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UofGH community explores sustainable development at CSS student symposium

The University of Guelph-Humber Community Social Services (CSS) program recently held their 11th annual Be the Change Symposium. The student-led event aims to engage and inspire UofGH students to create change in their community and the social services sector.

This year’s symposium, held on March 10, brought together over 100 students and faculty to explore sustainable development and how the UofGH community can work together towards a better future.

Students from across programs gathered virtually for a day of events themed around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a collection of 17 global goals that address challenges including poverty, climate change and inequality. Examining the SDGs from a macro to micro level, the symposium emphasized how citizens can contribute to positive change and social justice in local communities, in turn promoting sustainability on a global scale.

Symposium highlights

Keynote speaker Robert Shirkey, executive director of non-profit organization Our Horizon and a recognized Canadian authority on climate change, kicked off the symposium with a discussion on sustainable development, particularly as it relates to SDG #13 Climate Action

Symposium attendees then had the opportunity to participate in three engaging workshops, each focusing on a different sustainable development goal. 

Humber’s Let’s Get Together initiative hosted an open discussion on SDG #4 Quality Education and barriers that affect students’ learning. The CSS Society held a virtual scavenger hunt on SDG #5 Gender Equality, highlighting the achievements and contributions of women. The CSS Model United Nations (MUN) facilitated a mock MUN workshop on SDG #6 Clean Water and Sanitation with discussions on global access to clean water.

Rounding out the events was a dynamic career panel featuring four CSS alumni. The panelists shared their education and employment experiences, offering advice for students considering their post-graduation career or education options in the field of social services.  

“The CSS Symposium brings students together to celebrate our program and address important issues relevant to the human services,” said CSS Assistant Program Head Olivia Boukydis, who supported and supervised the symposium team of CSS Work Study students.

“The task this year was to highlight global issues and our role in addressing those issues. The symposium team embraced this task and worked so hard to make it interesting and informative. They nailed it.”

Working as a team

The symposium is a unique co-curricular opportunity for CSS students to take on leadership roles and develop event management skills—two important areas for a future career in social services. 

“Being part of the symposium was a privilege. I got the experience to build a stronger connection with the GH community as well as the CSS program,” said Symposium Event Coordinator and fourth-year transfer student Vanessa Garritano. “Seeing the symposium unfold was such a rewarding experience for me. It gave me confidence and skills that will transfer into the workplace. I highly recommend that students join the future symposium!”

Symposium Event Manager and third-year student Amna Mohamed Arif was delighted with the high attendance of the event (in total, 126 students and faculty participated) and appreciated the opportunity to gain new skills.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to be involved in my program and promote sustainable development,” Mohamed Arif said. “I was able to build on my leadership skills with a hardworking team and felt incredibly happy on the day of the symposium with all the engagement and fun.”

After all the team’s hard work and collaboration, third-year student and Symposium Event Coordinator Aksha Shaikh was thrilled to see the event come together.

“Seeing such a large attendance at this year’s symposium made all the effort we put into the event worth it,” said Shaikh. “It was such a valuable experience working with such an amazing team towards a common goal of bringing awareness and interaction to our Guelph-Humber community.”

The entire team hopes that this year’s message continues beyond the symposium, encouraging participants to become the change and promote sustainable development for a better future for all.