Student awarded scholarship to work towards Sustainable Development Goals
Isabella Todd receives inaugural United Nations Association of Australia scholarship for commitment to global initiative
A student passionate about environmental conservation and science was this year awarded the inaugural United Nations Association of Australia Sustainable Development Goals Scholarship at the University of Wollongong (UOW).
Isabella Todd, who is studying a Bachelor of Conservation Biology (Honours) (Dean’s Scholar), received the scholarship for her outstanding academic record and strong commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The scholarship is worth $8000 for the duration of a year and will help Isabella to build upon her professional development and career opportunities. It is the first of three scholarships to be awarded by the United Nations Association of Australia over the next three years to a UOW student.
Isabella said she had always been interested in sustainability and conservation but it was when she came to UOW that she began to look for more ways to make a tangible difference. Now in the third year of her degree, Isabella said the SDGs inform much of her research and study, and provide a blueprint for her to work towards in her degree.
“Once I got to uni, I felt like I could be doing more to contribute to environmental justice and sustainability. I knew my degree was important, but in a way, I felt like I was postponing any real action until I was ‘qualified’ to do so,” she said.
“Through friends, I became involved in UOW’s Australian Youth Climate Coalition club in my first year and that was my gateway into activism, advocacy and environmentalism outside of science and academia.
“Ever since then, I’m constantly seeking out opportunities to learn more about the climate and environmental justice movements, and more about global efforts towards a more sustainable and egalitarian future, as well as develop skills to help me contribute meaningful to local, national and global efforts.”
There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals that aim to end poverty and inequality, improve health and education, tackle climate change and protect our oceans and the environment.
The United Nations Association of Australia was founded in 1946 to champion the critical work of the United Nations. Since 2015, it has been supporting the work of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Isabella first became aware of the SDGs in the #ActForSDGs Change Challenge last year, which was open to all Dean’s Scholar students at UOW. Students formed multidisciplinary groups to collaborate on a project that worked with the local community while addressing one of the SDGs.
“I think I was the only science student in the whole challenge so it was a really interesting experience – it was the first time in my degree that I’d worked meaningfully with students from such a broad range of other faculties,” said Isabella, whose group won the challenge with their project on employment in the Illawarra.
“Since the challenge, I’ve learned more and more about the SDGs, and I see them as a goal to work towards in all the work that I do – my uni work in conservation, my volunteer work in conservation and advocacy, and any other little projects I find myself involved in. Even in my personal life, I’m always trying to find ways that I can alter my lifestyle to live more sustainably – even though I know it’s going to take a global effort to solve these issues, I’m really passionate about the idea of living your values.”
Dr Adam Lucas, who was on the panel that awarded the United Nations Association of Australia scholarship, said it was a highly competitive group of students who applied. Isabella stood out for her passion and her drive to work towards the SDGs.
“Isabella has a strong track record of university study and research that is aligned with the UN SDGs, and has also been involved in a number of extra-curricular environmental activities which demonstrated her strong commitment to the SDGs,” Dr Lucas said. “She was able to clearly articulate her commitment to the SDGs, and how she sees the scholarship contributing to her professional development and future career ambitions.”
Isabella is hoping to build on her advocacy and activism once she finishes her studies, with a career in environmental conservation. It has been her dream since she was a child, watching the documentaries of David Attenborough and Steve Irwin, or reading about her hero, Dr Jane Goodall.
“Now that I’ve worked in environmental advocacy, I understand that scientific research is just one part of the solution to the multifaceted issues of environmental conservation. I’ve come to understand the importance of environmental justice in conservation and climate justice when working towards climate action, and I’m always trying to educate myself and learn more,” Isabella said.
“It’s my intention to follow in the footsteps of incredible women of science like Dr Jane Goodall, working at the forefront of environmental conservation, climate action and advocacy, taking an intersectional, interdisciplinary and community focused approach to solving these issues. Wherever I end up, I want to keep working towards a more sustainable, egalitarian and green future for everyone, and I think the SDGs are a great starting point for that.”