Charlotte Vitak

Charlotte is the Founder & Director of My Story (www.mystorycommunity.com).

7 Sessions I’m Excited About at #Exchange2018

 

When I think of higher education conferences (or just conferences in general), images of boring speakers, tired attendees, and sad pots of coffee are the first things that come to mind.

However, when I think of the Ashoka U Exchange I don’t think at all. With an eye toward building a community of higher ed changemakers, it’s a gathering that focuses on curricular and co-curricular innovation. My mind is filled with energetic conversations, career changing connections, and radically different new ideas.

Since attending in 2014, the Exchange has become a standing date on my calendar. The experience played a critical role in building my network and shaping my thinking, personally and professionally. I first attended as a college freshman and this year I will be attending as co-founder of an organization called My Story.

If you haven’t had the chance to attend, the Exchange is Ashoka’s premier gathering for changemaker educators in higher education. This year it will be co-hosted by Babson College in Boston on April 5-7th. With over 700 attendees from around the world, I’ve never left the conference without at least 3 meaningful connections and a list of new ideas to put into practice.

I was excited to dig into the just launched agenda and see what topics are featured in 2018. It wasn’t easy, but I chose just seven sessions that from the over 60 sessions at the Exchange I can’t wait to attend. 

 

1. Building a Change Team  Saturday, April 7th, 9:00-10:30 AM

Organizing the right team to build a campus “changemaker” culture as part of it’s ethos is no easy task. There is a considerable amount of strategic thinking that needs to go into who you invite to join the team and how to set up the team to work well together. Sharing wisdom from their own experience, James Stauch from Mount Royal University, Joanne Starr from the University of California , San Diego, Jerrid P. Kalakay from Valencia College, and Mike Williams from the University of San Diego will be leading this session. Whether you are searching for key allies across campus or looking to expand your current troop, this session will be essential. The best part is, everyone sitting in that room will be facing the same challenges, making for great brainstorming buddies right after the session or four weeks later when you’ve hit a bump in the road. Read the description here.

2. Rapid Prototyping for Innovation  Thursday, April 5th, 2:00-3:30 PM

The Exchange is famous for hosting great hands-on workshops that get attendees up, thinking, and active. This session will be no exception. Hosted by Gray Garmon and Devon Skerritt of Southern Methodist University, this session will teach you the best method for road-testing your ideas – rapid prototyping. I think rapid prototyping is a vital skill for any social innovation educator and I’m excited that this workshop will give you actual experience as you test numerous ideas and receive real-time feedback. Attending this session will be great for learning about what rapid prototyping is or learning new and exciting ways of how to teach it. Read the description here.

3. Speaking Race to Power Thursday, April 5th, 2:00-3:30 PM

Social impact education is hollow if we don’t center it around the challenges we aim to address. But beyond this, social impact education falls short if it doesn’t consider inequality and societal context of the communities served. The session Speaking Race to Power, run by Sujatha Jesudasan from The New School, focuses on the practice of calling each other into partnership in order to challenge inequality together. With many facing racial tensions on campus, this session is likely to provide valuable insights to take back home and put into practice. Read the description here.

4. Strategies for a Changemaker Institution Thursday, April 5th, 4:00-5:30 PM

No strategy will lead every campus to growth and success. For those who have strategized successfully, you know it requires a lot of trial and error, redirecting, and always staying on your toes. In this session you will hear from the first-hand experience of Leo Wong at MacEwan University, Lara Carton at CQUniversity, Michele Meyer at Rollins College, and Robert Grimm at the University of Maryland. From these leaders in institutional innovation, you will learn what works in each of their campus contexts, what doesn’t, and what you can try on your own campus to increase buy-in and integration. Get inspired and walk away ready to take your own Changemaker Institution strategy to the next level. Read the description here.

5. Site Visits Various Times – Sign Up Required

Site Visits are a unique tradition of the Exchange that brings people back year after year. They take place at local sites of social innovation around the host university. Participants load onto a bus, drive to a new location, and learn about different programs going on within the city. They meet founders, talk with beneficiaries, and learn about functional programs from the inside out (and make use of one of the best informal networking opportunities to connect with other attendees en route!). Be sure to watch your inbox and sign up as soon as site visit registration is released. The visits fill up fast! This year the Exchange will feature everything from Inner City Weightlifting, a gym transformed in a social change hub, to Artists For Humanity, an organization infusing changemaking into the arts. 

6. Big Idea Talks Various Times

Big Idea Talks are a new addition to the Exchange this year. These sessions cluster four TedX style talks for an hour and a half of mind-blowing social innovation insights. Some of the talks include “Hate, Love, and Reconciliation in Our Time: The Role of Changemakers” by Jonathan Isham at Middlebury College, and “A New Tribe of Designers: What a group of non-speaking autistic young adults taught me about design thinking” by Meenu Singh at the University of Maryland. These talks are going to be quick, smart, and inspiring. There will be time for conversations through Q&A to let the ideas spark conversations that can be carried on throughout the conference.

7. Cross-Ashoka Track Various times

The Cross-Ashoka track is another exciting addition to the 2018 Exchange.  The goal of the track is to give Exchange attendees a backstage pass to the inner workings of Ashoka – a global organization with over 400 staff, working in 98 countries and recently ranked in the top five of the world’s best NGO’s. Having been around for more than 35 years Ashoka has a wealth of insights about systems change, patterns of innovation, and building a team of teams organization. The 7 sessions in this track will seek to share those insights and invite campuses to expand their connection across Ashoka. I’ve got my eye on a number of the sessions in this new track including Harvesting Global Trends from 3500 Global Innovators, Graduating 20 million changemakers – Ashoka U’s approach to systems change, and Partnerships: Beyond Higher Ed & into K-12.  

 

Ready to plan your agenda?  Check out the full list of #Exchange2018 sessions here.  

Still waiting to buy your ticket?  Time is running out – register now so you can lock in your travel plans (and get in on the best site visits)!

Join the conversation about which sessions you are most excited about by using the #Exchange2018 hashtag.

See you in Boston!

 

Charlotte is a social entrepreneur who believes in the power of storytelling to build community and effect change. In addition to being a part of the #Exchange2018 editorial team, Charlotte is the Director of My Story.  She started My Story when she was a sophomore in college. My Story grew and grew by popular demand until it became a business. Currently, Charlotte is hosting My Story at colleges all across the US in hopes of helping people grow in the practice of empathy and their understanding of diversity.