Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident

TE Stories

The Journey at oikos Vienna

Have you ever felt like there are important problems that need to be tackled? Problems that are maybe
very abstract. Or too large for one single person to combat. Or maybe you just did not know where and
how to start. Then you are definitely not alone! In this article, we would like to take you on
Michaela’s Journey and show you how, together with the right people, and initial idea can develop into
something great. Everything begun not even two years ago…

Michaela was a 21-year-old student in Vienna. During her vacation before her third semester at
university she started to engage a bit more with sustainability-related topics. After having seen all the
news and debates on the media, she started to question her own consumption behavior, her media
intake and also her surroundings. While reading she quickly stumbled upon the SDGs by the UN and
was shocked that she has never heard of them before. She was angry at her surroundings, especially
her university because she felt that is also in the scope of responsibility of her educational institution.
With the newly found anger she started to look for like-minded peers and found the student
association oikos Vienna. She was immediately hooked and was happy to see the semester kick-off
event in March 2020. With the pandemic having started a couple weeks prior, she was even more
curious to use her free-time and make an impact in the university. During her kick-off she met the
president of oikos Vienna and was mesmerized by the impact and size of oikos Vienna. Hearing that
the association is currently looking for members for a newly founded department within oikos called
“Curriculum Transformation”, Michaela thought that she really hit the nail on the head and
immediately signed up. Together with 3 other new members they met regularly to think about a vision
and strategy for the department. Their primary objective: integrate sustainability better into the
existing curriculum on their university. Sounds easier said than done. They did not want to make
enemies with the university nor really change the topics taught in courses – that is nothing they felt
their responsibility. Rather, Michaela and her peers wanted to serve as an inspiration and also rethink
sustainable teaching methods and insert small sustainable facts of examples into existing courses to
nudge students towards a more sustainable-oriented thinking. They felt that this was their
responsibility. Shortly after having set up such a vision, they contacted the STaR institute at WU
Vienna. It is the center for sustainability transformation and responsibility, dedicating its efforts to
support WU Vienna’s societal responsibility as a driver of sustainable transformations. Michaela set
up a meeting with the team members to collect valuable input and feedback to their vision. The
meeting went wonderfully, and a lot of collaboration possibilities opened up! The first one Michaela
and her peers wanted to tackle was the possibility to create a listening exercise for the first English
course for the next year – this was a huge opportunity. Every single student at WU Vienna had to take
the course. So, the goal was to make it a clearly structured, sustainability-related and fun-to-do
exercise and the team felt empowered to do so: they were students themselves and could integrate
their own feedback into the creation. They talked to the respective professor to set a frame and
understand which learning and content aspects they had to follow. The listening exercise was to be
an interview with a team member from STaR talking about SDGs and sustainability aspects on campus.
English-wise it had to contain numbers, different tenses, and language exercises for comparison.
Michaela was thrilled and immediately started to write a script with interview questions and possible
exercise-questions for the students to answer while listening to the exercise. Several feedback loops
were done by Michaela, the English professor and the interviewee to really have everyone on the
same page and satisfied with the exercise. After having rehearsed it, the team set up an interview
setting (due to the pandemic on-site meetings was still not possible) and put together the 10-minute
listening exercise. At the end, Michaela and her team were so proud of their work and even though it
was just one exercise out of many, it felt like they truly had an impact because finally sustainability
topics were talked about and openly discussed in a university setting and used exemplary. Michaela
was happy and content with what they have achieved as a team and felt this was only the first step
on a long journey.

The high Michaela lasted over the summer an in October 2020, new members joined the department
of oikos Vienna. This felt like great news to Michaela, as there were even more likeminded people that
wanted to push forward sustainability in education. And with this new, enlarged team, new and larger
projects could be tackled. But this also came together with new challenges, as the more people
involved in a project, the more organization is required. But with the motivation of the entire team,
this felt only like a small barrier and despite the complicated situation due to the pandemic still going
on and the shifting of most of the work to an online environment, visions for the new semester were
created. The integration of new team members worked quite well and soon tasks for all were found
and they could transfer their motivation into action. After all, there is always enough to do when it
comes to promote sustainability in education! And this idea, that as a team and with enough
motivation you have the power to change things that might appear impossible at first sight, kept the
team motivated to pursue their work together. One big task waiting for Michaela and her team: a very
important pitch for the rectorate to introduce themselves and try to get the support of their university
for future actions. Therefore, in long rounds of preparation, it was very detailly discussed how to
approach this huge but very exciting task. And then, finally, the great day arrived and the entire team
gave its best to convince the rectorate of their actions in a 15 minutes call that would later have quite
an impact on the entire team.
After this very important experience for the team, they felt like they could achieve even more,
although the task they had engaged upon still needed to be taken seriously. They had engaged a few
months prior on providing a listening comprehension, which Michaela and her team had already
worked on, however it was not perfect yet. It still needed some final fixes before it could go online
and teach students at their university about the SDGs. Several emails later, their (slightly modified and
improved) final version of the listening comprehension and questions going with it were accepted by
the responsible professor at their university. This was an important moment for the entire team as
the project, they had worked so much on and they believed would have a great impact on future
students, was now completed and accepted. Michaela felt that, within one year since creation, the
now grown team had achieved something wonderful which also left each single member back with
something proud about what they had achieved.
But of course, this huge achievement did not mean that the oikos Vienna team had reached its goals.
There was still more than enough work to do regarding sustainability in higher education. And full of
motivation from the feedback they had gotten from their rectorate pitch, more than ever, Michaela
felt like, with her peers, she could achieve something great. They decided to listen to the feedback
they had gotten and turn it into practice. This implied changing their name to fit better in the university
environment and not scare professors away with their ideas, but also share their experience within
their oikos community. One idea however remained in Michaela’s mind: It is great what you are doing,
however you should think bigger in your actions. So, were there opportunities to have even a bigger
impact? And how would these look? After all, the whole team only consisted of students. Very
motivated students that had gained quite extensive knowledge within their work for oikos, but of
course their main perspective was still that of a student. It turned out that Michaela would still have
to wait a while until she would get answers to her questions. This is probably the downside working
closely together with the university, everything goes very slowly!
But this was no reason for Michaela and her peers to remain inactive. Through their engagement in
promoting sustainability, they had found themselves some advocates within their university. And as
soon as those had some project they could involve the team, they were contacted. Next to
implementing their project, it also became more important for the team to also talk about those
projects, so that people get to know about their work and achievement and maybe join or support
them in their work. And therefore, Michaela and her peers were grateful for the offer they got from

their university. In April they were asked whether they wanted to present the work they had achieved,
and their motivation behind, in the scope of a video series from their university about the SGDs. Of
course, the whole team was happy about this opportunity to talk about their achievements, and
maybe also inspiring others to take actions too. Quickly it was agreed upon Michaela to be the speaker
for the interview. And together, the team prepared the interview questions. This was not feeling like
hard work, after all, they were now experts on the topic! And then came the day of the interview.
Michaela was quite excited; this was the first time she would give an interview. But once she reached
the university campus where the filming should take place, she felt empowered. Now she could tell
the world (or at least those interested in) about the role sustainability should play in education and
how little steps can already improve the situation. Everyone seemed interested in the project and at
the end of the interview, Michaela felt great as total strangers were interested in the project they
were pursuing and those were thinking that it was a good thing and should be pursued further. This
was not the only opportunity the oikos Vienna team had gotten. In the scope of an overview of
sustainable student initiatives, they could also promote their activities within their university.
Although not so many people did know about the work they were doing, the opportunities to promote
their projects and talk about their actions were growing. And the team was taking them as they were
presented to them! Another of these opportunities was the chance to hold a workshop for a university
course, which aimed at promoting engagement during the study time. The team was flattered that
they were asked to show how they work as an example for engagement next to studying: Michaela
and her peers were presented as a model example! And this was also an opportunity going beyond
talking about their engagement as this was a perfect opportunity to get some feedback on how to
improve university courses. After all, having students sitting in front of them, they had the perfect
source of information, because who else would be qualified of saying which teaching concepts work
and which do not! Altogether, Michaela felt like many little steps were slowly but surely leading her
team to success. More and more people knew about their projects and what they were doing. And
maybe this would inspire someone to also take action and join them on their journey.

On one day in May, the oikos team had gotten a very important email. The long-awaited answer from
their university about the existing opportunities at their university promised during the rectorate pitch
came. And this was more than what the team had expected. They got the offer to help in providing
content for a database that should enable lecturers to implement sustainability in education more
easily. But although this was an amazing opportunity for the team, it also implied a responsibility and
commitment. This was thus an important question for the entire team. With engaging in that project,
they would probably have to give up some of the freedom they had as the university would set up
some rules and also have the last word. This was a very important decision, as it would also have an
impact on the next generation of oikees. It was clear that the decision had to be taken together, as a
team. And before agreeing upon the project, several questions were raised. One being whether the
team would have the ability to complete that task, after all it would be of no help to engage in a project
if one cannot deliver. Finally, after lots of rounds of thoughts but also calls with those being
responsible for the project, Michaela and her team decided to engage on that new exciting journey!
By then, not knowing exactly what they should expect, but all together they had the feeling that with
this new project, they could achieve something great and make an important contribution towards
more sustainability in education over the next months and years!
After one and a half years of engagement, Michaela still felt like her journey with oikos was not over.
Now that they had agreed on starting a new large project, she felt like she could, more than ever,
achieve a real change trough her work. Of course, they would need new members to achieve this task.
But this, and that she was pretty confident about, would not be a problem as there are enough
students out there that want to use their energy, time, and ideas to make their university a slightly
better world, at least regarding sustainability. So, with these optimistic ideas in the back of her head,

Michaela could go on her summer break, already trilled about the new challenges and achievement
she and her team would face in the next academic year!
In October, Michaela’s expectations were fulfilled: two new members joint the team bringing in lots
of energy and an even more motivational spirit on working together on this big new project, the
sustainable education platform. With the support of these new, likeminded people, Michaela and her
team got to know each other better at a cozy café, when it still was possible in these crazy times. She
felt very comfortable with the people around her, especially in those times during ongoing lockdowns,
the emotional support of her colleagues really confirmed her in what she did. They discussed the
division of the work with some ginger tea and enjoyed a pleasant time together. During the next
month, the team collected as much information and data as possible to evaluate suitable teaching
methods, courses and course material for their platform. By asking for support from the big oikos
network, they could make use of a supportive base to fulfill a common goal – changing the word
together to a more sustainable one. Right now, Michaela is very busy with planning and preparing
everything for the upcoming pitch of the project, while gathering ideas on the detailed
implementation of the platform with her team. Michaela looks forward to upcoming achievements
and challenges they will face as a team and feels certain about reaching their goals together!
Michaela’s journey is not unique. A lot of students have similar feelings and want to use their time to
make an impact! It is important for them to really change the face of the current problems and
difficulties of our society – especially in the university context. We, at oikos Vienna, encourage you and
them to do so! Pursue those aspirations and find others to join you on the journey. Our projects were
only possible, because we were eager to change something, even if it is just a small example or listening
exercise. That’s why we would like to serve as an inspiration and give you a few key facts with you on
the way:

  • Hard and continuous work pays off – don’t quit just yet, but keep on going!
  • Find common ground and similarities instead of differences and try to collaborate and not
  • Work together – we can only say #teamworkmakesthedreamwork
  • Talk about your ideas and projects with everyone and collect feedback and input. This is the
    only way to enhance your ideas and who knows – maybe new collaboration possibilities open
  • Those collaborations are key to success. Similarly, to the team, you need others to pull the
    same string you do.
    Go out there, change the world and enjoy it while you do it!
    All the best and lots of love from Vienna,
    oikos Vienna Sustainable Education Team