Jessica Lax

Increasing Ashoka U's breadth of impact

Changemaking in the time of Coronavirus

It has become incredibly clear that the current moment of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic is not only unprecedented in the world, but also in higher education. It has forced, almost overnight, a huge transition that is unlike anything campuses have done before.

Amid the stories of rapid change, we have also seen an outpouring of solidarity, creativity, compassion, connection, and commitment from many of our campus innovators.

Hearing these stories we’ve been reminded that in our current reality we can and we must all be changemakers.

Changemaker. Noun – One who desires change in the world and, by gathering knowledge and resources, makes that change happen.

With that in mind, we wanted to share the many incredible stories and resources that have been shared with us by our campus community of changemakers. We know there is a lot out there on COVID-19 responses so we’ve tried to curate a list of our favourites.

Producing PPE for health care workers

Many campuses, like Florida International University, Georgian College, and the University of North Carolina are stepping up to make PPE in their maker-spaces.

Spanish Ashoka Fellow David Cuartielles, an innovator in the open-source space, has also co-founded the Coronavirus Makers Forum — creating and connecting a community of practice across the world to speed the development of potentially life-saving solutions in real-time.

Sourcing Solutions

Other campuses are working to harness collective brainpower. Virginia Commonwealth University launched a design sprint inviting all VCU students to explore solutions related to COVID-19 through healthcare and innovation. The University of Evansville is releasing a fun weekly challenge focusing on re-imagining an aspect of everyday life during the pandemic.  It’s open to all – join in this week’s challenge here.

Offering glimmers of hope, courage, resilience, and fun, institutions are lifting up stories from their communities. The University of San Diego created a page dedicated to the stories that “define the Torero spirit” in this time, sourced in part from social media channels using the hashtag #TorerosTogether.

Supporting Students

To make sure students were not harmed by circumstances they could not control, The New School in New York City changed their spring grading policy to award an A or A- to all students if they complete course requirements.

At the University of St.Thomas, the student government donated funds collected from student events and programs that were cancelled to an emergency fund for affected students.  The fund has now attracted many other donors and is financially supporting students who have unexpected expenses or have lost their job as a result of the outbreak.

Institutions are focusing on mental health and wellbeing support for students as well as faculty and staff. Georgian College hosts daily 10-minute virtual meditations. Tulane University created a webpage dedicated to coping tools during high-stress times.

Teaching & Learning

Portland State University and Campus Compact have compiled great lists of resources and ideas on taking your Community Based Learning virtual.  Our friends at Project Wayfinder have also created a virtual curriculum for students focused on building meaningful connections in a time of isolation.

Spanish speakers can also find support in this online course developed by our friends at 2811 on teaching social innovation in a virtual setting.

Arizona State University put together a library of virtual resources, ASU for You, for learners and educator. It provides a flexible and growing set of digital educational assets.

Ashoka Fellow Responses

For more inspiration on how innovators are responding read a few of the hundreds of stories and actions arising from the network of Ashoka Fellows in 90+ countries.

Opening for Creativity

Have some artistic skills?  We’ve also been inspired by these responses to Amplifiers Global Call for Art in response to COVID-19.


If you have a story or resource about campus changemakers responding to COVID-19 that you’d like to add to this growing list please send it to [email protected].

In the meantime we hold all changemakers – especially front line workers – in our thoughts as they save lives and make the world better for all. Thank you – and be well!