110 scholars from 22 countries are participating in the first-ever virtual edition of the bp Global STEM Academies.

The Academies, which are typically four-week in-person programs in Brazil, Egypt, India and the USA, endeavor to increase diversity and inclusion (especially for young women) in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), while underscoring the urgency of global competencies and sustainable climate action.

With COVID-19 preventing in-person exchange, AFS reimagined the Academies as a virtual program so that students could participate safely from home. In this new format, the 110 scholars are participating in an innovative social impact curriculum, designed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, while developing intercultural understanding, problem-solving, analytical and communication skills, all in an interactive, online environment.

As part of the virtual program, the scholars collaborated in virtual, multinational teams over six weeks to identify and propose an intervention to a global issue that would help achieve one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each team’s objective was to create a video or multimedia presentation to pitch their proposal. AFS selected a short-list of semi-finalists, and our partner, bp, ultimately identified four winning teams. See the results and team video links here.

From 13-15 October the scholars participated in our first-ever bp Virtual Week, an educational mini-conference focused on bp innovations and ambitions in Brazil, Egypt, India, and the USA. The scholars participated in meet-and-greet sessions and team-building activities with professionals from around the bp global network. One of the highlights of the week was a special Q&A session with Kerry Dryburgh (Executive Vice President of People & Culture at bp) and the top four winning teams of the UN SDG proposals. bp Virtual Week was a great success in both connecting the scholars to bp leadership, as well as showcasing to bp the impressive and diverse group of scholars we are able to reach with this program.

Following bp Virtual Week, winners and runners-up of the Team Projects were invited to attend the AFS Global Conference from 23-24 October. Ben Sutton, SVP of people and culture for the Innovation & Engineering entity of bp, was among the speakers discussing the implications of the PISA Global Competence Assessment Results for business and the workforce pipeline. Attendees engaged in roundtable discussions exploring how young people can prepare to enter, and engage in growth opportunities from, a globally competent workforce.

Scholars will continue participating in the online program through early 2021, and are expected to travel to their four-week in-person exchanges in Brazil, Egypt, India, or the USA in mid-2021.

by Sean Reilly, Manager of Sponsored Programs and Milena Miladinovic, Communications & External Affairs