As Utah Valley University provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, I talk with a lot of young people. Their optimism, energy and curiosity inspire me. Many of them have deep angst about the future — issues like widespread drought, economic uncertainty and incivility weigh heavy on them. These are immense challenges that will demand creative solutions and hard work to address.
That is why I am excited about an event taking place Oct. 5-7 at Utah Valley University — the Why It Matters conference. It is the first-of-its-kind academic conference sponsored by the United Nations that will include some of the world’s leading experts from dozens of countries speaking about its Sustainable Development Goals — 17 initiatives to address issues such as poverty, hunger, quality education, affordable/clean energy, economic growth and gender equality.
In 2020, the U.N. secretary-general issued a call for a “Decade of Action,” asking governments, youth, civil organizations, business, academia and media to work together to find solutions to these complex and weighty challenges impacting people around the globe.
I cannot think of a better place to convene and focus on these topics than a university. It is through sharing varied perspectives and engaging in robust dialogue in classrooms and public spaces, and against a backdrop of research, that we are most likely to find transformative ways to make the Earth a better place for all and for future generations.
Even if you are not able to participate in the conference — which is open to the public — I encourage you to learn more about it and identify ways you can make a difference right here at home. You can find out more about this conference at the UVU website.
Dr. F. Wayne Vaught is Utah Valley University provost and senior vice president of academic affairs.