Danielle Barbeau

Danielle was a student at the University of San Diego and member of the Ashoka U Live Team.

Stacey Williams on the Disruption Needed in Higher Education: Breaking out of the box

This is the second in a series of posts featuring Ashoka U Exchange participants discussing “Disruptive Innovation in Higher Education.” This week we feature Stacey Williams, Graduate Student, M.A. Higher Education Leadership in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego (USD).

When asked about her personal definition of disruptive innovation, Stacey Williams, a first-year master’s student in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego, remarked: “Disruptive innovation is about bringing out the creativity in others and myself; it’s teaching students not just through a lecture but through hands on practical experience, community based work, and building relationship across class lines. In other words, she says, it’s, breaking out of the box.”

Through her work as graduate assistant in the Women’s Center, Williams explained that breaking out of the box means challenging students to take responsibility and ownership of the programs, such as the Empower Leadership Retreat, which Williams will help facilitate with the Center in late February 2012.

Williams also sees disruptive innovation happening in her graduate classes at USD. The Leadership Studies program is unique in its experimental and interdisciplinary nature. Classes create a practice field for students, which Williams says, “Disrupts our standard picture of the professor-student relationship.”

Given William’s passion for student affairs and her desire to pursue a career in Higher Education Leadership, the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus partnership at USD immediately piqued her interest.

“As soon as I got to campus there was this buzz about this new [Ashoka U] distinction at USD. So, I started doing some research to learn more.” With fellow student Jaclyn Miller, William’s research evolved into a theory for change that states, “people have the capacity to initiate and sustain large-scale change when their organization is grounded in the exchange of (1) ideas, (2) relationships, and (3) mutual empowerment. These three attributes must exist within the individual, the organization, and the change efforts.” To get a deeper look into their work, take a look at the duo’s super fun and informative Prezi.

This Prezi collaboration turned into a semester-long project for an Organizational Leadership and Theory class. Combined with the opportunity to attend the Ashoka U Exchange, Williams represents an important student voice as change leader at USD.

As she looks ahead toward attending the Exchange, Williams says that what she hopes to walk away with “a better sense of what changemaking means to folks who have been more involved in social entrepreneurship at other campuses,” particularly when it comes to practical ideas that she can take back to the Women’s Center.

In exchange, Williams hopes to bring a student perspective to the conversation. “Being a recent college graduate and current student, I have a different perspective to share: what does change mean to me? What does impact me? How have I developed as a changemaker and what experiences have contributed to that?”

When asked what she thinks is most important for people to know about the Exchange, Williams replied, “People are the strength of the Exchange. They may not be from the same academic field, but we all come from a similar motivation of what we want to create. Regardless of where you come from, there will be something for you, and it might be something you’ve never heard of before.”

While Williams is looking forward to participating in the Exchange, she’s got plenty to do before February. Currently she is in El Salvador participating in an immersion trip and working with the community. After that she’ll come back to the Women’s Center where she’ll gear up the upcoming leadership retreat, and she’ll start up her second semester of graduate classes. Somehow she’ll manage not only to get all of this done, but also to do it with a grace that comes from doing what you are truly passionate about.