Ferris State University, Michigan connects students from around the world to virtually explore SDGs using US National Issues forum’s Deliberative Dialogue format using a robust co-curricular scalable, replicable model.
The Global Engagement e-Certificate Program offered by Ferris State University is a no-cost, non-credit bearing, co-curricular, ten-week (6-weeks in the summer) virtual certificate program to connect students from around the world using Zoom software. Our main target group is students at Ferris State University, incoming international students, and students from partner universities and organizations around the world.
This virtual program was launched in the Summer of 2020 in response to COVID-19 global pandemic and its impact on student engagement opportunities. The goals of the program for participants include increasing their cross-cultural competency, enhancing their global awareness, and creating space and connection for them to discuss the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals in a meaningful way with peers from across the world through deliberation. The program uses the Deliberative Dialogues, a national format for conversation promoted by the National Issues Forum Institute, USA. Participants complete background reading/viewing to build context and background knowledge; they also research data on the SDGs in their country and one other country for comparison prior to engaging in weekly, structured conversation on the 2030 UN Sustainable goals. During weekly dialogues, participants share perspectives and discuss benefits and trade-offs of decisions made and actions taken surrounding that week’s SDG theme.
To implement the program, we first began by writing the curriculum which we built around the deliberative dialogues we were hosting on campus prior to its closing due to COVID-19. We chose the UN SDGs as the thematic focal point for the e-Certificate Program as it aligned with our current Beyond: Sustainability international initiative. Proceeding the creation of the curriculum a program guidebook was created for participants that explained program objectives, expectations, resources for dialogue preparation, and a schedule of themes and discussions. Dialogue facilitators were recruited and trained from among student workers and students in current campus global programs so that discussion are led by peers.
We plan to continue the program even when international travel becomes more normalized, and it will be adapted to align with international education modes on delivery and styles of engagement going forward.