Valeria Ruiz Vargas was recognised for her Outstanding Contribution at this year’s Manchester Metropolitan University Students’ Union Teaching Awards, and she isn’t even a lecturer or tutor.
So why did she get such prestigious teaching award?
For her approach to embedding sustainability into education across the whole of the university.
Valeria is the education for sustainable development co-ordinator, and has spent nearly three years working at the university on education for sustainable development.
Since last year, she’s been using Responsible Futures to help structure her institution-wide approach to ESD – something which caught the eye of the students’ union officers and staff who recognised her efforts with this award.
For Valeria, the skills, knowledge and attributes which education for sustainable development are a huge part of a quality education – and it’s something which more and more students think too. As we find every year with our research into student attitudes on sustainability, 60 per cent of students want to learn more on sustainability.
“When students don’t seem to care it’s usually because they just don’t really know about it”, she explains. “If you explain sustainable development for an hour, most students get why it’s important to their life, and you see so many of them going on to become change agents”
Valeria thinks that the holistic thinking and critical thinking skills which come with education for sustainable development aren’t just good for the employability of students graduating into a 21st century economy, but they’re good for their global citizenship, and their ability to be valuable members of families and communities.
And it’s something which the students’ union obviously thinks too, which is why they judged her work to be deserving of the Outstanding Contribution award for 2016.
Across Manchester Metropolitan University, there’s a huge range of work taking place on education for sustainable development – from their participation in Engineers Without Borders which won a Global Dimensions Engineering Education European Award, to the Met Munch student food network, which won its own Employability Teaching award this year too, as well as International and National Green Gown Awards in previous years.
Valeria thinks that more teaching awards should begin to recognise education for sustainable development as part of a quality education in the 21st century, but stresses that it’s never down to just one person. Transformation can only come from commitment across the whole institution.
“There are plenty of things going on, and some of them I don’t even know are happening”, Valeria says. “There is a big effort from many academics, and many professional staff as well”