The SDG Undergraduate Research Group (SURG) is an undergraduate-led learning and leadership group affiliated with the UC Berkeley Office of Sustainability and motivated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Through student-led advocacy and leadership opportunities, SURG aims to take on sustainability-oriented action on the major challenges of our time, expand undergraduate leadership, and increase transdisciplinary learning. SURG democratizes leadership opportunities, providing a space for underclass folks to participate in living lab co-curricular experience with the UN SDGs. SURG was established in the Fall 2020 Semester and has gained considerable interest from undergraduates and faculty across campus departments – growing to a 33-student group within two semesters. SURG has developed a strong culture among our existing community, hosting frequent socials and all-team check-ins. Despite the challenges of starting and running a student organization under the pandemic, we have been able to have a tangible impact on our members’ college experiences.
Each academic semester, SURG is divided into several committees, each addressing one or more topics of sustainability regarding the UC Berkeley campus and the surrounding community. Students work with mentors (UC Berkeley faculty and industry professionals) on projects that support, inform, and/or advocate for the progress of the UN SDGs and sustainability action on and off campus. Previous projects include an economic analysis of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses in and around Berkeley and another included producing a report for the University that analyzed its curriculum’s role in advancing the SDGs. Ongoing projects include addressing campus wildfire vulnerability, understanding public transportation and accessibility in the Bay Area, and the University’s role in microplastics production in the San Francisco Bay. Additionally, SURG’s Environmental Justice (EJ) group is partnering with the UC Berkeley Office of Sustainability to draft recommendations to UC Berkeley’s Sustainability Report on how EJ can be better centered at our University.
Moving forward, SURG aims to expand leadership by giving opportunities to all students to make organization-wide decisions, spearhead their own projects, and collaborate with key stakeholders. As an organization aimed around democratizing undergraduate leadership, it is important that we are able to meet the needs of a wide variety of students who would have otherwise not had these opportunities due to financial concerns.