Feb. 15, 2019Print | PDF
Three students and two staff members from Wilfrid Laurier University are heading to San Diego, California as “changemakers.”
Students Hillary Scanlon, Kamil Ahmed and Perri Termine, as well as staff members Linda Chamberlain and Lauren Burrows, will make presentations at the Ashoka U Exchange, an annual gathering that examines ways to place social impact and changemaking at the forefront of the teaching and learning experience. This year's Ashoka U Exchange takes place Feb. 21 to 23.
“When students share their experiences, they can change the trajectory of an institution,” says Ahmed, a fourth-year Global Studies student.
“I see problems as opportunities – not barriers to my success.”
Laurier was designated a Changemaker Campus by Ashoka U in 2016 for its global leadership in social entrepreneurship and social innovation. Ashoka U is a global network that strives to foster a culture of social innovation in higher education. Changemaking is the concept of creating positive social change in the world.
“Changemaking is baked into the DNA of Laurier, and we are working hard to ensure that we support our students to become changemakers and fulfil the Ashoka vision of an ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ world,” says Laura Allan, executive director of the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation and Laurier’s designated Ashoka U Change Leader.
The centre hosted a number of events in January during its first-annual Changemaker Awareness Month and the centre’s Changemaker Innovation Challenge runs throughout the winter semester.
In 2018, Scanlon, a fourth-year Global Studies student, was awarded second place in the Innovative Designs for Accessibility Challenge for her social venture, Sustainability Through an Inclusive Lens (STIL). STIL is a product which assists those with vision loss to independently and effectively dispose of their waste in public spaces through a series of visual and tactile floor signs placed in front of waste containers. These signs, which are “read” by touch, were conceptualized and developed by Scanlon after she unexpectedly lost her vision in 2016.
“I see problems as opportunities – not barriers to my success,” says Scanlon.
Linda Chamberlain, a disability consultant with Accessible Learning at Laurier, will join Scanlon on stage during the Ashoka U Exchange for a presentation called “Disability and Accessibility: Extending the Frontiers of Innovation,” which will focus on the ways disability and accessibility are interconnected with social innovation and changemaking practices.
“As students, if we really want to see progress, we need to take ownership over the direction of our future.”
Like Scanlon, Ahmed and fourth-year Global Studies student Termine, have in the past attended the Ashoka U Exchange as participants. As presenters, Ahmed and Termine will discuss their collaboration with undergraduate student leaders from six North American universities to address ways students can support strategic planning within academia.
“Not all students will have the same chance to effect change,” says Ahmed. “But students have a responsibility to speak up and share their voice when presented the opportunity.”
Scanlon, Ahmed, and Termine have created and led changemaking initiatives through their work and leadership with Laurier’s C3 Innovation Labs, a program hub which offers experiential learning opportunities to students across the “three Cs”: campus, city and community.
Ahmed and Termine’s student panel will explore personal perspectives and approaches to engaging students in changemaking initiatives. With a potential audience of students, administrators and instructors, the pair hopes to convey the benefits of inviting students to participate in strategic decision-making and community-building conversations.
“As students, if we really want to see progress, we need to take ownership over the direction of our future,” says Termine.
Burrows, an education and inclusion coordinator at Laurier’s Brantford campus, will co-present a workshop at the Ashoka U Exchange called “Talk is Cheap: Developing Meaningful Tools for Organizational and Individual Equity Seeking.”
Along with colleagues from Temple University and Miami Dade College, Burrows will address the differences between diversity, inclusion and equity, as well as explore how changemakers can live their values by embodying equity-seeking attitudes and behaviours.