Guest blog: Students at the heart of sustainable partnerships

15 Nov 2018
Andrew Wilks, Director, Sustainability, Victoria University of Wellington

Each year sustainability practitioners and influencers, educators, students, government and business partners, and sector support representatives come together at the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS) conference to share how tertiary education institutions are contributing to a sustainable future.

At this year’s conference, hosted by the University of Adelaide a couple of weeks ago, New Zealand was well represented – all our universities and several of our polytechnics are actively championing sustainable development and the Aussies were all jealous of our government policy direction.

All institutions, big and small, are facing similar challenges – how to influence governance to place greater strategic priority on sustainability; how to develop a holistic approach to sustainability that integrates teaching, research, engagement and operations; and how to optimise the available resources across all those areas.

This year’s conference theme was the power of partnerships. The challenges I have listed can all be addressed, at least in part, through effective partnering. At the conference there were numerous examples of partnerships across the sector, between different departments within institutions, with the student body or with external stakeholders.

At Victoria University of Wellington, we value the relationship with the business community. Over the years, we have worked with many SBC members such as research collaborations with Wellington Zoo, guest lectures from Meridian Energy, or improving operational performance with Beca.

Perhaps the most significant way the University is contributing to a sustainable future, and partnering with our stakeholders, is through our students.

The student body is increasingly engaged with sustainability issues, which gives me great hope for the future. Our enrolments in sustainability-focussed courses have doubled over the past ten years and all our faculties and schools include sustainability issues in their teaching. We are regularly introducing new courses and programmes that reflect the growing demand for sustainability content from students.

Beyond the classroom, our student leadership programmes, our student clubs and societies, and the Student Association all provide opportunities for our students to lead sustainability initiatives and give back to the community. At the conference these extra-curricular student initiatives were recognised with two Green Gown Awards. Below are the students who make up the Sustainability Week Working Group.

We’d like to work with SBC members to help support the next generation of sustainable leaders. There are a range of opportunities to work with our students – internships, summer scholarships, assignments, part-time employment or volunteering. Get in touch to find out more.

Andrew Wilks, Director, Sustainability, Victoria University of Wellington