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Head of EU Delegation to UN Visits Campus to Discuss Path to Ethical Global Sustainability

UC San Diego changemakers seated in a line participating in a panel conversation with Olof Skoog, the European Union Ambassador to the United Nations.
UC San Diego changemakers participate in a panel conversation with Olof Skoog, the European Union Ambassador to the United Nations. Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego and Alex Matthews/Qualcomm Institute.

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Last week, UC San Diego’s campus community of changemakers gathered to engage in transformative conversations with Olof Skoog, Head of the EU Delegation to the United Nations. The university invited the esteemed Swedish diplomat for a day filled with informative sessions and tours highlighting how UC San Diego’s $1.64 billion research enterprise is committed to propelling positive change—not only within the campus ecosystem but across the globe.

At the heart of the agenda was reflecting on how to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—a set of 17 interconnected global objectives designed to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. UC San Diego’s changemaking efforts towards achieving these goals were on full display during this visit, ranging from student presentations on innovative community service initiatives to an exploration of the university’s Sustainable Power and Energy Center and Contextual Robotics Institute. 

During his visit, Skoog stressed the significant impact that taking action can have in shaping a positive future. “I know that sometimes when older people like myself speak to youth, we say ‘you are the future leaders.’ But actually, you are the leaders now,” said Skoog as he addressed the university’s student body of changemakers. 

Get a glimpse of Skoog’s trip to campus in the photos below.

Ambassador Skoog and university affiliates pose for a photo.
After a lunchtime event hosted in the university's Design and Innovation Building, Ambassador Skoog and UC San Diego senior leadership, faculty and student leaders joined together for a group photo. The session—co-hosted by Vice Chancellor for Research Corinne Peek-Asa, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering Albert “Al” Pisano,  Dean of the Rady School of Management Lisa Ordonez, and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Alysson Satterlund—invited guests to engage in a conversation around the topic of sustainability.  
During an afternoon program titled “Changemaker Challenge: Student-driven Pathways for Addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” attendees gathered at Atkinson Hall to learn more about how undergraduates are leading projects that support local refugees, improve access to emergency services and more. 
Three student changemakers pose for photo.
Three student changemakers were selected to present: molecular and cell biology undergraduate Arlene Nagtalon (left), business psychology undergraduate Alesia Andrade (center) and bioengineering undergraduate Daniel John (right.)
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Alysson Satterlund
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Alysson Satterlund kicked off the event, noting how the university has been designated as a “Changemaker Campus"—one of 43 in the world. She also recognized a few leaders at the university’s Changemaker Institute, including Associate Director Audra Buck-Coleman and Assistant Director Catherine Lettieri. 
Ambassador Skoog.
Skoog—who is the Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations—stepped onto the stage and recounted a story from when he had the opportunity to host Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg in New York in 2019. The 16-year-old Thunberg had made a two-week journey sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, where she would speak in front of world leaders at the United Nations.
“She basically said shame on you for what you've done to our planet,” said Skoog, reflecting on Thunberg’s message. “Of course, having hosted her I felt a little bit complicit in this non-diplomatic act of revolt against the world leaders. But I have to say that I never regretted that. In everything we do—whether you're a diplomat, a researcher, a business person, whoever you are—I think right now we need to be a little bit of an activist as well.”
Ambassador Skoog
Skoog shared his hope for all university graduates to fulfill their dreams in a way that builds tolerance and respect. “Be a part of this change that would bring a better world—not just for you as our leaders, but also for the next generations.”
Mandy Bratton
Mandy Bratton, the Executive Director of the UC San Diego Center for Global Sustainable Development and a founding director of the Changemaker Institute, introduced the three students who were giving presentations on their efforts to address the SDGs.
Andrade, Nagtalon and John.
Andrade, Nagtalon and John each took to the podium to share how their academic, volunteer and personal projects are helping to bring about a better future for all. Each of their presentations uncovered their motivations into pursuing changemaking work, which SDGs their work addresses, what they’ve learned about changemaking as well as what they’ve discovered about themselves through the process. 
Andrade discussed her work supporting food distribution services, student enrichment programs and more. Through her service, the College Corps fellow shares that she discovered her true calling and learned she wants to incorporate service to others into her future career goals. 
Nagtalon spoke about her work as a College Corps fellow supporting K-12 education, volunteering to tutor at local schools. Having begun her changemaker journey during the pandemic, she shared that she learned she is more resilient than she once thought she was. 
John shared his experience shadowing surgeons in India, as well as his involvement with the university’s Global Ties program to develop web applications that support the Red Cross in Tijuana. Through his efforts, he learned his goal is to improve modalities of healthcare in the developing world. 
Students participating in a panel discussino.
After the presentation, the students engaged in a panel discussion led by Bratton. Skoog complimented the students for their commitment to making a positive impact on the world and then asked them to describe how they involve their friends and colleagues in carrying out this responsibility.
University affiliates, Pär-Olof Johannesson and Ambassador Skoog.
The student event was followed by a panel conversation where Skoog and Pär-Olof Johannesson, CEO of Solar Power Accelerator, joined university experts to discuss multilateral diplomacy and its effects on global entrepreneurship, sustainability and supply chain management. 
Before the panel, Skoog led a presentation outlining the state of the world, his insight on behalf of the European Union as well as what sits on the current “to-do list” to address the globe’s current needs. Johannesson followed with a presentation sharing insight on navigating the entrepreneur ecosystem, discussing cases surrounding the transition to a renewable economy.
Joining in the panel discussion alongside the two invited experts were Amy Nyugen-Chyung, co-director of the Institute for the Global Entrepreneur, and Hyo duk Shin, professor at the Rady School of Management professor. The conversation was moderated by Jon Wade, Director of Convergence Systems Engineering.

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