PSU named a “Changemaker Campus” by global organization for social entrepreneurship
Author: John Kirkland, University Communications
Posted: September 24, 2012

Portland State University (PSU) has been named a “Changemaker Campus” by Ashoka U because of its commitment to advancing higher education as a key driver of social change and innovation, Ashoka announced today.

Ashoka U is an offshoot of Ashoka, a non-profit organization founded in 1980 to advance social change through entrepreneurial efforts. In addition to Portland State, Ashoka U chose three other colleges for its 2012 Changemaker Campus designation: Brigham Young University, Brown University and Rollins College.

"We are delighted to partner with this world-class organization and its consortium of leading universities,” said Erin Flynn, associate vice president for Strategic Partnerships at PSU. “The designation substantiates the contributions PSU faculty, staff and students are making in the world using the tools of social entrepreneurship."

Ashoka chose PSU for its changemaker designation for a range of factors, including the University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions; its Senior Capstone Program that pairs PSU students with local businesses, non-profits and government entities for problem-solving projects; the Sustainable Water, Energy and Environmental Technologies (SWEET) lab; and Impact Entrepreneurs, a program within the School of Business Administration working to foster social impact through business. 

An Ashoka U representative visited Portland State during the summer, spending two days touring the campus, and meeting with the deans, staff, students and President Wim Wiewel.

“They were impressed with PSU not for a single program, but for PSU’s comprehensive portfolio of programs across campus that endeavor to create a better world. It’s in our DNA,” said Cindy Cooper, director of Impact Entrepreneurs.

PSU also stood out because it is an urban university with strong ties to its surrounding community.

“PSU is inextricable from the community, and we saw that as a great advantage. It’s hard to see where the campus stops and the city begins,” said Ashoka U’s Changemaker Campus Director Michèle Leaman.

As a Changemaker Campus, PSU will be part of an Ashoka-supported network of individuals, organizations, and universities working throughout the world in the area of social entrepreneurship -- a term coined in the 1960s referring to the use of entrepreneurial principles to organize, create an manage ventures to achieve a desired social change.

Since its founding, Ashoka has launched and provided key long-term support to 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs in more than 80 countries. Ashoka provides these “Ashoka Fellows” start-up stipends, professional services and a powerful global network of top social and business entrepreneurs, helping them to spread their innovations globally. Through its Changemaker Campus initiative, Ashoka U works with teams of entrepreneurial students, faculty, administrators and staff to support a favorable environment for social innovation.