Engaging Students for Sustainability – Aalto University visit

After a long period of failed motivation projects and opportunities in order to promote the engagement of Cyprus’s University of Technology Students for the fight against Climate Change, I decided to use the Erasmus+ staff exchange program and visit a University that its students already doing a lot regarding the Climate Emergency. I used my contacts from International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) in order to find that University. Meri Löyttyniemi, the talented Sustainability professional of Aalto University, replied positively accepting this challenge. I met Meri at the 2014 ISCN conference, a very important milestone, which made my decision of going to Aalto easier.

Meri introduced me to Rosa Väisänen, the International Affairs & Sustainability Specialist of Aalto University Student Union (AYY). I got confused. Why working with the Student union? What is this? But of course, as always, I kept an open mind since in Sustainability you need to.

And so this fantastic experience begun. AYY has a very long experience in student services from its founding, decades ago. It is a properly structured organisation with a Board, an Executive Director, Financial Director, Human Resources, Sustainability and other themes Specialists and of course all the relevant departments an organisation has.

The board consists of 10 student members. These students are being elected from the 45 representatives (like the House of Representatives) that all the 14.000 students of Aalto University elect. Members of the board are working along with the staff members/specialists of AYY in order to implement the current year’s goals. Students and staff are working together, for the student’s wellbeing, the student’s gain of market oriented skills and making sure that the University is keeping its promises! All these and much more, are written down as a policy at the AYY which is annually revised.

I arrived in Aalto to observe how climate change is being fought from student’s perspective. It didn’t need a lot to understand that by having the AYY on your side, everything is possible. Sustainability from the students, is a crucial subject and whatever the students need, AYY is there to support. But it’s not only that. AYY is making sure that it can bring out the reflections and thoughts of students from Tutoring (Tutors). Yes, Tutors are doing an amazing job in order to familiarise the first year students with the campus, promote the AYY’s policy and make sure that every concern or idea that the students might have, can be shared, promoted or even implemented around campus. AYY is considering the fight against Climate change a very important issue and that’s why it is a major strategic goal. So, what else is needed when the student union and student members are active on that very important field? Highly motivated staff, like Rosa. And they have it!

My time at AYY was one of my most productive experiences as Sustainability professional even though I needed a couple of days to wake myself up from that dream. I collected a lot of information and experiences to take back to Cyprus and try and implement just a couple of them. And I’ll use the rest as an inspiration!

Thank you AYY. Thank you Rosa. Thank you Meri. See you soon.

Andreas Dionyssiou

Coordinator, Environmental Policy Office, Cyprus University of Technology.