DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > DePaul reflects on UN International Day of Education

DePaul reflects on UN International Day of Education

As International Day of Education approaches, DePaul faculty and staff discuss their connections to this year's theme


A glass globe with a leaf background
​​​​On Jan. 24, the United Nations will observe its annual International Day of Education​, initiated in 2018 to honor the role education plays in peace and development. As the world prepares to celebrate this year’s theme of “learning for lasting peace,” faculty and staff at DePaul reflect on the university’s past and present mission-driven work to provide students quality, equitable education and opportunities to become global changemakers.  

“Today, the value of education is sometimes questioned, but our work across campus speaks to the importance of an education that is practice and real-world based,” says Susana Martínez, an associate professor and director of the Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies program​. “We also are one of the few schools in the area to offer an academic program specifically related to the topic of peace and justice.”

Beyond a celebratory theme, “learning for lasting peace” is a concept threaded throughout DePaul’s Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies program. Now 15 years old, DePaul is the only institute in the Midwest to offer a full major in the subject.

“The field itself is very grassroots, but it is academic and interdisciplinary,” Martínez notes. “Based in theory and practice, our students have the opportunity to grapple with major issues in the world, such as human rights, homelessness, and gender-based violence, while gaining the tools for nonviolence, conflict resolution, restorative justice and community development. Not only does this work fit in with the U.N.’s education focus, but also with DePaul’s mission.”

“Although much of the work we do at DePaul is related to the theme used by the U.N. for its International Day of Education, it’s good to have this reminder to come back and reflect on these core principles of equity and social justice,” Martínez says. 

Education for peace and equity beyond the classroom​​

In addition to academic programs and research, the university has developed various initiatives aimed at advancing social and environmental justice. Housed in the Division of Mission and Ministry, Just DePaul​ provides Blue Demons with the tools to incorporate social and environmental justice-oriented relationships, workplaces, education and experience across the university. From network weaving to curriculum development and organization to examining campus policies, Just DePaul is designed to support all faculty, staff and students.

​“In collaboration with the University Registrar, we spent summer 2023 manually examining and tagging all DePaul courses that fall under the theme of sustainability, either environmentally or socially,” says Rubén Álvarez Silva, director for Just DePaul. “With the support of the Center for Teaching and Learning and the President’s Sustainability Committee, we also are working with the faculty community on how to integrate sustainability into our broader pedagogy. These practices can help us develop an asset map of courses, help bolster interdisciplinary trends at the university, and provide students interested in sustainability scholarship with a more clear view of what’s available to them.”

Thanks to the efforts of Just DePaul and campus partners, this spring the university will join the Good Food Purchasing Program Cohort for Higher Education Institutions. A dynamic and collaborative network, the cohort brings together representatives from higher education involved in sustainability and food procurement to enhance the quality and sustainability of food practices in higher ed. 

“We’ll be looking at issues in food policy and practice, such as the use of single-use plastics, food waste from events and procurement practices,” Álvarez Silva says. “We know this has been an important topic to the campus community, so the hope is to begin shifting some of the policies we have and determining what Just DePaul can create or continue to support to address these issues.”

Just DePaul employs three student workers, but Álvarez Silva notes the entire student body benefits from academic and operational policies and practices rooted in peace, development and justice. 

“We can produce incredible filmmakers and accountants who are masters of their disciplines, but DePaul also works to ensure our students are agents of change,” he says. “Since its foundation, DePaul has strived to serve those in the margins and to educate the whole person so students have the capability to examine and address the environmental and social challenges we face as a global c​ommunity.”

Learn more about the United Nations’ International Day of Education online​. Visit the Just DePaul Linktree​ to stay up to date on the initiative’s news and events.​​​