Fordham U Wins Award For Universities Dedicated To Social Change

Fordham University has been honored as a leader in social innovation education with a designation as “changemaker campus” by Ashoka, a global association of leading social entrepreneurs.  The University’s engagement with the community in the Bronx as well as its focus on research in areas such as health care, technology, environmental protection, social justice, and religious dialogue, are reasons the institution won.
With the designation, Fordham joins a network of 25 other universities and colleges around the nation that are dedicated to changing the world through social innovation. Other members include fellow Jesuit schools Boston College and Marquette University, and elite schools such as Princeton, Duke, Cornell, and Brown Universities.

The University’s Jesuit identity and commitment to teaching students to be “men and women for others” is likewise a factor, said Marina Kim, co-founder and executive director of Ashoka U.  Jesuit schools, run by the Society of Jesus, stress a philosophy called cura personalis, which calls for schools to go beyond academics and teach morality and citizenship as well.

“The service-learning program is deeply embedded into the campus culture, and that’s a hugely important foundation on which to build new social entrepreneurship,” Kim said. “There are a lot of building blocks already in place, and already strong, that [are] aligned with social innovation as a broader campus-wide strategy.”

Ashoka U’s primary focus is in strengthening networks of like-minded individuals, both within a university and within the changemaker campus network. At Fordham, Ron Jacobson, Ph.D., associate vice president in the Office of the Provost, said this is exemplified through the newly formed “Fordham Social Innovation Collaboratory” (FSIC).

The three main themes that FSIC will address are global environmental sustainability, human well-being, and social justice and poverty.

“The whole idea of social innovation is something that Fordham as a Jesuit institution  has been a part of for  almost 175 years, and I think this is just another way of reaffirming the mission of the University,” he said.

“It’s going to break down some of the artificial walls that exist, in terms of curriculum within schools, and in terms of co-curricular activities, where people at one campus know about an event but people at the other campus may not.”

Michael Pirson, Ph.D., associate professor of management systems in the schools of business, first proposed the partnership. He quickly found others interested in the collaboration, including Jacobson and John Davenport, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy. Pirson hopes it will help Fordham redefine itself based on its strengths and map out a vision for the world.

“There’s so much complexity, so many big problems and big issues that we’re all faced with,” he said. “In some ways, education is lagging behind, in terms of adapting to what folks need to know to make sense of the complex and always-changing environment.”

In addition to integrating curriculum so that it’s more geared toward social innovation, the partnership also seeks to help students find more opportunities. This will include initiatives such as a social innovation workshop course, hosted by the Gabelli School of Business but open to students throughout the university. A new student organization, Fordham Intercampus Social Innovation Team (FICSIT), has also been founded.

Jordan Catalana, a senio majoring in business administration and minoring in sustainable business, is one of the first students to get involved. She’s a member of the Fordham chapter of the Compass fellowship program, which teaches social entrepreneurship to undergraduates.

“I’ve been hoping for awhile that social innovation at Fordham would be brought to light, marketed to more students, and [that] more faculty be made aware of what’s happening with students and to really engage the administration, because I don’t think they really knew what was happening,” she said.“We’re a Jesuit university that instills this idea that we should be men and women for others.”

The first Ashoka-U-related event will take place on Sept. 3, when David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas (Oxford University Press, 2007), addresses the incoming class of the Gabelli school.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Article: