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April 21, 2021

MSU ranks globally for impact on UN Sustainable Development Goals

Michigan State University has earned global accolades for its progress in working toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals — including being named No. 1 in a key area.


The Times Higher Education 2021 Impact Rankings, conducted for the third year, honors the commitment universities around the world make in the communities they operate, specifically looking at themes of poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.


This ranking is the only global performance index that assesses universities against the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, and includes 1,154 universities.


“I am pleased MSU’s deep expertise in food and environmental sustainability earned the top national ranking, and that other ways we make a difference also won notice,” President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., said. “Collaboration is in our DNA. Elevating society through deep engagement with its communities and individuals has been Michigan State’s focus since our founding more than 165 years ago.”


2021 marks the first year MSU has participated in the Impact Rankings. Times Higher Education assesses data submitted by universities related to the SDGs.


“The decision to submit Michigan State for this ranking was based on how it emphasizes both the local and global progress of universities’ research, education and outreach contributions to achieving the U.N.’s SDGs,” said Amy Butler, MSU director of sustainability. “This ranking showcases the strengths and attributes the university exhibits in demonstrating its global impact of the Spartan experience advancing knowledge and transforming lives.”


MSU was ranked on the following four SDGs:


No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 4 globally for SDG 2, “Zero Hunger.”

Universities demonstrated efforts toward and were ranked upon how they are contributing to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.


MSU key elements for SDG 2 included:

o   The MSU Student Food Bank, which is the first food bank in the nation run by students for students and is celebrating its 28th year.


o   Hoop Houses for Health, a collaboration between the Michigan Farmers Market Association, the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems and the MSU Department of Horticulture, which provided zero interest loans for hoop houses that were paid back in produce instead of cash.


o   The annual MSU Agricultural Innovation Day, where experts share innovative agricultural research and best practices with Michigan farmers.



No. 3 in the U.S. and No. 66 globally for SDG 17, “Partnerships for the Goals.”

Universities demonstrated efforts toward and were ranked upon collaboration with other countries, between institutions, with government and nongovernmental organizations and people, as well as the promotion of best practices.


MSU key elements for SDG 17 included:

o   The MSU International Studies and Programs, which incorporates multiple SDGs in curriculum and research, globally.


o   Research conducted by Jianguo “Jack” Liu — University Distinguished Professor and the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability — which has made significant scholarly contributions in developing an integrated framework for achieving SDGs around the world.


In the top 15 in the U.S. and in the 101-200 range globally for SDG 3, “Good Health and Well-Being.”

Universities demonstrated efforts toward and were ranked upon how they deal with specific conditions and diseases, as well as how they support their communities.


MSU key elements for SDG 3 included:

o   The innovative “Managing Farm Stress” Program launched by MSU Extension that addresses the intersection of agriculture and emotional health, equipping farmers with tools and resources that support their well-being.


o   MSU’s tobacco-free policy and cessation resources including the MSU Breathe Easy Program.


In the top 20 in the U.S. and in the 201-300 range globally for SDG 4, “Quality Education.”

Universities demonstrated efforts toward and were ranked upon how they support early years, lifelong learning and their nations through ensuring equality of access to their facilities.


MSU key elements for SDG 4 included:

o   The MSU Science Festival, an annual monthlong, statewide event that engages the public in science, technology, engineering, arts and math experiential learning.


o   Additional outreach programs, which included the Eli Broad Executive Training Program and the Institute of Public Utilities training program, among others.


“Scholarship that reaches out to make a positive and sustainable impact to improve quality of life has long been a hallmark of Michigan State University,” said MSU Provost Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. “It is rewarding to see MSU’s commitments to fostering engaged research, teaching, outreach and stewardship related to these four Sustainable Development Goals recognized at this level, both nationally and globally,” 


Times Higher Education carefully calibrates indicators to provide comprehensive and balanced comparisons across three broad areas: research, outreach and stewardship. Institutions provide and sign off their institutional data for use in the rankings. On the rare occasions when a particular data point is not provided, Times Higher Education enters a value of zero.


View the full methodology for the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021 here.

By: Caroline Brooks

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