VIA Summer School students develop innovative, sustainable solutions

Students presented their final projects at a reception at Dome of Visions near the harbour of Aarhus.
This summer, VIA offered a new summer
school programme, United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals and
Co-Creation, where 19 students from all over the world collaborated with local
businesses and NGOs on developing sustainable solutions to current challenges
in the city of Aarhus.

The summer school ran over the course of 4 weeks in August and aimed to unfold the United Nations’ sustainable development goals through student participation in a cross-cultural and cross-educational context. Explicitly, this meant that the students combined a number of lectures by VIA staff from different faculties with site visits at local businesses such as leading engineering company Rambøll and global clothing corporation Bestseller.

At the same time, the students worked with real life challenges posted by local organisations on the crowd-sourcing platform challenges.dk. The results were presented at a reception in Dome of Visions on the harbour front of Aarhus. The reception was also the conclusion of the 2018 VIA Summer School season.

Sustainability in practice

At VIA, project-based learning is a part of the educational culture and putting skills into practice is an integral part of all programmes. This is especially important when working with a “fluffy” concepts as sustainability.

Trine Mønsted Nielsen, lecturer at VIA and an expert in value creation through sustainability says: “It is very important to bring the sustainable development goals down to earth and make them concrete in order for us to gain anything from working with them. This group of international students were great at that with their very different academic backgrounds and passionate approaches to their projects.”

Bringing the city back to the wild

One group was paired up with Mejlgade Lab - an idea-laboratory working to collect local forces and ideas for green, sustainable projects in Aarhus -  in order to come up with a sustainable suggestion to what a previously unutilized area of the harbour in Aarhus, Pier 2, could be used for.

The diverse group of Danish and international students from different areas of study such as design and psychomotor therapy, suggested that the area could be brought back to the wild as a sanctuary for birds and insects, but also as a recreational space and a place for learning about sustainability for the residents of Aarhus. An idea that was very well received by the closest neighbour clothing company Bestseller.

Project Manager at Mejlgade Lab Jonatan Marcussen said: “It has been very inspiring to me to work with this passionate group of international students. They really had no filter. When you bring people of different cultural and academic backgrounds together to share knowledge, they have to put aside their egos to get the ideas flowing”. He also expressed that the students came up with some ideas and leads that Mejlgade Lab would have never thought of themselves.

Strategic focus on sustainability at VIA

VIA has a declared strategic principle of exercising sustainability through awareness of people and resources and wants to educate responsible world citizens. The UN summer school programme was a result of this engagement, as well as a wish to develop cross-disciplinary education that involves all faculties.

Karen Frederiksen, Vice Dean at the Faculty of Health at VIA said: “I am very pleased that we managed to pull this summer school together across faculties and across disciplines and that we were also able to anchor the course with local businesses and organisations who focus on sustainability in their daily work. The external partners have been very willing to let us in and use the cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural skills of our students to contribute to solving the green challenges that they are currently faced with. The results were beneficial to all parties. We very much hope to keep on developing the concept and offer this summer school programme again next year”.

After the reception, the students’ projects was exhibited at Aarhus City Hall.