First Whitman Dean’s SDG Innovation Challenge Prepares Students for Sustainable Business Development Focus

Glass globe in greenery


From protecting the environment and creating clean energy to promoting gender equality and supporting peace and justice, sustainable development has become a priority in successful business practices. As part of its on-going commitment to fostering leaders with a sustainability mindset, Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management will host its inaugural Dean’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Innovation Challenge  showcase on April 18 to promote and recognize student business innovation related to the 17 United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.


According to Erin Draper, director of experiential programs, who is coordinating the competition along with Jude Azai ’25 MBA and Aakanksha Maheshwari ’25 M.S., the SDG Innovation Challenge is a semester-long initiative that encourages teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration as students hone their problem solving skills and critical thinking around innovation that addresses genuine global concerns with the potential for real world applications.


There are 14 graduate and 17 undergraduate teams competing. While each team must include at least one Whitman student, all Syracuse University students are eligible to participate in order to create diverse information sharing across disciplines and the various colleges and schools on campus.


Each team of two to five students chooses one U.N. sustainable development goal as a starting point for creating useful innovation utilizing design thinking workshops, master classes and guidance from faculty, alumni mentors and industry leaders. By April 7, each team will submit a report to a panel of judges that will  select the “Elite 8”—the top four undergraduate and undergraduate submissions.


On April 18, all 31 teams will display prototypes and posters at the Challenge, and videos will be available on YouTube. Faculty and alumni judges will listen to pitches from the eight selected teams and present $25,000 in cash prizes in various categories, including 2nd Runner Up ($2,000), 1st Runner Up ($3,000) and the Whitman Innovation Grand Prize ($5,000) in both the graduate and the undergraduate categories.


“Our students need to be prepared with the skills necessary to recognize sustainability as a core value in business and have the creativity to foster innovation that moves this concept forward for the good of an organization, its various stakeholders and our planet,” says Interim Dean Alex McKelvie. “I am excited to see every team rise to the challenge and address this complex but vital issue in unique and innovative ways.”


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