Northeastern designated Ashoka U for innovative commitment to social change

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By Joe O’Connell

News at Northeastern Staff Writer

BOSTON–North­eastern Uni­ver­sity has earned a pres­ti­gious recog­ni­tion for its inno­v­a­tive and mean­ingful con­tri­bu­tions to social change in the global com­mu­nity, becoming part of a con­sor­tium of higher edu­ca­tion insti­tu­tions world­wide that embraces a “change­maker” mentality.

Ashoka, the largest inter­na­tional net­work of social entre­pre­neurs, recently des­ig­nated North­eastern as an Ashoka U Change­maker Campus, a title bestowed upon col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties whose inter­dis­ci­pli­nary and entre­pre­neurial achieve­ments have ben­e­fited society. Only 34 other higher edu­ca­tion institutions—including Duke Uni­ver­sity, Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, and the Uni­ver­sity of Northampton in England—have earned the distinction.

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

In an email to fac­ulty and staff, Provost and Senior Vice Pres­i­dent for Aca­d­emic Affairs James C. Bean noted that North­eastern is hon­ored to bring its rich his­tory of expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion and co-​​op to the consortium.

“This des­ig­na­tion rec­og­nizes North­eastern as a global leader in social inno­va­tion and social entre­pre­neur­ship edu­ca­tion,” Bean wrote.

North­eastern will cel­e­brate this honor with Change­maker Day on Monday, Feb. 29, a student-​​led effort to rec­og­nize stu­dent achieve­ments in social inno­va­tion. The day will include an open event at the Curry Stu­dent Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as a town hall meeting for fac­ulty and staff in the Alumni Center at 1:30 p.m. Seating is lim­ited for the town hall meeting and an RSVP is required.

The selec­tion process began in 2012 and was started by the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute in the D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness. Ashoka U rep­re­sen­ta­tives vis­ited campus in spring 2015, spoke with stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff, and reviewed the action plan that will help guide the university’s social enter­prises moving forward.

“I think the proof of Northeastern’s excep­tional model really lies in the stu­dents,” said Change­maker Campus Asso­ciate Director Rebecca Kagan. “The stu­dents I met were some of the most mature, thoughtful, and engaged that I’ve ever seen. Pro­grams such as co-​​op and Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions chal­lenge stu­dents to be con­stantly thinking about real-​​world impli­ca­tions of their studies, which fac­ulty and staff bal­ance with rig­orous aca­d­e­mics and field-​​leading research.”

Ashoka praised Northeastern’s focus on embed­ding strong social entre­pre­neur­ship ini­tia­tives into campus life. The Social Enter­prise Insti­tute, for instance, focuses on engaging stu­dents with local and global com­mu­ni­ties in order to address social prob­lems with business-​​driven solu­tions. It also runs field study pro­grams in India and South Africa, as well as ser­vice learning oppor­tu­ni­ties in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic during spring break.

Northeastern’s Social Impact Lab, which is housed within the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties, is a hub of inno­v­a­tive expe­ri­en­tial cur­ricula, pro­gram­ming, and events designed to empower social change and civic engage­ment across dis­ci­plines and around the world. Ashoka also noted that North­eastern is the first Change­maker Campus to incor­po­rate social inno­va­tion into its law school.

“The Change­maker Campus des­ig­na­tion rec­og­nizes that our social inno­va­tion ecosystem already fos­ters cre­ative problem-​​solving to address society’s greatest chal­lenges in all our schools and col­leges. At North­eastern, expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion often means learning to make a dif­fer­ence,” said Rebecca Riccio, director of the Social Impact Lab. “Moving for­ward, I hope the des­ig­na­tion will cat­alyze greater inter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion in the social change arena and illu­mi­nate the many path­ways that all our stu­dents can pursue to become effec­tive change­makers, regard­less of their majors or career aspirations.”

Four so-​​called “Change Leaders” have been tapped to help guide the process: Riccio; Dan Jackson, exec­u­tive director of the NuLawLab; Sara Minard, exec­u­tive pro­fessor of entre­pre­neur­ship and inno­va­tion; and Shaya Gre­gory Poku, pro­gram director of the Social Jus­tice Resource Center.

(This article is reproduced here with permission from News at Northeastern.)



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