Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 75.63
Liaison Deborah Steinberg
Submission Date Dec. 6, 2021

STARS v2.2

Carnegie Mellon University
IN-48: Innovation B

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.50 / 0.50 Alexandra Hiniker
Executive Fellow for Sustainability Initiatives
Provost Office Operations
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Voluntary University Review of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

Carnegie Mellon launched its Sustainability Initiative in September 2019, and one of the six public commitments included conducting a Voluntary University Review (VUR). CMU successfully published its first VUR in September 2020 and has just issued its second VUR in November 2021.

As a university, we have a particular commitment to educate the next generation, to create knowledge, and to lead by example. Undertaking these efforts using the framework of the SDGs has helped advance collective action on this ambitious agenda. We are pleased to do this through our association with a number of university networks on sustainable development. Undertaking a VUR is yet another indication of our commitment. While adapted for the university setting, this VUR is in line with how countries and cities and regions are communicating about their SDG work — through annual voluntary reviews.

The process for completing the VUR was as follows:

In February 2020, Provost Garrett distributed a Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice survey to take stock of the CMU community’s understanding of and interest in the SDGs. Also, an interactive SDG exhibit was launched in the Cohon University Center. Additional activities included conducting a 17 Rooms exercise, following on the flagship effort by The Brookings Institution and The Rockefeller Foundation, to help gather information on the SDGs at CMU. The VUR was conducted during summer 2020 by a team that included the Steering Committee, the executive fellow, a project administrator, a research associate, a sustainability intern, and seven students enrolled in a 2020 summer project course. The Advisory Council provided additional input, and members of the CMU community were consulted throughout the process. The V in the VUR is critical to understand; this effort is completely voluntary, and the team is grateful to those community members who shared information. To clarify what is being reviewed in the VUR, CMU is not measuring CMU activities as United Nations Member States do yearly through the Voluntary National Reviews; those metrics — targets and indicators — were developed for implementation at the national government level (and in some cases adapted for the local government level). However, the team did refer to the SDG targets to develop thematic issues for each SDG, which helped refine the analysis.

While conducting the VUR, the team recognized that there is no systematic or comprehensive process in place (yet) to collect information on CMU’s education, research, and practice as it relates to the SDGs. Rather, the team developed a process to track current activities based on consultations, an analysis of courses and research publications, and a review of CMU information submitted to the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and other reports, all done with a spirit of creativity and a large dose of humility. The global pandemic further underscored the importance of remaining flexible throughout the VUR process. Through desk research and engagement with CMU students, faculty, and staff, the team reviewed education, research, and practice activities to develop a snapshot of current and recent SDG-related activities. To analyze CMU’s curricular offerings, the team reviewed 2,938 courses offered in spring 2020 as a one-semester sample.

The research activity evaluation was based on 995 CMU publications in archival literature from 2018 to 2020 identified as sustainability-related with the aid of a bibliographic tool. The practice category includes activities undertaken by the university or by individuals at the university that are not directly related to coursework or research, which the team identified through existing reports, support centers, and policies.

Additionally, the team analyzed articles published by the CMU communications group and student organizations and mapped these to particular SDGs. Each of the activities/items identified in the education, research, and practice areas was mapped to a single SDG deemed to be of primary relevance.

To complement information collected through the desk research, the team also engaged directly with CMU students, faculty, and staff. In addition to supporting desk research and analysis for the VUR, the seven summer project course students conducted outreach to student organizations to investigate how their activities related to the SDGs.

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :
The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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