“I brought together some of the work I’ve been engaged in, starting with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals and the five pillars they’re founded on: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships.”
That’s Yvette E. Pearson, associate dean for accreditation, assessment and strategic initiatives in the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University, recalling the talk she gave at the 2018 Global Engineering Congress. The event was held Oct. 20-26 in London and was organized by the Institution of Civil Engineers U.K., in collaboration with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
The Congress was attended by more than 3,500 delegates from 82 countries, with delegations from 18 governments. Some 200 speakers took part in more than 100 sessions. Pearson’s talk was titled “Advancing the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals through Inclusive Engineering Education.”
“Some of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals don’t typically rise to the top of the radar when engineers look at their roles. The first goal is zero poverty. As civil engineers, we might gravitate toward goals like sustainable cities and communities or those related to water and energy, thinking we can contribute to those – and we can. In fact, we are leaders in those areas. But we also play a role in ending poverty and hunger, assuring quality and equitable education, and achieving gender equality,” Pearson said.
She serves as chair of the ASCE’s Formal Engineering Education, a subcommittee of its Committee on Sustainability, and as vice chair of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.
Pearson said it is important to enlist “diverse perspectives” in efforts to address the U.N. goals. “The human element has for far too long been disconnected from the work we do as engineers, which has hindered the recruitment of more diverse people to engineering disciplines and limited the innovation in our problem solving,” she said.
“No single group is going revolutionize the world doing things at its level, but the idea is if you get enough of these groups working together on the local level, eventually it will result in global change.”
On Nov. 1-2, Pearson participated in a related forum, Technical and Engineering Challenges of Addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, at the annual conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in Pittsburgh.