AshokaU and George Mason University: Continued Commitment to Lead Social Innovation in Higher Education

by Anne Reynolds

AshokaU and George Mason University: Continued Commitment to Lead Social Innovation in Higher Education
President Cabrera participates in panel discussion at AshokaU Exchange conference.

Since 2008, George Mason University has been designated a Changemaker Campus by AshokaU, an international network of higher education institutions that create and support innovative solutions to the world’s pressing social problems. Mason reinforced this leadership role last weekend with its extensive participation in the 2015 AshokaU Exchange. 

The Exchange brings together more than 650 university faculty members, staff, administrators, and students, representing 150 institutions. Each comes with the mission of sharing their ideas and stories for incorporating social entrepreneurship within a higher learning environment.

Mason’s president, Ángel Cabrera, served as one of the conference’s key speakers, addressing the group on “Leading in a Changing World.” He led a team from Mason that included Lisa Gring-Pemble, dean, New Century College, Paul Rogers, associate professor and associate chair of Mason’s English department, and Betsy Schmidt, director and visiting professor, Center for Social Entrepreneurship, who presented on a panel on “Multiple Schools, Multiple Discipline Hybrid Distance Learning.” A number of Mason students also participated in the conference.   

The Changemaker Campus designation is based on Mason's commitment to social innovation education; it was one of the first four universities to have been so recognized. In this role, Mason is proud to serve as a leader among campuses that seek to drive social change through higher education, explained Schmidt. At the conference, Schmidt introduced one of the newest Changemaker Campuses, Claremont McKenna, and helped mentor Gallaudet College in its social enterprise ventures. Currently, Mason is part of a cohort of universities – along with Babson College, Duke University, Tulane University, and Arizona State University – that are recommitting to Ashoka’s principles.

“George Mason is proud to have been a pioneering Changemaker Campus since Ashoka began in 2008, and we look forward to continuing to work with their organization,” Cabrera says. “Social innovation is a key component to the Mason learning experience. We strive to prepare graduates who are grounded in the philosophy that ‘everyone can be a Changemaker.’”

Schmidt found the experience invaluable. “It is so constructive to speak with other universities who are committed to social innovation education,” she said. “To see the ways that they are promoting and facilitating student changemakers inspires our vision at Mason as we engage the next generation of global problem solvers.”

Gring-Pemble agrees. “The Mason community embodies the Changemaker mantle,” she says. "Across disciplines and at every level, we support research, education and problem-solving to make an impact. From exploring novel approaches to disease prevention, to interning with at-risk youth, to promoting sustainability efforts on and off-campus, Mason demonstrates that innovative thinking and university-wide collaboration lead us closer to solving today’s great challenges.”