Northeastern recognized for innovative commitment to social change

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.

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.

This designation recognizes Northeastern as a global leader in social innovation and social entrepreneurship education.”
— Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs James C. Bean

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.