Chaminade University is proud to announce an exciting new partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) that will provide innovative leadership development opportunities in the islands and empower those working on community-building projects to maximize their impact.
The new UNITAR center at Chaminade is part of a global network of 21 other learning hubs worldwide.
The Chaminade center will offer education and training programs around key UN Sustainable Development Goals. The priorities for the center include climate action, advocating for the oceans, reducing inequalities, and developing programs that pursue peace, justice and strong institutions.
Dr. Lance Askildson, Chaminade provost, said the hub isn’t meant to supplant the work of other organizations in Hawaii but facilitate new conversations and bring together community stakeholders. It will also serve as a gathering place for forward-looking leadership development offerings.
“We want to engage young people. We want to engage thought leaders. We want to engage alumni,” Askildson said. “There is a tremendous amount of work to be done and everybody has a role. Our role is to do what we’ve always done: to educate young people and empower them to drive positive change.”
He added, “We are a convenor to bring people together.”
Askildson said the UN center is seen as an extension of Chaminade’s service-oriented mission and will put a special emphasis on inspiring and challenging students to make a positive difference in their communities with a host of unique opportunities — from individualized projects to internships.
The Experiential Honors Program at Chaminade will also be integrated with the center to maximize student engagement, and an ever-evolving sustainability curriculum will reflect student interests and needs.
The center plans to work closely with alumni and the Catholic network across Hawaii and the Pacific along with a long list of community partners — from the East-West Center to Hawaii Green Growth — to “stand on the shoulders of giants” and reach shared sustainability education goals.
“We are seeking to complement what other organizations are already doing well and not in any way duplicate or compete with good programs,” Askildson said. “One of the most important things we can do is engage with the private sector. They’re looking for ways to burnish their credentials in sustainability. They’re looking for partners who can help them with education.”
The United Nations officially invited Chaminade to establish and host the training center — whose reach includes the entire Pacific Islands region — in late 2020. The center falls under the CIFAL Global Network, a French acronym that translates to International Training Center for Local Authorities/Leaders.
And in October, the University got the opportunity to host UN Institute for Training and Research Executive Director Nikhil Seth on campus. At a talk on campus, Seth said Chaminade was an “obvious choice when we were looking for partners in this part of the world” because of its stellar reputation, strong community partnerships, and decades of service in Hawaii and across the Pacific region.
“We want to have a bigger footprint. We want to touch the lives of many more people,” Seth said, adding that the center at Chaminade will serve as a “model for collaboration” and a place to spotlight those who share a common vision around the need for community-focused climate action.
While the center at Chaminade is still in its early days, Askildson is excited about what’s ahead.
One major upcoming planning item: Chaminade is poised to host the CIFAL Global Network annual meeting and conference in November 2022. Askildson said the event will undoubtedly bring in educators, changemakers and learners from across the globe — and across the state.
“The center is allowing us to capture a lot of the activity we’re already doing and then expand,” Askildson said. “It’s an opportunity to use that amplification and the banner of the United Nations.”