An aerial view of the Anderson Student Center, John P. Monahan Plaza, and the fountain.

Global Ashoka U Exchange Brings the World to St. Thomas, Digitally

When St. Thomas was chosen last year to host the annual Ashoka U Exchange event this month, it meant educators and students from all the world would be gathering at the university to exchange ideas and for – as this year’s theme says – “Building Bridges: Changemaking for the Common Good.”

That gathering is still taking place April 16-17 in the first all-digital Ashoka U Exchange event, maintaining St. Thomas’ central role as the host institution, allowing all undergraduate and graduate students to attend for free (click here to register with the code AUX 2020 HOST), and underscoring that the work of changemaking has never been more urgent and important than it is now.

“This is a crystallizing moment to help recognize not just the things we want to change in this situation, but what we need to change more broadly to ensure the well-being of ourselves, our neighbors and the advancement of the common good into the future,” said Amy Levad, associate professor of theology and executive committee chair of the St. Thomas Ashoka U Exchange. “This is more of a time for changemaking, not a time to step away from it. How is it we build a future that looks like the common good?”

The Exchange is a huge opportunity for St. Thomas community members, educators and students from around the globe to discuss that question. More than 50 individual sessions will offer a huge range of topics and discussions, and physical site visits to Twin Cities organizations have transitioned into dynamic video presentations between sessions thanks to collaboration with the Under-Told Stories Project. Other times between sessions will feature interactive programs designed by the St. Thomas community, including the Project for Mindfulness and Contemplation; the Playful Learning Lab; and the American Museum of Asmat Art.

“The idea is that we can do these similar exercises and programs we have as part of our culture at St. Thomas and show, ‘Here’s what we’re doing here that you can potentially recreate at your university or college,’” said Manuela Hill-Muñoz, Student Affairs program director and changemaking director.

St. Thomas community members are contributing a huge range of the Exchange’s sessions, as well, with more than 50 administrators, faculty, staff and students leading 12 sessions, including “Ethics and Changemaking: Aligning Technology with the Greater Good,” “How Athletics Can Advance Changemaking,” and “Community-Based Action Research as a Change Strategy: Considering Equity, Power and Impact.”

Throughout the entire Exchange, the hope is for St. Thomas community members and peers from around the world can enjoy fellowship and support during these challenging times, and build bridges of changemaking together.

“The need is even greater and more urgent in this present time,” said Christopher Michaelson, professor of ethics and business law, and executive committee member of the Exchange. “This event is a reminder of the necessity of changemaking work, in regular life and in times of crisis.”