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Northeastern students are working to cultivate social change

As student leaders within Northeastern’s social impact ecosystem, Alexandra Fraenkel and Rebecca Darling often recognize the “changemaker” spirit of their fellow students—their desire to help solve social challenges within their community.

But they often ponder the best way to help these nascent humanitarians harness their desire to make meaningful contributions to social change.

Last week, they might have found the answer, when Northeastern was named a “Changemaker Campus” by Ashoka U, joining a global network of universities recognized for outstanding achievement in social innovation education. Only 34 other higher education institutions—including Duke University, Stanford University, Brown, Cornell and the University of Northampton in England—have earned the distinction.

“This will help us gain momentum around the changemaker concept and get students across campus excited about all the possible opportunities this offers,” said Fraenkel, SSH’15. “This is a new start and it is time to celebrate what has led us all here but also encourage each other to try something new.”

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Left, Rebecca Riccio, founding director of the Social Impact Lab, Alexandra Fraenkel, and Rebecca Darling, holding the “Changemaker Campus” award presented to them at the Ashoka U Exchange last week. Courtesy photo

There are number opportunities for students to make a difference. They can work with IDEA, the university’s student-run venture, to launch a social impact-focused venture, take part in a service-learning program through the Social Enterprise Institute, or walk with Northeastern’s Relay For Life, to name just a few.

Northeastern will celebrate students’ contributions to social change on Monday with Changemaker Day, a student-led effort to recognize the university’s achievements in social innovation. A variety of campus activities are planned in the Curry Student Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., a town hall meeting for faculty and staff at 1:30 p.m. in the Alumni Center, and a networking event in afterHOURS will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.

Fraenkel and Darling cultivated their changemaker passion through Northeastern Students4Giving, an experiential philanthropy education program in the Social Impact Lab that combines rigorous academic work with real-dollar grant making to address social challenges in Boston neighborhoods.

“The idea of changemaking is not business, it is not psychology, it is not human services. It is a combination of all those factors and it can materialize in whatever aligns with a person’s interest,” said Darling, SSH’15. “Everyone sees social problems in their lives and they are motivated to create some change around that.”

Darling and Fraenkel have spoken with many students who said they couldn’t wait to harness the possibilities of Northeastern’s new “changemaker” designation to facilitate meaningful social change. “It is a real opportunity for students to come together and make what we want out of the designation,” Fraenkel said.