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Using Public Art to Teach UN Sustainable Development Goals

Poster with illustration of clinician's face and health care symbols
A poster illustrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being educates those visiting Driscoll Hall. Sixteen other posters are found across campus.

If visitors are distracted while walking through various buildings on campus, they might not be seeing any of the 17 illustrations of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These posters are the work of Hannah Medsker '22 CLAS for her senior honors thesis. Hannah was a neuroscience major with a global health minor, the latter stemming from the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing’s (FCN) Center for Global and Public Health which funded Hannah’s project. The former director of the Center, Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, served as Hannah's thesis mentor. Dr. McDermott-Levy is professor and co-director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment (Region 3 PEHSU), based in FCN.

Hannah used this project as public art to educate the Villanova community about the SDGs.  Each poster illustrates an SDG using the symbols that are in the UN goals. The posters also have a Villanova University community exemplar (for instance, a student, faculty or alumni) related to the SDG. Hannah did most of the illustrations herself but did recruit other Villanova student artists to illustrate some posters. 

In Driscoll Hall near the 2nd floor elevator, visitors will see Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Hannah highlighted Sister Jackline Mayaka who earned her BSN, MSN, and PhD through FCN. She is a nurse researcher and midwife who is director of nursing services at Christamarriane Mission Hospital-Kisii in Western Kenya, focused on overseeing patient care within the facility. Sister Jackline is quoted saying, “Everyone has a part to play in the reduction of maternal-child mortality rates. Each day, I strive to make earth a better place for our dear mothers and their children.” Much of her work has been with those affected by HIV/AIDS.

In developing this project, last spring Hannah brainstormed ideas with Dr. McDermott-Levy, who previously received the Fulbright-Saastamoinen Foundation Health and Environmental Sciences Award and was based at the University of Eastern Finland. “Hannah wanted to prove that Villanova was engaged in the SDGs when in fact, most students and many faculty do not know what these global goals are,” explains Dr. McDermott-Levy, “I shared with her that when I visited a high school in Kuopio, Finland the SDGs were displayed in the lobby of the school...then we brained stormed about public art and Hannah ran with it.” 

Hannah will be entering Duke University in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in global health, though her public art remains on campus to inspire those who follow her. Dr. McDermott-Levy plans to use the posters in the fall as a teaching tool in her course Planetary Health for Global Populations to introduce the SDGs that are its framework.