27 January 2012

RMIT students shape UN programme

RMIT University students are making an important contribution to the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme, part of the world's largest voluntary corporate social responsibility initiative.

The Cities Programme is the urban arm of the UN Global Compact and has been hosted by RMIT through its Global Cities Research Institute since 2008.

Professor Daine Alcorn, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice-President, spoke of the fit between RMIT and the Cities Programme at the recent launch of its new website.

"Hosting an international secretariat of the United Nations - specifically focused on cities - is a flagship program for the University and complements RMIT's position as a global, connected urban University," Professor Alcorn said.

As well as hosting postgraduates from France and Uganda, the Cities Programme has hosted five RMIT students as interns, enabling them to deepen their understanding of critical urban issues in international settings and strengthen their research skills.

Cities Programme intern and Masters of International Development student, Felicity Cahill, spoke of her research on the resettlement of the Chocolatào slum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, at the website launch.

"I am particularly interested in the commitment and collaboration involved in the Chocolatào Sustainability Network," she said.

"Many organisations have been working in partnership for a long period to build dignity into the lives of Chocolatào's residents. There is much that can be learned from this model."

Ms Cahill's project is the first academic study of Chocolatào.

"It has made the task of mapping its history and writing a journal article both exciting and challenging," she said.

Fellow intern, Julia Laidlaw, has been focusing on the US City of Milwaukee's multi-faceted initiatives around water.

Ms Laidlaw, a Masters of International Urban and Environment Management student at RMIT, is shifting from coursework studies to a Masters by Research to conduct international comparative studies of urban aquaponics in the Global North and Global South.

Urban aquaponics is the indoor cultivation of fish and vegetables and is one of 15 innovative water-related projects in Milwaukee.

City of Melbourne Councillor Jackie Watts officially launched the new website, reflecting the City's long-standing historical relationship with the Programme.

The City of Melbourne was a lead partner in the original cross-sectoral project that inspired the UN Global Compact to establish the Cities Programme in 2003.

* United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme team

UNGCCP web designer Steven Harris, intern research project supervisor Dr Liam Magee, interns Felicity Cahill, Julia Laidlaw, Ginger Ekselman and Dennis Obel and UNGCCP Director, Professor Paul James.

Professor Daine Alcorn with Elizabeth Ryan

Professor Daine Alcorn, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice-President, with UNGCCP Manager, Elizabeth Ryan.

Ron Gottschalk with Dennis Obel

IBM Systems Architect Ron Gottschalk with Cities Programme intern Dennis Obel.

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