KENNESAW, Ga. | Mar 16, 2023
Three Kennesaw State students are among a group of 27 chosen to participate in RCE Greater Atlanta’s SDG Futures Fellowship, aiming to make a difference in the world through sustainable development education and leadership.
The three students — Gabriela Citino, Dinesh Reddy and Md Jobair Hossain Faruk — were among those chosen from 11 RCE Greater Atlanta-affiliated higher education institutions.
The SDG Futures Fellowship seeks to educate participants on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as develop leadership and professional skills. The UN’s 17 goals include eliminating hunger and poverty, along with achieving universal quality education, clean water and sanitation as well as many more states associated with healthy and safe living.
Students from various majors and backgrounds partner with Atlanta area companies on projects to help reduce pollution, develop green technologies and grow sustainability infrastructure in Atlanta, among other goals. Fellowship partners include Sustainable Georgia Futures, Re’Generation Movement, Comunidad Connect, Karmalize, Greenhouse Accelerator, the Consulate General of Canada in Atlanta and KSU and Georgia Tech Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain.
“The purpose is to teach the students about the sustainable development goals for the globe and to guide them to make the difference they want to make. It’s also about developing leaders who will make sustainability a priority and empowering them to carve out a pathway to the career they want,” said Lolade Owokoniran, who served as director of community engagement and outreach for Global Education until her tenure with KSU ended on March 10.
Owokoniran created the SDG fellowship, formerly known as the Distinguished SDG Ambassador Program, last academic year before RCE Greater Atlanta and Georgia Tech joined as strategic and financial partners to expand the program this year. Her department will continue the program, with hopes of expanding it further in coming years.
Hossain Faruk is a computer science Ph.D. student and earned a software engineering master’s at KSU. He has prior experience working with the United Nations as an intern and said it was during that 2020 internship that he first learned about the UN’s sustainability goals. When he found out about the SDG Futures Fellowship upon arriving at KSU, he excitedly applied.
“I always look for opportunities to improve myself and contribute to society in my capacity as a technology enthusiast,” he said. “Through this fellowship, with each of our unique expertise and enthusiasm for serving the community, we’re aiming to make a small difference here that could contribute to a large difference everywhere.”
Hossain Faruk will be working with community partners to develop a roadmap of how local companies can implement the UN’s sustainability goals within their own company operations. He and his team are aiming to gain insights on SDG-implementing startups across Atlanta and their founders and help grow and develop their businesses in sustainability. His team also wants to understand the needs of strategic planning and prepare a blueprint to move organizations towards a strategic plan to help with growth.
Reddy, a KSU graduate student in information technology who grew up in India, said he’s seen the human impacts on the environment there and abroad.
“I see the changes. I used to go swimming in the rivers back home, but now there’s too much pollution,” Reddy said, noting that he’s always researched the carbon footprint of his lifestyle – from purchases to travel, and even Google searches. “We don’t realize how much impact even the most mundane of our actions can have on our environment.”
Reddy said he will use his information technology background to help partner Greenhouse Accelerator, a company dedicated to growing sustainability startups in Atlanta, scale its business infrastructure during his time in the fellowship. He said his goal through the fellowship is not to change the world overnight, but to support those sustainability companies and leaders in Atlanta to create a more friendly ecosystem for green startups and infrastructure to thrive. That, he said, is the first step to creating a movement that can eventually change the world.
“If we can help build one of these green-thinking companies into a company the size of Coca-Cola, for example, you can see the impact it can have across the whole world,” he said. “The future won’t be sustainable if our environment continues on its track, so we want to contribute as much as we can with our skills to creating an ecosystem of green thinking in Atlanta.”
Citino, a KSU Journey Honors College student with a journalism major and international affairs minor, was the only undergraduate student chosen for the 2022-23 fellowship at KSU. Citino, who is a native of Brazil, said the fellowship connected with her passion for international affairs and sustainability across the globe.
But she said the fellowship is about more than just the environment and food security – it’s also about human rights, immigrant rights, workers’ rights and balancing access to resources that can create opportunity for individuals. Those priorities make for sustainable communities, she said.
“I am an immigrant myself, and I think it’s impossible to talk about sustainability without talking about migration and immigration. So, I have a bit of my own background, knowledge and experiences to bring to this fellowship,” Citino said.
Citino is working with partner Re’Generation Movement to develop best practices in local communities for peacebuilding and empowering young refugees and immigrants to excel through education and become leaders in their areas of passion.
The SDG Futures Fellowship runs each year from October to April. Applications and information can be found at rcega.org.
– By Thomas Hartwell
Photos by Matt Yung
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.