A view of greenery on University of Waterloo campus in the fall

United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

What are the UN SDGs?  

The United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. The SDGs are an urgent call for action by all countries to partner towards “ending poverty and other deprivations hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests” by 2030.

The 17 SDGs recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others and development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability. They are goals created on a global scale for all societies to work towards fostering innovation through technology, creativity and financial resources to achieve the SDGs. At the University of Waterloo, and in Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE), we have a responsibility to advance and prioritize the SDGs as the incubator for the next generation of professionals and leaders.  

United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals logo

At CEE, we commit to advancing the University of Waterloo’s Sustainability Strategy. We do so by integrating the SDGs in all areas of the unit. We work to develop talent equipped to help address the global challenges outlined in the SDGs. We do so through our leading-edge research, work-integrated learning initiatives, co-operative education program, and partnerships with employers and industry experts.

Waterloo at 100, a long-term visioning exercise, integrates the SDGs in all five of the Futures Framework. The frameworks propose actions Waterloo can take to create a better world. For us at CEE, that means integrating the SDGs with the concept of purpose. We focus on preparing students to be global citizens who advocate for sustainable futures and help to operationalize those futures.

CEE is a proud participant of the WACE global challenge program, which won a PIEoneer award in 2022 for helping to advance the SDGs.

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Educational institutions and students all play a vital role in taking on global challenges and ensuring a sustainable future. It is imperative that we leverage our co-operative and experiential education programs to understand how we can further engage our students to work towards advancing the SDGs.

Dr. Norah McRae, Associate Provost,
Co-operative and Experiential Education, University of Waterloo

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Student impact


Shelby Robertson

Shelby Robertson dedicated all of her co-op work terms toward making a positive impact on the environment in the aquatic field. She worked on a project in Banff, Alberta where she helped to remove invasive fish species that are endangering the health of the water.

Shelby's work advances SDG 14 “life below water” and SDG 15 “life on land”.

Maham Surahyo

Maham Surahyo worked with the Peel Regional Police on their initiative to understand the root causes of habitual calls for service pertaining to mental health, addiction, intimate partner violence and homelessness. This project aims to be proactive in addressing the matters that result in criminal behaviours and victimization.

Maham's contributions help to advance SDG 10 “reduce inequalities” and SDG 16 “peace, justice and strong institutions”.

Ishani Dasgupta

Ishani Dasgupta led her co-op employer, Liberty Utilities, in their annual ESG reporting. The reporting helps the organization to understand how to better align their business services with the SDGs.

Ishani's work advances many SDGs including SDG 7 “affordable and clean energy” and SDG 11 “sustainable cities and communities”.

Rastin Rassoli

Rastin Rassoli, employed by Colorful Zone, helped to create the app Joyi. The app, backed by behavioural science, aims to help users obtain a growth mindset and focus on their mental health to make them happier.

Rassoli, now a product owner of Joyi, helps to advance SDG 3, “good health and wellbeing”.

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Ways to get involved

Student opportunities

  • Register for one of the Centre for Career Action’s SDG workshops through WaterlooWorks.

  • Get involved with Waterloo’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) through SDSN Youth.

 Employer opportunities

Staff and faculty opportunities

“This was a chance to exchange knowledge and skills both ways. I directed a weekly class where the children learned about musical instruments such as the piano and guitar. Community living gave me the opportunity to bond with many of the locals and full-time staff and gave me a unique insight into their culture, language, and way of living.” 

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What's new


Waterloo’s Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) unit has once again displayed innovation in sustainability with another award-winning project. CEE’s focus on sustainability through international work terms has earned the unit the Sustainability Education Award - Silver at Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Reimagine Education Conference and Awards.

Associate Provost, Co-operative and Experiential Education, Dr. Norah McRae (she/her) and Director of International Strategic Initiatives, Shabnam Ivković were awarded best paper at WACE’s 4th International Research Symposium on Cooperative and Work-Integrated Education in September, 2022.

New study finds that 13 per cent of students in the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment carried out work related to the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Waterloo created a pilot program to help increase both co-op student and employer awareness of SDGs.

There is growing focus on graduating global citizens who can advocate for and operationalize sustainable futures. In this paper, researchers conducted a pilot study to classify a sample of international internships in terms of their impact on one or more of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Norah McRae and Shabnam Ivkovic launched a pilot program to help co-op students on international work terms engage their employers in meaningful discussions about the SDGs in the context of the organization. They share the results of the pilot and how the conversations helped bring more awareness of the SDGs and their application to co-op students.