Thematic Academic Year
From the Academic Year 2021-2022 onwards, Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences is pioneering an innovative initiative - that is, to have a thematic academic year. This means that for every year, for the next ten years, Wittenborg envisages having a single theme connected to its curriculum, teaching and learning and university-wide activities. This is an initiative to heed the United Nations’ call to be more involved in the dissemination of current knowledge to youngsters and make them more aware of the local, regional and global contexts in which they live, and to equip them with the skills to make ethical choices or apply systems-thinking approaches to serious societal problems. Both faculty and students will be involved in deciding what the theme for the next academic year will be, as they are the main stakeholders in the Wittenborg community.
This year, the theme Climate Change has been chosen by its President, Peter Birdsall, and supported by the Executive Management and its Education Board team. Climate Change was chosen to coincide with the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, which will take place in Glasgow, Scotland from 31st October to 12th November. This event, which many believe to be the world’s best last chance to get “runaway climate change under control”, will be presided by the UK in partnership with Italy.
The Inconvenient Truth about Covid-19 and Climate Change
The decision to make Climate Change the organisation’s theme this year was an obvious one. While COVID-19 has transformed our way of life, climate change has posed much greater risks to our planet for years. Undeniably, the pandemic has the propensity to kill millions within a short time, but climate change has the proclivities to cause much more destruction and misery. Extreme weather changes and accompanying natural disasters, such as melting ice caps, floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires, are not only capable of decimating human, animal and plant livee, but also of destroying properties, displacing towns and villages and causing the affected areas to become breeding grounds for water-borne diseases. Although the pandemic results in high health care costs, economic downturn and financial crisis, relocating people, rebuilding lives and cities due to natural disasters caused by Climate Change is more complicated and traumatic, time consuming and psychologically and financially draining.
The climate warning has been going on for decades but it heightened with the release of Al Gore’s 2006 documentary called ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. The award-winning documentary tells of former United States Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to create awareness among people about global warning. The documentary has helped to raise awareness, educate the public and reenergise environmentalist movements around the world.
In relation to this theme, Birdsall said in his inaugural address to faculty members during its first Teachers’ Meeting on 25th August, that this theme will be fully integrated into Wittenborg's unique module called Project Week sometime in October. He encouraged every faculty member to infuse this theme in every module that they are teaching, either in lessons or in class activities, case studies or assignments. Birdsall added that faculty members are given the flexibility to try out any innovative methods they deem fit to incorporate the topic of Climate Change in their lessons, as he wants them to be the owners of this initiative. Other organisation-wide activities may also be organised throughout the whole year involving other staff at Wittenborg.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused shocking visible effects to all facets of life, but for climate change, the effects are slower and not clearly visible around the world. Many of us do not realise that large parts of the glaciers have melted away and that there are high carbon emissions almost everywhere in the world, or know about the depletion of fossil fuels and rise in sea-levels. Wittenborg's move to be involved in Climate Change is imperative to make students and staff alike be more aware about the threats that are looming in front of us. With more concerted efforts, it is hoped that we could take Climate Change from being a "fringe issue to a global priority" (https://ukcop26.org).
by Hanna Abdelwahab