Ashoka U, a global association of social entrepreneurs, named Brigham Young University as a "Changemaker Campus" Monday. BYU, as well as Brown, Portland State and Rollins College, join 15 previously selected universities as "leading places of social innovation education," Ashoka U said in a news release.
"For us, this is really thrilling. As a program, we've been around for nine years," said Todd Manwaring, managing director of the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance at BYU. "(Ashoka U) is a key organization working with social ventures around the world; being designated by them as one of the best universities focused on this is a thrill, a privilege."
The Ballard Center is part of the Marriott School of Business. Its Economic Self-Reliance program positioned BYU to be named as a Changemaker Campus.
"The world is changing more rapidly than ever before," Marina Kim, Ashoka U's Executive Director, said in the release. "Colleges and universities are faced with the exciting opportunity — and responsibility — to develop the next generation as changemakers, equipping them not only to cope with, but drive and lead change."
To receive the Changemaker Campus title, Ashoka U conducts a selection process, including an application, interviews with faculty and staff, a visit to campus and a selection by a panel of social change and higher-education leaders.
In the case of BYU, Ashoka U approached the leaders in the Ballard Center and asked them to go through the application process. In July, Manwaring went to Washington to be interviewed by a panel about what changes their program was making. It was the final portion of the process after a campus visit in March by Michele Leaman, the Changemaker Campus director for Ashoka U.
"We don't expect every graduate to open their own social venture, but that every student is equipped with a baseline ability to make change," Leaman said. "BYU is an incredible match for that, in part because of their affiliation with the LDS Church."
Additionally, the fact that so many BYU students speak a second language, in large part because of serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, makes a huge difference, Leaman said.
"Students seem to already have a deep exposure to social issues and social problems. There's a deep motivation when students go to BYU, and growing from their faith, they want to make a change," Leaman said.
"One strength BYU brings is that they are incredibly connected with social entrepreneurship programs," Leaman said. "The university can become a platform for really big solutions."
More information about Ashoka U and this year's Changemaker Campuses is available at ashokau.org.
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