This was the third virtual conference YEAH has hosted. We hosted one in spring 2020 and one in fall 2020, both as ways to share student presentations in a free, virtual setting amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This 2021 spring conference theme was “Environmental Conservation, Sustainability, and Equity.” We had specific presentations covering the Sustainable Development Goals, ecological indicator species, mountain and agricultural systems, and human health. We had 65 presentations and over 200 people in attendance.
The Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education (YEAH) Network is a transdisciplinary, multi-institutional network that equips students with real-world experience of collaborative, evidence-based approaches to global environmental sustainability. In today’s students, we see agents of change for the future. Therefore, the YEAH Network connects institutions of higher education from all over the globe to provide integrated knowledge to students that empowers them to address complex global environmental problems, ranging from pollinator decline and biodiversity loss to climate shifts and ecosystem transformations.
Our Members are geographically and culturally diverse institutions that share a common desire to prepare and inspire undergraduate and graduate students to effectively analyse global environmental issues and contribute to policy solutions. Together, we recognize that a truly transdisciplinary approach to student training and professional development is necessary and can be accomplished by a multi-institutional approach that is seamlessly incorporated in the higher educational experience. The YEAH Network develops virtual classrooms at the undergraduate and graduate levels that provide environmental learning through structured and real-life experiences of international negotiations. Our modules are designed to impart knowledge that integrates science and international governance using the frameworks that guide international conversations, such as the Sustainable Development Goals. Students work together in virtual and collaborative classrooms as teams with international and multicultural members whom they would not encounter at their home institutions. Students and seasoned investigators from diverse backgrounds collaborate for a common purpose and agenda giving them a sense of belonging, purposefulness, and continued motivation to achieve global goals. In this manner, students are introduced into the realms of policy and trained to engage actively in international collaborations that are tackling global environmental issues. Students participating in the YEAH Network classrooms directly increase public scientific literacy by sharing their research at the annual COP meetings of the United Nations, where diplomats are invited to listen, at professional society meetings, such as those of the Ecological Society of America, and in their local communities as well. Student participants of the YEAH Network are trained to apply their learning into multitudinous career paths, whether it be scientific research, economics, business, academia, health fields, policy, or other related fields.