Students share sustainability solutions and English‑language skills at economics event

- April 8, 2021

A student presents as part of this year's ENSL economics conference. (Screen shots)
A student presents as part of this year's ENSL economics conference. (Screen shots)

As society confronts global challenges like climate change and inequality, the value of academic programs that generate solutions while also bridging the gap between different countries has become especially clear.

Last week’s ENSL conference, hosted by the College of Continuing Education (CCE) in partnership with the Department of Economics, offered students in the Academic Writing and Research Skills course offered through English as a Second Language (ESL) programs just this sort of opportunity.

Held annually, the conference provides students who are a part of Dalhousie’s joint program with Shandong University of Finance and Economics and Renmin University in China the chance to showcase their research and English language presentation skills.

This year, students were tasked with researching the sustainable development goals outlined by the United Nations as part of the course.

“There are 17 sustainable development goals. The students in our class have selected a number of these goals, ranging from no poverty, decent work and economic growth, zero hunger and gender equality,” said student Jia Qi Bu (seen below) in a welcome message. “We have explored these goals in the context of economic growth by applying the knowledge we have learned in the economics department at Dalhousie University.”

This year, students’ research was uploaded to Microsoft Teams, where conference attendees could navigate through the different presentations.

Pride in perseverance  

After a welcome message and information on how to navigate the platform, two guest speakers from Dalhousie helped introduce the conference and recognized the hard work of the students.

“The topic of sustainable development goals is timely and relevant, as we all search for new ways of doing things to address the dynamic and complex work that we live in,” said Dianne Tyers (shown below), dean of the College of Continuing Education (CCE).

“I want to personally congratulate the students of ENSL for your hard work, perseverance, and resilience throughout this term,” she added. “These skills will serve you well regardless of what career path you take.”

The joint program offers students at Dal’s partner institutions in China the opportunity to take classes at Dalhousie. This year, however, with the challenges posed by COVID-19 and international travel limited, the program had to take a different form.

“But, in spite of all of those shortcomings nonetheless they have been able to move forward with their academic study through the use of technology in that respect the year has nonetheless proven to be a relative success,” said Barry Lesser, the conference’s other guest speaker. “The fact that we are here participating in the conference is testament to that.”

Virtually engaged

In the conference’s section on responsible consumption, student Jingyi Zhang presented her research on the impacts of consumer behavior.

“Today we have to confront two trade-offs. The first is between economic growth and sustainability. The second is between the present and future generation.”

Demonstrating the interactive nature of the program, Jingyi asked the virtual conference’s audience what they think about this problem. Do these tradeoffs result in a conflict that prevents both sides from achieving their goals?

While the conference was virtual, that certainly didn’t take away from the ability to engage with others. In every section of the conference, there was a multitude of comments and questions regarding each topic. Not only could attendees discuss the presenter’s research, but people also shared links to other resources as well and shared their own thoughts.

The presentations were available for viewing on March 31 and April 1.


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