Venice International University Globalization Program: Interdisciplinary Education on SD and the SDGs



Venice International University
Organizations/areas of the university involved

Venice International University Globalization Program


This case study focuses on the inclusion of interdisciplinary courses on sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals in the Globalization Program of the Venice International University.

The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals needs flexible minds, able to move across disciplines, capable of tackling challenges with innovative humanistic approaches while recognizing the importance of environmental and economic sustainability, and natural and cultural heritage and understanding, while communicating and working with people from other cultures.

The Globalization Program of the Venice International University (VIU) brings together talented, motivated students and professors from its 20 VIU member universities, located all over the world, in a truly multicultural, international, and interdisciplinary environment. Students enjoy a powerful learning experience in which they develop their capacity for critical thinking, working across disciplines and cultures, creatively embracing new ideas. Each term 140+ students (Bachelor or Master level) take part, choosing from a course offering of 20+ courses which are English-taught by visiting professors from the member universities and are recognized for credit. Among the courses, great attention is given to sustainability and the SDGs. Each semester Global Challenges courses that address from an interdisciplinary perspective current, global issues at the basis of SDGs are offered, including Globalization, identity, heritage and Globalization, Ethics, Welfare and Human Rights, Global Governance for Peace and Security, Cooperation and Development.

Moreover, the Spring semester includes the specialization track Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, that aims to develop awareness of Sustainability concepts and issues, applied to the Environment and the Economy, learning about the Sustainable Development Goals, sustainable practices and management, adopting ethical and cultural approaches. Courses in this track provide tools of analysis of environmental changes and of impact valuation (including digital tools), knowledge about policies, law and governance; climate change; sustainable energy; food and water security; corporate social responsibility and is sustainable consumption and production; the role of lead firms in fostering environmental innovation; justice and development.

Results and impact measured or expected

Each semester about 140 students from any discipline and around 30 countries (e.g., Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, UK, Israel, Russia, South Africa, USA, China, Korea, Japan) attend the VIU courses on global challenges and sustainable development. The impact of the program is not showed only in terms of number of students attending, but also by those that after the courses decide to proceed on the study of sustainable development and SDGs through master programs, PhD and other courses. In some cases they also choose paths very far away from their origin background. The monitoring of this impact is possible, since most of them ask for recommendation letters to the instructors of the VIU courses.

Connection with the SDG framework

The VIU Globalization Program with its courses covering global challenges, sustainable development and the SDGs provides students coming from all around the world and any discipline (e.g. fine arts, literature, engineering, architecture), the skills, knowledge and mindsets to address the challenges captured by the SDGs and to contribute to the transformations needed in society. Many of them are not familiar with sustainable development concept and the SDGs or consider them far from their path in life. The goal of the Program is to highlight how regardless of the background each of them can and should play an important role in tackling the challenges for the achievement of the SDGs. Bringing together these diverse students for discussing on these issues, contributes to the overcoming of the reductionist thinking and working in silos of the different disciplines. Moreover, through an interdisciplinary approach great attention is given to analyzing and understanding complexity and uncertainty of the issues treated. The students are also engaged in developing ideas and projects to achieve the SDGs, following the approach of learning by doing.

Barriers and follow up

 Offering the same course to students from different disciplines is a challenge for the instructors, that have to engage and provide new knowledge for different levels. However, this is considered a positive challenge by both professors and students, since it offers the opportunity to come out from their disciplinary bubbles, analyze the issues from different perspectives and open their mind. The experience acquired by VIU in this field in over 25 years of activity has been translated into guidelines, recommendations and support that the VIU staff provides to professors that join the Program from the different member universities each semester.

Transferability of the initiative

The initiative, involving directly professors and students from 20 different universities from all over the world, poses the basis for transferability and scaling up. To support and include transdisciplinary teaching in a variety of Curricula offers a substantial support in achieving the SDGs.