The purpose of our article is to showcase a practice for fostering global citizenship education through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, we highlight ways to help prepare undergraduate students in higher education for global citizenship through hybrid spaces of learning. We do this by reporting on the impact of the TedXCraverRoad Countdown event, which was a faculty and student-led program focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The TedXCraverRoad Countdown is an annual, hybrid event that takes place in mid-November during International Education Week at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The TedXCraverRoad Countdown illustrates how a collaborative effort among faculty and students can be a pathway for moving forward in our diverse and evolving world.
We situate this article in the Critical Cosmopolitan Theoretical Framework (Byker, 2013; 2016, 2019). Helping to prepare global citizens is at the crux of Critical Cosmopolitan Theory (Byker & Putman, 2019; Putman & Byker, 2020). Critical Cosmopolitan Theory is a tripartite model that melds Appiah’s (2010) cosmopolitanism with Freire’s (1970) notion of critical consciousness and e Asia Society’s global competency matrix (Mansilla & Jackson, 2011), which is made up of the following competencies: (1) investigating the world; (2) recognizing perspectives; (3) communicating ideas; and (4) taking action. Furthermore, Critical Cosmopolitan Theory helps prepare educators and learners for the Freirean acts of literacy of reading and rewriting the world. The TedXCraverRoad Countdown reflected the notions of Critical Cosmopolitan Theory in its mission and purpose.
The TedXCraverRoad Countdown featured international voices— including UNC Charlotte’s undergraduate students—sharing their perspectives on tackling climate change and taking action as global citizens. The TedX talks at this event focused on ways to take action on climate change and how such action is interconnected to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The purpose of the TedXCraverRoad Countdown event was to introduce SDG goals, share how the goals are connected to addressing solutions to the global threat of climate change, and to highlight examples of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working towards addressing the global threat of climate in relation to an SDG. Our paper reports on the range of presentations from this event. In particular, we examined two research questions: (1) How were the SDGs connected and represented in the TedXCraverRoad Countdown event? (2) From the participants’ perceptions, what was the impact of the TedXCraverRoad Countdown event? In addressing the first research question, we found that almost all the 17 SDGs were discussed during the event; SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, and SDG 13: Climate Action were discussed most often. In answering the second question about the impact of the TedXCraverRoad Countdown, we found that the event had a strong impact in building a strong network of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students committed to the SDGs on the campus of UNC Charlotte. The event has led to the formation of a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Club at UNC Charlotte.
At an individual level, the student participants reported a deeper understanding of the SDGs and increased awareness of their agency as global citizens. Here is how one participant wrote about the impact in a reflection: “This event has strengthened my understanding of the SDGs and my development of global competencies. Additionally, I learned the different ways we can approach the SDGs, and how we can become better global citizens.”
We close out our article by discussing the significance of events like the TedXCraverRoad Countdown during the current COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that events like the TedXCraverRoad Countdown reflect the dynamic collaborative partnership opportunities between faculty and students through authentic experiences like the TedXCraverRoad Countdown. Through the collective efforts of both faculty and students, the TedXCraverRoad Countdown effectively reinforces the importance of Global Citizenship Education and encourages individuals to examine and address global issues. Specifically, joint student-faculty-led events allow both faculty and students to promote and model global citizenship through a creative and innovative approach. As a result of this joint collaboration, students are empowered to actively participate in other events similar to the TedXCraverRoad Countdown that advocates for gender equality, human rights, global health and well-being, global peace, global citizenship, and the 17 SDGs. During the TedXCraverRoad Countdown, we observed that student participants addressed the issue of climate change and the importance of global citizenship as independent learners. Similarly, on a social level, educators and other faculty members were able to use their backgrounds and experiences to connect and collaborate with students. Consequently, educators and students simultaneously communicated ideas regarding solutions to both local and global issues. Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted several of the SDGs, it has also led to the implementation of different online platforms to communicate ideas between students and educators across the globe. Overall, hybrid events such as the TedXCraverRoad Countdown not only promote and bring awareness to the 17 SDGs, but the event also teaches students how to become global citizens.