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UT Implementing Class Courses that Address UN 17 Sustainability Development Goals

By Kate Cunningham


The End Hunger/FEED Change initiative implements solutions throughout the UT system to spread awareness on ending hunger locally and globally. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville has embraced the UN Sustainable Development Goals to incorporate into sustainability courses on campus in order to spread awareness and education on sustainable solutions. Out of the 17 goals, goal number 2 is zero hunger. This goal correlates with the End Hunger/ FEED Change initiative of eliminating food insecurity locally and globally. There are up to 230 courses offered at UT relating to the 17 UN SDG, 31 of them specifically teaching goal 2 of zero hunger.

Jamie McGowan, director of the Office Global of Research at the Center for Global Engagement served a key role in implementing the UN SDG into UT courses, researching and interpreting the submission of data throughout the process. McGowan and her team focus on incorporating different sustainable goals each year. In year one, hunger and reduced inequality were the main goals the team focused on.

McGowan noted, “We need to be attentive to these 17 goals. We think students and faculty are interested in these goals.”

Because there are a wide variety of sustainability classes offered at UTK, the UN SDG can be easily incorporated into lesson plans and the outreach remains high to a variety of students. A survey taken by the Office of Vice Provost at UTK provided insight into who is interested in SDG’s and which department should focus on which SDG. The results proved high interest of learning about SDG among faculty and students. This provided a pathway for which department or courses should focus on particular goals. It is important for professors teaching these courses to effectively implement the sustainability goals into the course material in order to keep education and awareness increasing.

McGowan provided input, “Some faculty are really engaging it. Professor Tom Gill ( Associate Professor and Chair for the Smith International Center for Sustainable Agriculture) is teaching an entire course on all 17 SDGs, while some are more focused on one specific goal.”

In regard to specifically focusing on EH/FC initiatives and the goal of zero hunger, there are 31 courses offered to UTK students that help spread the awareness of food insecurity. These courses range from general education courses to higher-level courses, allowing outreach to students in varying grade levels. Some of the more popular courses among students include Anthropology, Child and Family Studies, Economics, Geography, Law, Marketing, Political Science, Sociology, and Supply Chain Management. Most students take at least one of these courses, if not something similar, throughout their time at UTK. It is important that popular courses such as these teach zero hunger goals, to allow as much education awareness as possible.

While professors and faculty may be aware of implementing SDG into course planning, it is important for students to be aware of what these goals are and why they are learning them. Kelsey Roche, a junior sustainability major at UTK, noted that she has learned about various goals in her sustainability classes over the years. In particular, her cartography, environmental ethics, and introduction to sustainability classes have helped increase her awareness of the goals.

Roche noted, “I have heard of the SDG in a variety of my classes, but the teachers who do an activity including the goals have helped me learn about them the best. My favorite was when we did a group project implementing the goals by exploring maps that show each countries progress and rankings on the SDG. We compared and contrasted different countries’ food insecurity, poverty, and environmental sustainability levels.”

Sustainable development goals are important for all students to learn about, particularly those entering into the sustainability field. Students and faculty are often surprised by how close the issue is to home and how much the world is truly impacted. Studies show that 32% of Knoxville students are food insecure, more than double the state rate (13%). Sustainable issues, particularly food insecurity, are more local than many may realize, which should provide more motivation for professors to implement SDG into their learning plans.

On how teachers can better implement SDG into course learning, Roche recommended, “I have experienced and learned about SDG in all of my classes, so I already have an idea of all of them, but some teachers could include interactive elements instead of the goals just being on lecture slides.”

McGowan also touched on this subject when mentioning that her team is working on days of activism, a workshop, or a forum in order for all students to get involved with SDG, especially those who do not learn about them in class. Her team is working on providing an incentive for students to take courses that enhance their knowledge of SDGs. Students who complete a certain number of SDG courses may receive a pin they can wear at their graduation ceremony.
The future looks a little brighter with more students and faculty become aware of sustainability issues close to home, as well as globally, thanks to programs like SDGs and End Hunger/FEED Change initiatives.

About End Hunger/ FEED Change
The End Hunger/ FEED Change organization works with faculty, students, alumni, and community volunteers to help spread awareness and ultimately eliminate food insecurity. They focus on four core areas to help implement solutions: education, outreach, policy, and fundraising. They focus on raising awareness on a local and global scale. They have pledged a commitment to the United Nations with a goal to achieve a world without hunger.
Visit their website here: