Dr. Julie Sullivan invites University of St. Thomas students, faculty and staff to help shape sustainability initiatives.

Social Innovation and Design Thinking

President Julie Sullivan discusses the university's accomplishments related to its designation as an Ashoka Changemaker Campus.

With celebration and gratitude, we completed our 133rd academic year at the University of St. Thomas, and welcomed more than 2,400 new Tommies into our alumni network. They are responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.

We also completed our first full year as an Ashoka Changemaker Campus – earning recognition among a select group of 46 colleges and universities that embrace the need for universities to shift from traditional silos and bureaucratic organizations to more innovative, entrepreneurial and collaborative communities.

Our Schulze School of Entrepreneurship is a prime example of changemakers joining forces with our Center for Common Good to support the continuous development of social innovation, collaboration and design thinking. Together, our faculty, staff and students seek to solve problems that matter to themselves and society and to lead fulfilling lives creating positive social, environmental and economic value.

Changemakers need a depth and breadth of knowledge to analyze our complex world and its local and global challenges; to appreciate the interconnectedness of humanity; and to see the relationship among historical, political, economic, religious and cultural influences on society. That is the foundation of a liberal arts education combined with practical application.

A changemaker needs analytical skills to think critically and creatively about related, and often competing, ideas and to question assumptions. As Dean of Engineering Don Weinkauf recently shared with his graduates, "Our society needs engineers who deeply and compassionately understand the human condition and the magnitude of the problems that remain for so much of humanity. And when the tremendous momentum of the 'assembled' wisdom is sending us to a place where the common good is discarded, we need an engineer who is bold enough to ask the question, 'Why?'"

Indeed, it is my sincere hope that each of our graduates, in the face of inequity, injustice, inefficiency, ineffectiveness or insufficiency, will have the courage to ask, "Why?"

I have seen these attributes repeatedly demonstrated by our students, such as Jules Porter '18 J.D./MBA, the graduate winner of the Fowler and the St. Thomas Business Plan competitions, whose business idea, Seraph 7 Studios, reframed the roles of African-Americans in video games.

Another example involves four undergraduate science majors who invented a solar-powered water purification system and advanced to regional finals in the international 2018 Hult Prize competition.

And, we have ExpressionMed, founded by Meghan Sharkus '20, who, with Jackie Page '20, won the nation's largest undergraduate business plan competition: The Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge. Meghan invented a medical adhesive that extends the functionality of expensive Type 1 diabetes devices.

These innovators represent the many changemakers at St.Thomas: those who find a societal problem that intersects with their passion, then with empathy and collaboration develop a sustainable solution.

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