By Molly Loughman
A little bit goes a long way. With just a small ripple of change, Emerson School of Communication students are making an impact towards solving some of the world’s most pressing problems in this year’s SOC First-Year Initiative, based on a global plan of action from the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs seek to resolve global issues concerning people, the planet and prosperity by 2030. And Emerson change agents are behind it in a big way.
School of Communication Dean Raul Reis created the First-Year Initiative three years ago with the goal of building a sense of community and cohort among SOC freshmen, by bringing them together around a timely and important topic. This year’s initiative includes the one-credit course, the SOC Challenge for Sustainable Change Seminar, where student teams are studying the SDG goals, problem-solving, and innovating to bring awareness to Emerson’s campus.
“I can’t think of a more timely topic right now than the UN Sustainable Development Goals. And especially, how communicators can achieve change and positive impact in the world through their work and through social action,” says Reis, a longtime journalist who is co- teaching the seminar alongside Associate Professor of Economics Nejem Raheem and Assistant Dean/E3 Director and entrepreneur Lu Ann Reeb.
“So that’s kind of a nice prism [of professional backgrounds we have] through which all of these students are learning – And we’re learning too,” says Reeb, explaining that the small but mighty group of 25 seminar students from around the world will employ their wide range of communication skills to effect small change with a big impact. “This is not just a one and done initiative; I think this has life beyond what we’re doing this year.”
Communicate, Resonate, Participate
“I’ve gathered that everyone in [the SOC] really cares about communication. I always say, communication is one of the biggest problems in the world today and we need to work on it because it would solve so much,” says first-year Journalism major Grace Rispoli. “No one wants this to just be a seminar thing; we want this to be school-wide.”
With majors in Journalism, Marketing Communication, Political Science, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Sports Communication, Business of Creative Enterprises and Communication Studies, the student teams are focusing on one of the SDG’s goals, which covers issues concerning poverty, social justice, land and water preservation, climate change, and economic growth.
And one Emerson alumna has already made an impact. Jade Zaroff ‘16, who spoke at the UN Headquarters in New York during the SDG Summit last month, says, “There’s so much to change about the world, it seems really unattainable, but the SDGs provide a really solid framework for what we’re working towards … it also allows each person to put their voice behind something specific.” Jade majored in Acting and minored in Entrepreneurship, creating her nonprofit business, Entertainment for Change (EFC).
Zaroff shared her mission with Emerson SOC students participating in the FYI, including an original song and dance created by her company to promote the UN SDG Goals.
“I really liked Jade’s presentation on how she created a nonprofit based on her passion for the environment and for the arts. As first-year students, we need to see that passion and drive to help us navigate this course,” said Political Communications major Bellamy Suter, who’s exploring the ‘No Poverty,’ ‘Reduced Inequality,’ and ‘Gender Equality’ SDGs.
“It’s about our planet, people, and sustainability. So starting as a freshman and trying to spread that to the rest of the class, I think, is a really important initiative,” said Marketing Communication major Ryan Sphar, who’s addressing the ‘Life Below Water’ SDG. “This is a really good representation of what the school has to offer.”
“Activism gets sparked, acknowledged, and engaged with, but it doesn’t really get taught,” said Zaroff. “So having a class around how to think strategically and creatively about what we can actually change about the word is step one towards changing the world.”
Emerson alumna Jade Zaroff ’16 is the creator behind the #SDGGROOVE, an original song and dance that spreads awareness around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
The song features diversity and raw talent, with the mission to activate youth surrounding the SDGs.