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Honors Course Highlight: The World and Me: UN Sustainable Development Goals, Cultures, and Languages

| Katie Murphy

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are guidelines to promote and create a state of well-being for all people and the planet. In

A woman smiling

Dr. Kaishan Kong, associate professor of languages

Dr. Kaishan Kong’s HNRS 187 course, “The World and Me: UN Sustainable Development Goals, Cultures, and Languages,” students are invited to learn how the SDGs are influenced by language and culture. Through this intercultural lens, students are given the knowledge they need to make the world a better place.

Dr. Kong is part of the languages department and heads the Chinese and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate programs. As a language professional, she was trained to be an interculturalist, providing an educational and theoretical background to examine the topics in this course.

She said, “Everyone is not isolated. We are all global citizens. We are a living community.” Understanding the SDG framework is important to understand what we can do to care for one another and better our society.

In the Classroom
Each week students have readings and a quiz that focuses on one of the 17 SDGs. Two or three students

facilitate a 15-minute discussion each week and their reading annotations are shared with each other to further the connections and discussions. They participate in an activity to enhance topic understanding, then discuss how the SDG is related to language and culture.

Students are also part of the Global Partner Program, something unique to this course. Following G.O.L.D. guidelines—global outreach and learn diversity—Eau Claire and Malaysia students work together to discuss  varying topics and viewpoints. Students get to know each other’s stories, reinforcing their intercultural communication skills. There are 2 projects throughout the semester where the students collaborate on projects focusing on a specific SDG. An example of this involves each student creating a digital story related to an SDG, which will combined into a complete storybook.

Three visiting scholars from China and Uzbekistan join the class weekly to share stories, engage with students, and provide a more diverse educational background.

Students working on a project in Professor Kong's class

Olivia Bishop, a student from the class, says, “This class has really shown me more about the world. Not only do we learn about global issues within local contexts, but we actually get to talk to people experiencing these global issues.”

Though each of the Sustainable Development Goals are discussed, Dr. Kong says quality education, the fourth SDG, is the most relevant to the class because being in academia connects each person. 

Beyond the Classroom
The goal of this course and the G.O.L.D. initiative is to provide students with an understanding of how language and culture impact the Sustainable Development Goals and what they can do to make a meaningful impact. These variables and the understanding of them “can support, facilitate, and prohibit our achievements of SDGs,” according to Dr. Kong.

Dr. Kong has already noticed students thinking about different approaches and bringing examples to their discussions.

The Global Partner Program will “build a bridge to connect people from different parts of the world,” says Dr. Kong.