Beyond the Changemaker Campus: What's Next for Social Innovation at St. Thomas?

For the past few years, a dedicated group of faculty, staff and students has worked diligently to earn the University of St. Thomas the status of Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. The Change Team proudly accomplished its goal last April, when we joined 40 other colleges and universities worldwide that are transforming higher education to help create an “everyone a changemaker world” — Ashoka’s mission.

St. Thomas’s mission of advancing the common good neatly aligns with Ashoka’s. We were awarded this coveted status, however, as much for the ways that we’re already fostering changemaking on campus and in the community as for how we are situated to “do good better.” As Social Innovation Collaboratory director Adam Kay observes, the designation is “not an end, but just the beginning.”

The Ashoka U team that visited last December noted the unique strengths that poise St. Thomas to develop a robust campus changemaking ecosystem. Team members focused on our “culture around changemaking for the common good and interdisciplinary collaboration;” our “many long-term community partnerships in the Twin Cities;” our “commitment to inclusion, interfaith cooperation, and mindfulness;” and our programs that make “major contribution[s] at the intersections of social innovation and professional and graduate education, as well as social innovation and science and engineering.”

When Ashoka U visits again in four years to review and renew our designation, the team will be examining how we have strengthened and built our campus’ changemaking infrastructure around these distinctive features. Therefore, the Change Team — comprised of nearly 30 students, faculty and staff — will focus this year on helping the campus community develop a common vocabulary around changemaking. By collectively constructing a shared understanding of what changemaking means for St. Thomas, the campus community will be better poised to align, leverage, and develop its assets to help solve social and environmental problems at the local and global levels.

Our goal is to foster a pervasive culture of changemaking at St. Thomas where “everyone [is] a changemaker” — especially our students. By re-framing the social impact work that has long been part of the St. Thomas tradition and legacy, the Change Team aims over the coming year to map our campus changemaking ecosystem in partnership with faculty and staff from across the university. By making more navigable the opportunities across campus for developing and practicing changemaking dispositions and skills, students will develop as agents of positive social change just as they develop as subject-matter experts in their majors.

Get involved in one of these exciting opportunities:

  • Design a course assignment around changemaking: Choose a topic related to your course from the array of issues covered by Fred de Sam Lazzaro’s Under-Told Stories Project. Have students design a case study on the topic — individually or in groups — using the Under-Told Stories segment as a centerpiece.  Top-quality case studies will be used by teachers and students in Ashoka Fellow Dana Mortenson’s World Savvy Classrooms.  Learn more about the collaboration and how to support it through your courses.
  • Participate in a Faculty Development-sponsored Faculty Learning Community on Changemaking: Changemaking is an intentionally vague term that invites collaborative inquiry and co-construction. What does changemaking look like for St. Thomas? Explore the nuances of changemaking with a group of faculty; help strategize ways to strengthen our campus culture around changemaking; learn how changemaking relates to service and community engagement; and explore ways to integrate changemaking and social innovation into your own courses. Learn more about the Changemaker FLC.
  • Attend one of the many Changemaking events on this fall’s lineup: Bring your students or colleagues. Or work one of the events into a course assignment or departmental initiative. View the Changemaker’s Calendar.
  • Request a workshop on Changemaking: We were awarded the Changemaker Campus designation because so many faculty, students, and staff are already engaged in changemaking. However, they might not identify it as such. This workshop is designed to familiarize participants with terms such as “changemaking,” “social innovation” and “social entrepreneurship” and to help them see where they and their group or department is best poised to contribute (or may already be contributing) to our “campus changemaker ecosystem.” Request a workshop for your group.
  • Write a blog post on Changemaking: Once you understand the concept of changemaking, you begin to realize that changemakers come in all shapes and sizes and that they’re all around (perhaps you are even a changemaker yourself?).  In order to showcase the range of changemakers and diverse voices on changemaking in our campus community, we invite students, faculty, staff, and alumni to submit blog posts to the Social Innovation Collaboratory blog. Learn more about submitting blog posts.