Changemaking in Higher Education Increasingly an International Field

What does changemaking in higher education look like in Singapore, Mexico, and the southeast United States? Though contexts vary, common interests and experiences unite these institutions across oceans. To celebrate this excellence, these three new institutions have been selected to join the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus network as leaders in the field of social innovation in higher education: Miami Dade College in the United States, Singapore Management University in Singapore, and Universidad Popular Autonoma del Estado de Puebla in Mexico. The consortium now includes 33 institutions across six countries and is comprised of colleges and universities advancing social innovation as an institutional priority.

“We are absolutely delighted to have these three institutions join our network,” said Erin Krampetz, Co-Founder of Ashoka U. “This is our most diverse, international, and unique group of Changemaker Campuses yet, and we could not be more excited to be working with them. These institutions embody changemaking as something we all can do.”

To receive the Changemaker Campus designation institutions spend approximately two years navigating a very rigorous selection process. They are evaluated and coached on a wide range of criteria that include the strength of the team behind social innovation initiatives, the availability and accessibility of a variety of social innovation opportunities for students, genuine senior leadership support, and commitment to advancing the field.

Miami Dade College: It Takes One

The latest additions to the consortium each bring unique strengths. Miami Dade College joins the network as the country’s largest institution of higher education, serving over 165,000 students who are primarily minority and low-income. Spanning across 8 campuses, Miami Dade College is also the first public institution in the Southeast United States to become a Changemaker Campus. Their inspirational It Takes One campaign pushed each student, faculty, staff, and community member to think about the difference their own lives could make. Miami Dade leads the field in terms of measuring the impact of student changemaking, student access, retention, graduation, and workforce readiness.

Singapore Management University: The Rising Star

Singapore Management University (SMU) is a private institute in Singapore with 8,000 students, and is the first institution in Asia to join the Changemaker Campus network. Founded in 2000, SMU has quickly become a leader in research and curriculum related to social innovation, in great part due to their Lien Centre for Social Innovation. SMU’s Masters in Tri-Sector Collaboration takes a unique approach to the increasingly interdisciplinary world, preparing students to be leaders in business, government, and civil society. In addition, the newly launched SMU-X program is designed to bring project-based learning into the classroom throughout SMU. President De Meyer’s vision of creating an institution where 70- 80% of learning happens outside the classroom is increasingly becoming a reality at this inspiring young institution.

Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla: Born out of Rebellion

Finally, Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) joins the network from Puebla, México as one of the youngest institutions in the network. Founded as an alternative to traditional higher education in Mexico in 1973, UPAEP has a strong intention to be actively involved in its community. Every component of the institution is formed with an eye towards social justice, from the research priorities to the facility management. Their curriculum is particularly unique, beginning with a required comprehensive humanistic development core, ensuring that all students have an underlying understanding of their social responsibility. In addition, the Academic System of Social Relevance provides a guiding philosophy for all curriculum development and research to make them relevant to social challenges. UPAEP’s unique structure and approach brings innovation to a range of vocations not traditionally associated with innovation, such as medicine, engineering, and dentistry. 

“I am excited to see how these three campuses, with their unique strengths, diverse contexts, and passionate champions, enrich the network with new models for teaching, designing, and applying social innovation to solve real-world problems.” Anke Wessels, Executive Director for the Center for Transformative Action and Change Leader at Cornell University.

Led by Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs, the Changemaker Campus designation aims to develop new models for higher education. It envisions a day when universities everywhere provide each student with access to the resources, learning opportunities, role models, and peer community needed to actualize their full potential as changemakers. The program gives students and faculty alike the skills and mindset they need to tackle systemic problems and effect positive social change regardless of their discipline.