John Sabraw

Professor John Sabraw presented the Keynote Address for the conference.

Panel discussion

The Alumni Panel Discussion was one highlight of the conference.

Student research expo

The conference also featured a Student Research Expo.

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Students, faculty, alumni play roles in United Nations Sustainable Development Goals conference


The United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and Higher Education conference at Ohio University brought together faculty members, alumni, outside experts, community members, university students and local high school students for a wide range of events. 

Sponsored by the Center for International Studies, the conference was held on November 14 and 15 during OHIO’s International Education Week celebration.

OHIO Professor John Sabraw provided the Keynote remarks for the conference on Nov. 15 in his luncheon presentation on “The UN Sustainable Development Goals, Local is Global: Pretty Poison to Clean Water to Art.”

During his speech, Sabraw discussed his work and how he became involved in the innovative OHIO project that extracts toxic acid mine drainage (AMD) from polluted streams and transforms it into paint pigment. Once sold, revenue from the paint pigment will be invested back into the streams’ remediation.

“What I wanted to do was, I wanted to tell our story visually, as an artist,” Sabraw told the audience. The pigments are now being packaged and sold around the world. He also explained how OHIO students in art, sciences and communications have been involved in the process and collaborated together. In particular, the students collaborated on the new facility built near Corning, Ohio, to extract acid mine drainage from a polluted stream and turn it into paint pigment.

“It has been absolutely amazing,” Sabraw said. He added that there is a need to create more interdisciplinary experiences for students at OHIO and other institutions. “If we’re going to win the fight for a sustainable future, our youth, our students are our most valuable natural resources,” Sabraw said.

A video of Sabraw’s remarks can be seen here.

The conference also included panel discussions on November 14 and 15, a research poster expo, and an essay contest that involved students from Athens High School. The research poster expo received submissions from a series of students at OHIO, as well as students from the University of Michigan. A few images from the poster expo can be on this photo page.

The essay contest prompted Athens High School students to write about a sustainable goal that impacts them the most. The winners of the essay contest and the titles of their essays are:

  • Emmerson (Emmy) Elliott – First place for the essay “No Poverty”
  • Charlotte Lane – Second place (tie) for the essay “Why is Affordable and Sustainable Energy Important”
  • Emma Dabelko – Second place (tie) for the essay “Climate Change: From Athens to Copenhagen”
  • Emily Pauwels – Honorable mention for the essay “Providing All Children With Quality Education.”

One of the panel discussions during the conference featured alumni from the Center for International Studies who returned to campus to take part in the event. The panelists, who spoke on the topic of “The Impact of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Professional World,” included:

  • Dr. David Crane, Glidden Visiting Professor, Center for Law, Justice and Culture / Center for International Studies. Crane is one of the most recognized international criminal lawyers in the world
  • Erin Noell, an immigration assistant, with Ulmer & Berne LLP
  • Beauty Emefa Narteh, executive secretary for the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition
  • Michelle Greenfield, founder and CEO, Third Sun Solar
  • Geoff Greenfield, founder, Third Sun Solar  

The alumni panel was moderated by Dr. Vibert Cambridge, who was the first graduate and is a former director of the Center for International Studies’ Communication and Development Studies program. During the panel, each of the experts discussed several of the Sustainable Development Goals and how their work fits with the goals.

“Climate action is the reason we got into this business,” Michelle Greenfield said during her remarks. She and Geoff Greenfield wanted to show people that solar power is viable, which led them to found Third Sun Solar in 2000. The company is now the leading solar installer in Ohio and a Top 100 installer in the US.

While all of the panels of the two-day conference focused on the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, they each examined the goals from different angles. The panels included:

From Theory to Practice: Strategies for the Actualization of the Sustainable Development Goals – During this discussion, the panelists discussed views on development and progress, the role education has to play in reaching the goals, the progress toward achieving the goals in relation to children in Africa, how to get leaders and populations around the globe more engaged, the impact of the rise of nationalism on the Sustainable Development Goals, and the need for collaboration.

Sustainability Initiatives in Food Security, Education and Energy – This session focused on subjects such as the value of seed saving, educational programs, solar power collection in space via satellites, clean energy programs and the work being done for social change in Belarus.

Cooperation and Partnerships for Sustainable Development – The panelists for this session discussed topics including the interconnection of outer space development and the Sustainable Development Goals, cooperation in addressing and adapting to climate change, and the need for collaboration and context for development, in particular how the OHIO Innovation Center and other university programs have played a role.

Grassroots Movements as a Way to Achieving Sustainable Development Goals – This panel featured discussions on topics such as comprehensive sex education, LGBTQ inclusion and non-discriminatory practices for healthcare, housing and employment, gender equality and empowerment, gender-based violence, and problems that women and girls face in countries around the world, with specific examples from Cameroon, India, Kenya, and South Sudan.

Incorporating Sustainable Development Goals into Collaborative Sustainability Planning Between Higher Education, Local Community & Businesses – This session included information on sustainable development programs in Athens County, the OHIO Sustainability and Climate Action Plans, and innovation throughout Appalachia.

Vision and Composition: Sustainable Development Goals through the Arts – This discussion, centered on water, sustainable livelihoods, pollution by oil companies, and activism, included information on programs in countries such as Ghana, Eritrea and Nigeria, while also examining issues in the U.S. 

Food Security, Sustainable Development, and Community Resilience in Appalachian Ohio – This discussion focused on programs to promote sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship, and food security in Appalachian Ohio, as well as efforts to prevent campus hunger and assist college students in need, and the need to address these issues on a statewide, national and international scale.

For additional information on the conference or on International Education Week at OHIO, please contact the Center for International Studies at 740-593-1840 or international.studies@ohio.edu or visit the International Education Week website.