IARU-Inspired Initiatives

SURG (SDG Undergraduate Research Group)


SURG is a newly-formed undergraduate research group affiliated with the UC Berkeley Office of Sustainability and guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We strive to research local cross-cutting issues, empower undergraduate voices, and increase the accessibility of research on campus.

SURG is inspired by UC Berkeley's membership in the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). As a group, we provide student-driven opportunities aimed at connecting students with university global leadership on sustainability. The group conducts student-led research focused on UN Sustainable Development Goals in order to take action on the major challenges of our time, expand undergraduate leadership in topics of interest, and increase transdisciplinary learning of these issues. Undergraduate researchers will join working groups that tackle an area of sustainability tied to the UN SDGs, contribute to a collaborative research report, and present their findings to key stakeholders. 

Through its undergraduate leadership on sustainability, SURG tackles one of the key missions of IARU itself: “to add value by providing opportunities to students and staff that would not arise otherwise.”

Interested in joining? Fill out the SURG Interest Form.

To learn about current research projects, visit: https://surg.berkeley.edu/ 

Contact email: surg.berkeley@gmail.com

SURG Projects

SDG Mapping of UCB Sustainability Courses

Map of UC Berkeley’s Sustainability Curriculum & the UN Sustainable Development Goals

SURG partnered with the UC Berkeley Office of Sustainability & Carbon Solutions to further explore UC Berkeley’s role as an institute of higher education in promoting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SURG was inspired to expand on the findings of over 600 sustainability courses by mapping the list to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Based on the data, UC Berkeley covers UN SDG 16 (Peace and Justice) thoroughly, with about 22% of the courses being primarily and secondarily related. The weakest UN SDG represented in UC Berkeley’s sustainability curriculum was SDG 4 (Quality Education), with only .4% of the courses being at all related. 

With academic and extracurricular efforts, the UC Berkeley community can help guide the direction of university leadership in advancing the SDGs. 

Read the full report here.

Learn more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals here. 

Background & Inspiration

In the Summer of 2018, an innovative new course by IARU (The International Alliance of Research Universities) debuted, titled "COP4: Borderlands". Over the duration of about 4 weeks, the collaborative effort between UC Berkeley, the University of Copenhagen, and Chiang Mai University exposed participants to themes of progressive field research and scholar activism, centered around the idea of "Borderlands." Two of the participants from UC Berkeley, Sebastian Ong-Osmond and Kung Chen, returned to UC Berkeley for the fall semester, where along with the guidance of Khatharya Um, met with Kira Stoll, Berkeley's Director of Sustainability, and a fellow student and OS Fellow, Mikayla Tran.

Over the course of the Fall 2018 semester, the three students synthesized ideas and projects surrounding how ideas of sustainability, scholar activism, and community outreach can carry out the work of the Global Transformation Initiative here at the UC Berkeley campus. One of the ambitious projects that have been carried out is this website, allowing for the further spread of ideas and collaboration between students at all of the different IARU institutions.

Additionally, students working on the project have created a IARU-inspired student group called SURG (SDG Undergraduate Research Group), focused on empowering undergraduates to take lead on local and global environmental issues through undergraduate-led research centered around the UN SDGs.

News & Updates

IARU E-Publication for UN SDGs 


Launched in July 2019, this publication highlights the capacity of Higher Education Institutions to support progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and provides pathways for this work.

Including lessons learned, case studies, and more, the web-based platform offers a dynamic and engaging way to further the dialogue about how universities, as the knowledge sector, can advance progress on developing solutions to pressing global challenges.

Read the full article here.

Visit the platform directly here.

If the students are coming and saying something, then the school should put effort in continuing their engagement
President of KTH Royal Institute of Technology Sigbritt Karlsson

The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF)


The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), UC Berkeley's Campus Green Fund, funded the students’ travels and supported the  initiatives for continued engagement.  TGIF provides funding, via grants, for projects that improve and support UC Berkeley’s campus sustainability efforts. 

The International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU)


The International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) is a network of eleven research-intensive universities from nine countries who share a similar global vision and commitment to educating future world leaders. UC Berkeley is one of eleven universities in the alliance, contributing to global collaborations, events, seminars, and larger programs such as the Global Summer Program (GSP) and Global Transformation Initiative (GTI) and the Sustainability Initiatives. 

The current IARU member universities are: Australian National University, ETH Zurich, National University of Singapore, Peking University, UC Berkeley, University of Cambridge, University of Cape Town, University of Copenhagen, University of Oxford, Tokyo University, and Yale University.

To learn more about IARU, click here.