2021 SDG Leadership Academy begins summer project focused on a #JustRecovery post-COVID

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After a rigorous selection process, four students have joined the USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health (USC IIGH) for a 10-week fellowship to support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and their impact on a #JustRecovery post-pandemic. The project, in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, utilizes the SDGs as a mechanism to measure the positive and negative impact of COVID-19 relief and recovery funds on social justice and equity, as well as to understand the impacts of policy and potential solutions in the context of Los Angeles. 

“As a global health student, I have spent hours in the classroom learning about various health disparities in the LA community and around the world. Seeing an opportunity that works toward transforming these through sustainable and collaborative initiatives inspires me, both as a current student and a future professional,” Rhea Desai, an undergraduate student, shared about the SDG Leadership Academy experience. 

The four fellows — Rhea Deasi, Julie Leyba, Issy Serna and Elizabeth Tapia — bring a diverse range of disciplinary perspectives to this work. The students range from undergraduate- to graduate-level and come from across the university. Julie Leyba, a public policy master’s student, described how her experience at USC has motivated her to join this work: “Throughout my first year at USC, we’ve learned how public policy research facilitates just societies. Here, I have an opportunity to apply my academics in a real-world setting to understand how COVID-19 impacted LA’s SDG Indicators and how research can create equitable policies.” 

The work includes gathering data and interviews with key stakeholder organizations on social justice indicators in the context of Los Angeles to understand which areas are doing well, which need improvement, and how to have a greater positive impact on the populations who need it most. Additionally, working with Carnegie Mellon, comparisons will be made across different cities to understand similarities and differences and which, if any, are performing well in providing a just future post-pandemic. 

“I look forward to collaborating with different organizations and students to learn more about the impact COVID-19 has had on accessibility,” shared Issy Serna, an urban planning progressive degree student. 

Elizabeth Tapia, a global health progressive degree student, described her goals for this work: “By the end, we hope to have in place a completed report detailing our findings and effective, yet reasonable, recommendations to work toward a just recovery from COVID-19.” 

This work will then be shared with other partners alongside plans for follow-up in the coming year. To stay up to date with this project and other USC IIGH projects and opportunities, please subscribe to our newsletter.

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