worked to shine a spotlight on the SDGs right here on campus. “More and more people in our campus community are recognizing what the SDGs are and what they’re trying to achieve,” says Malloy. “There has been an uptick in both the awareness and the understanding of these issues. We want the SDGs to be integrated into programs across the University as a way to spark continuous learning and discussion.”

Danielle Scott, Director of International Relations for UAlberta International, agreed to leverage her unit’s resources to help reach a wider audience this year. “Given the pandemic and the virtual nature of this I-Week, we have been able to engage international partners and speakers who might have been more difficult to connect with in the past,” she explains. “I-Week is a wonderful way for us to showcase the robust partnerships we maintain across the globe.”

In 2021, I-Week will feature speakers from partner organizations around the world, including Aga Khan University (AKU) in East Africa, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, RWTH Aachen University in Germany, and the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “One of the things we looked at when reaching out to international partners was their demonstrated commitment to moving the needle on the SDGs,” says Scott. The University of Auckland ranked first on the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which assess university impact through the lens of the SDGs.

Leveraging local connections

While it was important to connect with global partners for I-Week, organizers also continued the tradition of inviting local partners to contribute to the program. “While the SDGs make a global impact, progress begins at the local level,” says Malloy.

This year, campus connections are paramount to the success of I-Week. The Sustainability Council, an academic leadership unit that engages with a growing community of students and scholars at the university, will co-host the keynote address, while two alumni will deliver 17-minute presentations that speak to one or more of the 17 SDGs. Dr. Anne Naeth, the Director of Energy Systems at the University, will also share her thoughts as the lead of one of UAlberta’s Signature Areas.

“We’re always looking for new ways to get as much of the university involved as we can during I-Week,” Malloy affirms. “This year’s program will feature a diverse range of campus partners who will highlight the immense amount of work being done on the SDGs right here at the University and in the surrounding community. We’re excited for what’s to come.”

I-Week begins virtually on Monday, February 1, with a full schedule of speakers and events scheduled throughout the week. The full program can be viewed here.