PSU named an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus for social innovation leadership
Author: Erin Merz, The School of Business
Posted: October 24, 2018
PSU students work with a farmer in Cambodia

As a leader in social innovation education worldwide, Portland State University has once again been named an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. After a rigorous, year-long review process, PSU’s membership has been renewed for another five years, placing it among a global community of leaders and institutions who work collectively to make social innovation and changemaking a reality in higher education. Being named an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus reaffirms PSU’s commitment to social innovation across its curriculum, research activities and community engagement.

PSU shares this designation with fewer than 50 colleges and universities in the world, including Babson, Brown, Duke and Middlebury. PSU was the first public university to be named a Changemaker Campus and remains the only one in Oregon. Since PSU’s original designation in 2012, the university continues to expand its deep commitment to innovation for social and environmental benefit. 

The renewal highlighted PSU’s “faculty spirit and identity as changemakers,” and its “passionate entrepreneurial commitment to interdisciplinary efforts that advance systemic change” as key factors in the designation. In addition, PSU demonstrated “exemplary institutional work around access and equity,” including a “number of innovative models that can serve as excellent models for replication in other colleges and universities.” 

“PSU faculty and staff have done so much to improve the lives of Portlanders, Oregonians and people around the globe,” said PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi. “We are proud that PSU’s commitment to social innovation across the campus and the positive impact of our work continues to be recognized by Ashoka U.”

PSU offers over 30 programs across its nine schools for students and the community to learn, research and experience social innovation. Key PSU social innovation programs include:

  • Sleeping pods — small individual housing units — designed and built for women and veterans experiencing homelessness by the Center for Public Interest Design.
  • An art museum and collaborative program housed in Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and led by the MFA in Art and Social Practice.
  • An online certificate in social innovation that empowers students with skills to design, launch and/or lead a program or organization to address an issue they care about.
Elevating Impact Conference

“PSU’s Certificate in Social Innovation allowed me to use business as a force for good,” said Vineta Gleba, ’18, who was recently appointed director of marketing and communications at Kalu Yala, a sustainable village being built in a Panamanian river valley. “Combined with my marketing major and community development minor, my education at PSU set me up perfectly to operate on a triple bottom line and help build a sustainable town from the ground up.”

PSU’s Changemaker Campus team is made up of 19 faculty and staff from across campus. The Change Leaders team, who have the responsibility to continue our leadership in the worldwide Changemaker Campus Network at Ashoka U, includes Jacen Greene, Director of Impact Entrepreneurs, School of Business; Sandra Morris, Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, School of Business; and Dr. Billie Sandberg, Assistant Professor of Public Administration and Director of the Nonprofit Institute, Mark O. Hatfield School of Government.

The Ashoka designation comes on the heels of the creation of PSU’s two new university research centers — the Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative and the Digital City Testbed Center, both of which have PSU Change Leaders on their planning teams and have missions closely aligned with a Changemaker Campus designation. 

Founded in 1980, Ashoka is the largest global network of social entrepreneurs and changemakers. Ashoka seeks to contribute to an Everyone a Changemaker world where every young person grows up to become an adult changemaker, capable of taking creative action to solve a social problem; a world where the development of young changemakers and the practice of changemaking are the norm.

Building on Ashoka’s vision for a world where Everyone is a Changemaker, Ashoka U collaborates with colleges and universities to impact the education of millions of students by fostering an ecosystem for social innovation and changemaking. Ashoka U gives emerging young leaders the freedom, confidence and support to address social problems and drive change.

To learn more about social innovation education at PSU, visit Impact Entrepreneurs online, and attend the annual Elevating Impact Summit on March 15 at Portland Center Stage in The Armory.

Top photo caption: PSU students meet with a farmer in Cambodia as part of a social enterprise field study exploring rural entrepreneurship.

Bottom photo caption: PSU's Elevating Impact Summit attracts more than 500 attendees each year to discuss social innovation across sectors.