Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Universities Lauded for Community Engagement Join Changemaker Campus Network

Arlington, VA (March 29, 2016) –

Ashoka U announced today that CQUniversity Australia and Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University will join their consortium of Changemaker Campuses.

The university initiative of Ashoka, called Ashoka U, has been selecting Changemaker Campuses since 2008 in an effort to demonstrate that a more entrepreneurial, innovative, and world-changing higher education sector is possible. CQUniversity and Wilfrid Laurier University are joining 35 other campuses across seven countries that are leading social entrepreneurship in higher education. Both CQUni and Laurier join the Ashoka U network with esteemed models of authentic community engagement.

CQUniversity, the first Changemaker Campus in Australia, and only the second in the Asia Pacific Region is at the forefront of a movement to redefine and enhance social innovation practices in higher education in the region. Known as Australia’s most engaged and inclusive university it has a physical presence across all of mainland Australia and has educational opportunities that range from trade certificates to graduate degrees. The University’s commitment to engagement and inclusion is unmistakable; every campus has a Regional Engagement Committee and CQUni is often the biggest employer in the area surrounding its campuses making it a major piece of the local community.

The University was one of the first providers of distance education in Australia having commenced delivery of programs via this model almost half a century ago. Today the University continues to be known as a leader in this area, with almost half its student cohort studying online. CQUni is also committed to opening up pathways for groups that are traditionally underrepresented with the Australian university system including students from regional and remote areas, mature age students and students from disadvantaged and Indigenous backgrounds. Scott Fairbanks, the Ashoka U Commons Associate Director who led the site visit to CQUni observed, “The ethos of not just community engagement but community integration was a consistent theme throughout our time there. We were impressed by the way in which the university encompassed the diversity of their students, and sought to meet their needs, whilst encouraging them to become agents of change.”

Wilfrid Laurier University, joining the Changemaker Campus Consortium alongside CQUniversity, has a long history of community engagement that provides a natural foundation for building an authentic campus-wide culture of social innovation. It is clear that the guiding statement at Laurier, “Inspiring lives of leadership and purpose,” is woven into the fabric of the campuses. The University’s student-centered culture paired with innovative learning opportunities empowers students to deepen their engagement with social and environmental challenges. Laurier encourages students to get involved and provides many pathways to become active. For instance, more than 175 student clubs and over 70% of the upperclassmen are highly engaged in the community, Student entrepreneurs can find support and resources in programs like Laurier’s Social Innovation Zones and LaunchPad, which provide collaborative workspaces free of charge for student ventures.

Like CQUniversity, Wilfrid Laurier University is also deeply engaged with the local community around the Waterloo and Brantford campuses. “Laurier seeks to foster cultural exchange and understanding between Laurier, the Kitchener-Waterloo and Brantford communities, and indigenous communities” said Sarah-Marie Hopf, the Ashoka U Campus Partnerships Manager. “During our time on campus, we were particularly excited to learn about Laurier’s innovative partnerships with the city of Brantford and community organizations. We were also very impressed with how Laurier was integrating indigenous issues and knowledge systems into a variety of experiential programming and physical spaces on campus.” It is clear that both CQUniversity and Laurier will be a significant asset to the Changemaker Campus network.