Sam Loni

Roles at NAAEE:

30 Under 30

Program Director, Global Schools
UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

Melbourne, Australia / New York City, NY, United States
Age: 28

Sam combines research and advocacy to support schools and educators in preparing students for the challenges of the 21st century, and empowering them to shape sustainable communities.

How are you using education to build more sustainable and equitable communities? 

The Global Schools Program is working with some of the world’s leading experts in education and sustainable development to curate and develop cutting-edge tools and resources to transform learning. We have developed research frameworks and methods to support country-level curriculum reform as well as advocacy campaigns to empower schools and teachers to prioritize Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) within their classrooms. Our mission is to create a world where every student is equipped with the knowledge, values, and skills necessary to effectively respond to the greatest challenges of this century and shape a sustainable and prosperous world. 

Tell us about your journey to where you are today. 

I began my professional journey while studying as an undergraduate at Monash University in Australia. After having witnessed many injustices and challenges during my childhood as a refugee, and then presented with the opportunity of a quality education, I chose to dedicate my life to public service and social impact. Driven by this new vision, I began running local human rights campaigns and eventually found myself working with the United Nations. It was at this critical juncture of my journey that I began to learn about the unparalleled threats of climate change and its impacts on vulnerable communities. Since then, I have chosen to dedicate myself to advancing policies and programs that protect vulnerable communities, while supporting the world in transitioning to sustainable development. I believe that education is a key enabler of this transition and it is my vision to ensure that every student has access to an education that will equip them with the necessary knowledge, values, and skills to build a sustainable world.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

I would give them the same advice I was given when I began my journey:

“When advocating for a better world, be bold, be persistent, and do not take no for an answer.”

What are you happiest doing?

I am happiest when I am skiing, which in my opinion is the closest feeling to actually flying! Now you may be asking, “How did you ski in warm, hot, and sunny Australia?”

Contrary to popular belief, Australia has some great locations for skiing, with one of them a mere 3-hour drive from Melbourne, where I grew up. Every winter I would go skiing with friends, visiting the lodges, seeing the landscapes, observing the beautiful views, and hitting the slopes! Nothing ever compares.