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Designing cross-cultural immersive experiences for a “transformative pedagogy” in sustainable development: Empowering the next generation of change makers


Rimjhim Aggarwal is an Associate Professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University (ASU). Her research and teaching interests lie at the interface between sustainability science and international development. Her recent project on Activating Global Citizenship through the UN SDGs was
funded through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She is currently working on a National Science Foundation funded project on Innovations in Food, Energy and Water Nexus. Aggarwal has previously worked as a consultant for the World Bank and the United Nations University’s World Institute for
Development Economics Research. In recognition of her efforts in “use-inspired research” and “community outreach,” she was awarded the ASU “President’s Award for Sustainability” in 2010. She is also a recipient of the Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award.


Sustainability challenges that we confront today, including climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, and poverty, manifest at specific locations; yet, their underlying causes and impacts span across regions, nations, and even the globe. The coming generations of decision-makers, professionals, and citizens will have to face these multi-level and cross-scale challenges while collaborating across highly diverse cultural and geographical contexts. Recognizing these challenges, my colleagues and I at Arizona State University have been working towards a “transformative pedagogy” for sustainability, which focuses on developing the following core competencies:

  • Systems thinking: holistic understanding of complex systems across different domains
    (society, environment, economy, etc.) and different scales (local to global);
  • Anticipatory thinking: long-term future orientation, the anticipation and prevention of
    harmful unintended consequences;
  • Normative thinking (recognizing alternative values, worldviews, goals and targets; and
    assess tradeoffs);
  • Strategic thinking (design and implement interventions/solutions).
  • Interpersonal skills and team building (related to communication and collaborations).

In this talk I will share our experiences in implementing this transformative pedagogy through inter-institutional collaborations that focus on immersing students in an actual problem context and motivating them through an inquiry driven process to discover the complex inter-linkages within the underlying system, and search for solutions in collaboration with stakeholders.

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