Global Issues program recognizes outstanding projects
At a ceremony held on March 5 at the SwissTech Convention Center, 12 of the best student posters from the 2018 Global Issues course in the College of Humanities (CDH) received awards, and four were selected for special recognition. Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus provided a thought-provoking keynote speech.
Each year, more than 1,000 students from EPFL’s eight faculties and colleges participate in the CDH Global Issues course across six tracks: health, climate, food, energy, communication and mobility. Usually, the three best student posters from the course are chosen for special recognition each year, but in 2018, four posters earned this honor.
A unique and essential course
Opening the ceremony, EPFL Vice President for Innovation Marc Gruber and CDH Director Béla Kapossy introduced the Global Issues course, which is part of the CDH’s Social and Human Sciences program. The course is compulsory for all EPFL first-year students, and the six tracks are taught by both science/engineering and social sciences educators from EPFL and the University of Lausanne to create an interdisciplinary learning experience.
“If you look at the problems that humanity is facing nowadays, I think it is always the combination of technology and human and social sciences that can provide good answers. Understanding both topics together is a true competence that our students should have,” Gruber said.
Kapossy added that the program is a notable example of the college’s “POLY-perspective”, which brings together research, education and public engagement activities within a framework of interdisciplinarity, global awareness, active citizenship and creativity.
The groups of students behind the four best posters then took the stage to present their projects to the audience.
“You have to build new roads”
The evening was highlighted by a keynote address by Professor Muhammad Yunus, who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with the Grameen Bank, which he founded in Bangladesh in 1983. Yunus pioneered the concept of microcredit, or small loans to help those in poverty – especially women – support their own businesses and livelihoods. He is also an advocate for social business, and EPFL is home to Switzerland’s only Yunus Social Business Centre.
Yunus focused his talk on his three greatest concerns for the future of humanity: the “ticking time bomb” of wealth inequality, the urgency of the need to limit climate warming, and threats to society and employment posed by technologies like artificial intelligence.
“If you follow the old roads, they will always take you to the old destination. If you want to build a new world without environmental threats, with shared wealth, and with technology to benefit people, that’s a new destination. In order to reach it, you have to build new roads, and that's your task,” he told the audience.
Yunus closed by referencing the final pillar of the CDH “POLY-perspective”: “Each human has unlimited creative power. If humans created all these problems, then it’s humans who can solve them,” he said.
All images © Maxime Marendaz.