USW visit inspires Global Citizenship competition winners

Sust Wales

Emma Jones (centre left) and Seren Cook (right), alongside the runners-up. Also present from Sustainable Wales were Margaret Minhinnick, Richard Thomas, Robert Minhinnick, and Heather Francis from USW.

A visit to the University of South Wales (USW) to see how it is addressing the challenges of sustainability has helped two sixth-form students win £250 prizes in a Global Citizenship competition.

The contest formed part of a partnership between USW, Sustainable Wales, and the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC CBAC Ltd), which earlier this year saw 120 year 12 students from Porthcawl Comprehensive School visit USW’s Treforest Campus in Pontypridd.

During the visit, which included a campus tour, the students had lectures on sustainable fashion, climate change solutions, transforming urban mobility, and mapping and monitoring biodiversity change.

After the visit, the A-level Welsh Baccalaureate students were invited to submit entries for the best Global Citizenship Project under key themes including population, land use, sustainable resources, energy, climate change, and cultural and political influences, which would be used as competition entries. They were asked to identify a problem, suggest solutions, and come up with ideas of actions that need to be taken.

Following the judging of the competition entries by Dr Stewart Eyres, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Science at USW; Robert Minhinnick, award-winning writer and long-standing adviser to Sustainable Wales; and Professor Merryn Hutchings, Emeritus Professor at the Institute for Policy Studies in Education, Seren Cook and Emma Jones were announced as the winners.

The judges said that Seren’s project was a natural choice for the Alwyn Jones Award for Global Citizenship, focusing as it did on the impact of period poverty, and procedures that could address the issue.   

Emma’s topic tackled one of the key issues for sustainability, with her methodical research gaining her the Steve Harris Award for Sustainable Development after highlighting ways to tackle the problems caused by the ‘throwaway society’ and consumerism.

Robert Minhinnick, on behalf of the judging panel, said, “I thought Seren and Emma’s essays revealed their dissatisfaction - even outrage - at how menstruation and periods are treated, together with the negative side of fast fashion. I can imagine Seren transmuting this feeling into art or citizen action, and Emma also building her principles into her own life.

“This is important, I feel, as we want to encourage students who believe that information and research should be used to improve social and environmental conditions. This surely is the point of these writings and research, and for Sustainable Wales’s promotion of these subjects.

“The charity commends all those who entered the competition.”

In explaining how the awards came to be named, Richard Thomas, a Trustee for Sustainable Wales who was involved in organising the competition, said, “Alwyn was a philosopher and Director of Studies for University of Glamorgan’s, now USW, first ‘green’ degree. He took great learning from his early adult life experiences working overseas in places like Fiji.

“Alwyn was a long-time friend and volunteer with Sustainable Wales who believed in taking personal responsibility and action in the smallest aspects of daily life. A tree was planted in his name in the Treforest Campus grounds.

“Steve was a scientist and research academic and a Senior lecturer in Science Communication at the University of Glamorgan. He was a great communicator as well as a musician and community activist. He worked at the university, but was also a passionate contributor to our charity.

“Both Alwyn and Steve believed in applying knowledge to action, and this was central to their work as educators at USW and as volunteers with Sustainable Wales.”

Sustainable Wales was established in 1997 as the first organisation in Wales to focus on sustainable development as its main activity. The charity aims to educate businesses, government bodies, community sector and the wider public on what the main problems are for achieving sustainable development, and what the possible solutions might be to overcome those problems.

“Following the idea that sustainable development requires a safe and secure environment to support an engaged, informed, and healthy population that can undertake equitable and responsible manufacture, both Alwyn and Steve recognised the significant pressures that unsustainable human activity continues to have on the world and were passionate in exploring solutions to our modern dilemma,” Mr Thomas added. “This is why we named the awards after these two key people.”

Dr Eyres added: “A key part of USW’s 2030 Strategy is a focus on sustainability, and how we can support both the University community and those in the surrounding region to put sustainable practices at the heart of everything they do.

“We were delighted to host from students from Porthcawl Comprehensive, and to show them how we are embedding sustainable practices from our research in our teaching and learning.

“All the competition entries showed the students were passionate about sustainability. Those from Seren and Emma particularly resonated with the judges, and they are worthy winners of the awards.”

This year’s competition was run as a pilot, with Sustainable Wales looking to expand it to more schools in 2023. More details can be found at Welsh Bacc Global Citizenship Comp — Sustainable Wales