The University's commitment to sustainability in Mendrisio
Institutional Communication Service
2 May 2022
During the eighth Sustainable University Day on Friday, 29 April, students, researchers, faculty and staff from universities and universities of applied sciences from all over Switzerland met in Mendrisio to discuss sustainable development and education for sustainable development. An initiative organised by the "U Change" funding programme of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI).
As suggested by this year's title, "Universities and the 2030 Agenda: what role do social challenges, dialogue with the territory, and student engagement play?", the day offered opportunities to discuss the leading role that universities play in promoting more conscious lifestyles and more sustainable societies. The responsibility of higher education institutions in this area is also highlighted by the UN's 2030 Agenda, which, with its 17 goals, has been the universal benchmark for sustainable development since 2016.
The workshop sessions began after the welcome speeches from the President of the U Change programme, Christian Pohl, the Director-General of SUPSI, Franco Gervasoni, and the Pro-Rector for Education and Students' Experience at USI, Lorenzo Cantoni. The activities took place in the morning on the SUPSI Department of Environment, Construction and Design premises at the new University Campus in Mendrisio-Stazione and at the USI Academy of Architecture in the afternoon. More than 150 people took part in the workshops: from the presentation of corporate strategies with sustainable product innovations to in-depth discussions on greenwashing, interculturalism in schools, climate change, the ethical dilemmas of artificial intelligence, and the future role of solar energy.
In his welcome address, the Director-General of SUPSI, Franco Gervasoni, said: "The issue of sustainability is increasingly present in discussions about the future of our society. It is a significant challenge that requires collaboration and dialogue between the various stakeholders. The Sustainable University Day is one of the many initiatives promoted by SUPSI to foster the sustainable development of our education, research and local services. It is an excellent opportunity for exchange between students, researchers, faculty and staff from various Swiss universities and universities of applied sciences. An open debate aimed at underlining the fundamental role played by higher academic institutions in promoting more conscious lifestyles and more sustainable societies.
The Pro-Rector for Education and Students' Experience at USI, Lorenzo Cantoni, recalled that "sustainability is primarily a reminder of the responsibility that the academic community has towards future generations. This is a responsibility that Università della Svizzera italiana is shouldering both in its everyday life - with the project SostA: towards a sustainable university - and in research and education. In addition to the courses and specialisations dedicated to sustainability in the various programmes, the House of Sustainability is currently being built in Airolo, in the Alps, where all USI Bachelor students will be asked to address sustainability through a residential seminar. Furthermore, sustainability is not only environmental but also economical and socio-cultural: in this field, USI has had a UNESCO Chair dedicated to Sustainable Tourism, Digital Technologies and World Heritage since 2013, which reflects in particular on the cultural dimensions of sustainability".
In parallel with the activities proposed within the framework of the various workshops, during the afternoon, the participants were able to visit the project fair set up inside Palazzo Canavée. A central place for meeting and exchange, but above all for discovering the wide range of initiatives presented, which aimed to inspire, network and activate partnerships and collaborations between the various actors involved. Among the exhibitors and the projects of the two host universities were other Swiss university institutions, non-profit organisations, and public and private organisations from Ticino and all over Switzerland.
The final discussion, attended by representatives of the academic and student worlds, uncovered possible opportunities for collaboration and relevant fields of action to help universities make greater use of their role as promoters of sustainable policies.
The day ended at Teatro dell'architettura, where an edited version of the play site 333 vertebrae by the Master students of Accademia Teatro Dimitri was screened, followed by an open discussion with director Angela Calia and Prof. Riccardo Blumer of the Academy of Architecture.