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. 

Opinion: ‘A seed nurtured half a world away’ — What do Utah farms have to do with the U.N.?

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 | August Miller, UVU Marketing

Dr. F. Wayne Vaught is Utah Valley University provost and senior vice president of academic affairs.