Johanna Brooks

Johanna has lived overseas in Singapore, Indonesia and Nairobi, Kenya and is a recent graduate of American University in Washington, DC.

Stories of Impact: Spotlight on Faculty Changemaker Dr. Lani Fraizer

Lani Fraizer, new Changemaker in Social Entrepreneurship education

Lani Fraizer of Synergies in Sync has been busy! Integrating learning, technology, and workforce development have been a focal point for Lani as an educator and practitioner during the last 14 years. Since beginning her foray into the world of teaching Social Entrepreneurship to graduate students at the beginning of 2011, she has been working on architecting an entirely new learning experience – one that blends her experience and passion for integrative learning technologies & virtual communities with Social Entrepreneurship best practices, enhanced inter-disciplinary views, and ‘transformational’ experiences.

When advising on new education programs or developing new curriculum, Lani seeks to embody 3 main elements: First, to offer a course where technology & social media could be seamlessly integrated. Second, to create a learner-focused reflective component, so that students would have an opportunity to further develop their own stories through personal development and growth . And third, to provide a transformational learning experience for learners; one in which students would feel comfortable to explore new concepts and ideas, thereby maximizing their potential for “aha” moments.

Accessing tools and support for new course development

With the help of the Ashoka U Curriculum Guide, which highlights the ‘Top 10 Syllabi’ in Social Entrepreneurship education (vetted by a distinguished Review Board of experienced foundation directors, Social Entrepreneur practitioners, academics, and students – and selected based on the strength of their Innovation, Rigor, and Practical Relevance), Lani was able to view top syllabi from colleagues around the world. Through reviewing these syllabi, she identified various approaches & modalities that aligned with elements she knew she wanted to creatively incorporate into her own courses, workshops, and consulting practice.

Sifting through the pages of the Curriculum Guide – which highlights strengths, weaknesses, and need niches in Social Entrepreneurship education curriculum – Lani came across Anke Wessel’s curriculum at Cornell University, called “Changemakers, Innovators and Problem Solvers.” She was inspired by her transformative approach to teaching, which combines conceptual learning with active reflection, and Lani began to envision how to link in her own passions for interactive media, social networking, blogging, and audio-visual with transformative, life-based activities.

She contacted Anke and immediately they made a connection as Lani probed her with questions and Anke shared her insights and experiences. Anke was very receptive to ongoing communication and to the idea of forming a peer-to-peer mentoring circle, and the two had an opportunity to meet virtually and one-to-one at the Ashoka U Exchange in February. Anke was also interested in how to best integrate technology in her curriculum and thus were able to exchange best practices. They remain closely connected to this day, albeit virtually.

Lani’s current Changemaking work in the classroom

Lani recently developed a curriculum integrating social media, web 2.0, and information and communication technologies, then taught the course to graduate students at the beginning of 2011, “Social Entrepreneurship” (at Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology). The course culminated in a successful inaugural launch of Changemakers Symposium, which brought students together with practitioners and industry experts.

She is teaching two other courses: “The Organization of the Vocational, Technical, and Adult Learning Community,” a graduate-level course in workforce development & “Introduction to Technology-Based Teaching Strategies in Career Technical Education.” an undergraduate course focusing on information technology (California State University, Sacramento).

Each of Lani’s courses center around either social entrepreneurship & Changemaking, or use social entrepreneurship as a base for introducing other concepts. Typically her virtual classes or education programs she helps other organizations design meet 60% of the time in-person and 40% online, so that students have time outside of the classroom to engage with external communities, as well as with each other.

She addresses her students as “Changemakers” and has found that after adapting to the idea, students feel proud to embody this new cultural identity and mindset of ‘Everyone a Changemaker’. She says, “As Ashoka continues to inspire me, one of the things I aspire to accomplish when I teach or consult with organizations is to impart an overall excitement about technology AND changemaking—regardless of the subject-matter. Both changemaking and technology can be powerful catalysts for a better life and economic opportunity for students of any discipline, anywhere in the world.”

As for the future?

“Being part of a larger community of academics who are actively mentoring each other just expands our collective potential,” Lani says. “I would like to see more faculty-to-faculty, faculty-to-practitioner mentorship programs and technology-enhanced courses as an augment to the Ashoka U Curriculum Guide and the Social Entrepreneurship Education Resource Handbook. As the field of Social Entrepreneurship spreads, sharing best practices with each other – especially those who are newer to teaching in the field – will ensure that the entire spectrum of possibility is accessible.”