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Nearly 5,000 sustainability leaders from around the world gathered virtually for AASHE’s second Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education (GCSHE). Individuals from 353 institutions across 23 countries came together to connect, learn and discuss the conference theme “The future is…” that reflected the uncertainty about the future that many feel and invited participants to recommit themselves to the urgent work of building a future that is sustainable, equitable, and resilient.

This year’s virtual event consisted of approximately 200 live and on-demand sessions (available via on-demand playback through Dec. 31, 2021 for registered attendees), six keynote sessions, over 20 networking sessions, a fun zone, and so much more!

Missed any of the fun or want to relive these special moments? Check out a full recap, below:

Keynote Speakers

On the first day of the conference, we were joined by keynote speakers Dr. Michael J. Sorrell and Dina Gilio-Whitaker.

Dr. Michael J. Sorrell gave us three steps to enact sustainable change: act with selflessness, act with courage and act like you have a place in history. This keynote session really set the tone that the future is in our hands and challenged us all to think outside the box to advance our sustainability work or efforts. Later that day, Dina Gilio-Whitaker spoke on decolonizing sustainability and the importance of indigenous knowledge, especially in environmental justice, thus stressing the fact that a sustainable future must simultaneously incorporate Indigenous knowledge and a decolonial ethic of political accountability to Indigenous nations for its ongoing genocidal settler structure.

Daphne Frias, Zamzam Ibrahim and Chloe Maxmin kicked off Day 2 with the Youth for Climate Justice Keynote Panel. For this session, Matt Orley from Big Paper Strategies did a live illustration of the keynote. While Daphne, Zamzam and Chloe gave us different perspectives of youth activists working toward climate justice, Matt was capturing their main points in an amazing drawing. This panel really challenged attendees to think about how each person’s individual acts can create a tsunami of sustainability actions.

Ian Haney López joined us later in the day to show us why we need to address racial and gender division to avert climate collapse. He explained that “Racism is a weapon that threatens all of us and unless we build power across racial lines, none of us can save the planet.” This was an exceptionally powerful keynote that left attendees thinking about the intersections of race and sustainability.

On the final live streaming day of the conference, we started with a brilliant presentation by Heather McGhee who talked about ideas from her book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. Specifically, Heather taught us about the dangers of zero-sum thinking and how racism really has a cost for everyone. Heather emphasized the way in which racism hurts higher education and limits the prospects for climate action and really called on #GCSHE attendees to think differently about how racism and sustainability are intertwined. In order to best recall the highlights from this riveting discussion, AASHE’s Marketing Intern, Maddie Bruns created an illustration, shown to the right, featuring the main ideas of her address.

Lastly, we wrapped up the live portion of the conference with a panel discussion including Dr. Tracey Osborne, Dr. Steven Sterling and Dr. Madhavi Venkatesan who offered reflections on the shifts in educational policy and practice necessary to create a sustainable future. We enjoyed hearing all of their perspectives on how to educate for the future we want!

We are so grateful for all of our keynote speakers, and these amazing presentations were just one part of GCSHE!

Sessions, Sessions, and More Sessions!

Throughout the live portion of this year’s event, more than 70 live sessions were presented with sessions focused on “20 Paths to a Living Wage Policy: Is Fair Employment in Your Institution’s Future?”, “Lessons of Sustainability Learned as a Disaster Mental Health Counselor”, “How to Start a Homegrown STARS Support Group with Peer Institutions”, “Is Your Carbon Footprint BS?” and many other topics centered around what the future could be.




Moving from ‘Sustaina-splaining’ to Inclusion
Building Resilient, Long-Lasting Student-Led Movements
Fun with Food Systems

In addition to live sessions, GCSHE also offered 130+ on-demand sessions that allow attendees to watch content on their own schedule. These sessions advance the professional development opportunities for all attendees.

Networking was also a feature of this year’s event with approximately 20 live networking & discussion groups and three new speed networking events where attendees could meet new people, deepen connections and walk away with new friends and peers.

Thank You!

We have so many people to thank for making this conference the great success that it was! We appreciate the support of Changemaker Sponsor, Epson, and Innovator Sponsors, OZZI, InSinkErator and Rheaply. We are also grateful for all of our exhibitors, host institutions, and promotional partners who all worked together to give GCSHE attendees an amazing experience. Thank you all!

Remember, all registered attendees have access to live session recordings and on-demand content until Dec. 31, 2021, by accessing the virtual conference platform.

We can’t wait to see you at next year’s conference!