Published: 26-05-2023 16:23 | Updated: 31-05-2023 12:43

Hanna Karlsson and Sara Widén receive KI’s new Sustainability Award

Sara Widén and Hanna Karlsson stand with cubes representing three of the global sustainability goals in front of a brick wall.
Sara Widén and Hanna Karlsson are awarded KI's first sustainability award in 2023. Photo: Erik Flyg

Hanna Karlsson and Sara Widén are the first ever recipients of KI’s new Sustainability Award, which they have earned in recognition of their efforts to support the KI faculty on issues of sustainability.

The newly founded award was presented by KI president Annika Östman Wernerson during KI’s Sustainability Day in Solna on 24 May. The two prize winners received their diplomas and a sum of SEK 30,000 at the conference, which attracted a hundred or so visitors.

The new prize is awarded in recognition of initiatives at KI that bring about genuine change for staff and students.

Foregrounding sustainability work is important

“I feel ridiculously proud and happy,” says Hanna Karlsson. “It’s great that KI has established a prize to foreground sustainability issues. Generally I think it’s important to highlight people's commitment to the cause. Individuals can sometimes make an amazing impact.”

“To us personally, it’s proof that we’ve done something that’s actually had an effect,” adds Sara Widén. “These are issues we’re really passionate about, so it feels particularly rewarding to get this kind of acknowledgement.”

Hanna Karlsson is a docent of toxicology active at the Institute of Environmental Medicine. Sara Widén is a psychologist and teacher on the psychology and physiotherapy programmes. Each has been working in her own way with sustainability for a long time, but since last year they have been collaborating to support the KI faculty on issues of sustainability.

Sara Widén and Hanna Karlsson stand with cubes representing three of the global sustainability goals in front of a brick wall.
Image gallery
Photo: Erik Flyg.

Universities play a key role

For the past academic year they have been running workshops for teaching staff and programme coordinators designed to integrate climate and sustainability issues into first-cycle education, ideally as a separate course but – in addition – as a theme that runs through different modules.

“Universities have a key role to play in sustainability,” says Hanna. “Given that we educate the next generation of decision-makers, we have the power to influence society at large and our future workplaces.”

To Hanna and Sara, it goes without saying that a health-orientated university like KI needs to prioritise sustainability. Since it is the responsibility of the healthcare sector to prevent ill-health, the climate perspective is imperative. And, as Sara points out, modern healthcare has a huge climate footprint:

“The healthcare professionals that KI trains are vital to achieving sustainable care,” she says. “Awareness of the issues must come from above, but also from below – from doctors, nurses, psychologists and physiotherapists.”

Inspiring teachers and students

Supporting and inspiring the teachers is essential to these efforts, as they often need backup when having to teach topics outside their comfort zones.

“Most teachers are used to talking about their fields of expertise,” says Sara. “Then suddenly they’re asked to teach a vast and complex subject that they know less about. We give them suggestions and practical examples of how to go about it.”

Hanna Karlsson and Sara Widén are to share the SEK 30,000 prize, and plan to invest the money in skills development in the fields of sustainability and pedagogics.

“We’re extremely hungry to constantly learn new things, and these are fields that are continually advancing,” says Hanna.

Next year they intend to map out what KI’s courses and programmes are currently doing to promote sustainability.

“It will allow us to gather examples so that we don’t have to keep re-inventing the wheel, and to discover areas where more targeted work is needed so that we can support those that haven’t made as much progress,” says Sara.

They hope that one day all KI students will have internalised the sustainability perspective.

“My objective is that when you meet a student at KI, any student, and start discussing something, it’ll be obvious that they’re well informed about the issues and keen to be part of the solution,” says Hanna. “For this to happen, we need skilled, engaged teachers.”

Hanna Karlsson and Sara Widén hold up their diploma, flanked by KI's president Annika Östman Wernersson and Karin Dahlman-Wright, chair of the Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development.
Presentation of KI's sustainability award 2023. From the left: rector Annika Östman Wernersson, award winners Hanna Karlsson and Sara Widén and Karin Dahlman-Wright, chair of the Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development. Photo: Erik Flyg

The judges’ citation

Hanna Karlsson and Sara Widén have been selected as the recipients of the 2023 Sustainability Award.

Their dedicated and innovative approach to integrating sustainable development into KI’s courses and programmes has provided support for teachers and enhanced a knowledge of and interest in issues of sustainability among students. This has been achieved through a range of initiatives including new courses and workshops.

Hanna and Sara have previously and individually initiated and designed courses on sustainable development for students. Their intention is for the students to be both willing and able to work towards a sustainable future. In many cases, their students have sustained their engagement with the field both at KI and as graduate professionals.

Hanna and Sara currently work together with great enthusiasm, inspiring and disseminating their knowledge and skills to other teachers at KI. It is expected that their commitment and efforts towards integrating sustainable development into education will enhance teacher competence and student knowledge and raise the quality of the education that KI provides in the field.

About KI’s Sustainability Award

The new award was instituted by the Council for Environment and Sustainable Development in the fields of climate, the environment and sustainability at KI. The prize is awarded in recognition of practical initiatives that have made, or are expected to make a real difference for both staff and students at KI.