Alliance provides platform for faculty, graduate students to solve global issues

Amy Duke
February 24, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In support of its mission to provide sustainable solutions to world problems — while preparing the next generation of leaders — Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has joined the Global Challenges University Alliance 2030.

The alliance, referred to as GCUA, is a network of more than 15 universities worldwide that have a shared vision of contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through international collaboration and research.

The 17 goals, which focus on ending poverty, protecting the planet and improving all lives, were adopted in 2015 and are intended to be achieved by 2030, explained Ruth Mendum, associate director in the college’s Office of International Programs.

“We are excited to be a part of this alliance, which has a goal of solving problems we all share, such as climate change, food insecurity and energy poverty,” said Mendum. She added that the college became involved with GCUA through its long-standing relationship with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, of Uppsala, Sweden, the alliance’s founding member.

The alliance is comprised of people from disparate disciplines, including natural resources, humanities, social sciences, plant sciences and environmental ethics, to name a few. The organization’s primary goals are to link researchers and to provide cross-cultural training and exposure for graduate students who are preparing for research careers.

“The alliance is a terrific bridge between organizations because it provides a framework for figuring out what we have in common and how we can work together most efficiently,” said Mendum.

In the pre-COVID era, the group sponsored and participated in workshops and collaborative meetings at member universities. Undeterred by the limitations on travel, members have developed online experiences and connections to help young scholars create and maintain critical international networks until in-person work can resume.

“We encourage graduate students from any discipline who are pursuing projects related to the Sustainable Development Goals to get involved,” she said. “Not only will these students benefit from working on case studies with scientists who are interested in the same issues, but they will grow their networks on an international scale. Both are valuable attributes when building a professional portfolio.”

Mendum said individuals not interested in working internationally but who are concerned about problems that have an international component can benefit from GCUA. As an example, she explained that there is a vast amount of water quality research happening around the world, and discoveries that apply to the Baltic Sea in Europe may be of use to scientists studying the Chesapeake Bay in the U.S.

“You do not have to be someone who is imagining an international career — you simply have to be working on a problem that has international implications,” she said. “There is great knowledge to gain — and an impact to make — by working with people from different countries and backgrounds.”

Deanna Behring, assistant dean and director of international programs in the college, noted that international connections have led to significant advancements in discovery. “Our involvement in GCUA will be an important cornerstone for continued global engagement in research, education and outreach now and well into the future,” she said.

More information about the Global Challenges University Alliance 2030 can be obtained by contacting Mendum at

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Last Updated February 24, 2021