Inside USD

Festival of Inspiration for Changemaking

Monday, October 7, 2013

University of San Diego students Shelby Herzig and Brittany Carava were engaged in a discussion with Brent Freeman, a 28-year-old social business entrepreneur who runs the online marketplace called Roozt.com, which is equal parts shopping and committed to social good.

Freeman listened intently to questions they posed to him following his presentation at the Changemaker Fest’s RECESS Study Hall speakers event last Thursday in UC Forum C. When he spoke to their inquiries, it was evident that he’s found a successful path to social entrepreneurship. His recommendations for Changemakers-to-be?

“Be passionate. Be focused. Be innovative. Be persistent. Create lasting, meaningful relationships. Smile. Laugh. Dream. Achieve.”

On the other side of the room, Ailsa Tirado was alongside other USD students seeking advice from Lilly Kam, director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs for the i.am.angel foundation created by Black Eyed Peas musician will.I.am. Kam told Tirado and other young women they need to be fearless and be willing to take risks: “Do something crazy and get out of your comfort zone.”

Talks by Freeman, Kam and Prizeo’s Bobby Maylack and One’s Cory Levy and their bonus time spent with students sought to deepen the conversation and strengthen USD’s Ashoka U Changemaker Campus designation.

“I’m super inspired after listening to them speak,” said Tirado, a junior industrial and systems engineering major and one of nine USD students who served as a Summer Changemaker Fellow.

Herzig, an English major graduating in December who is also president of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority and teaches a freshman Emerging Leaders class is an inspirational role model herself. She, however, said the speakers provided a spark.

‘This was impactful to me because there are times when you can get bogged down, wondering ‘how can I do this?’ but then you hear them talk and they’re real people, they’re people close to our age.”

Carava, a junior communications major with minors in biology and Spanish, said she’s been looking for a good fit for her Changemaker interest. Hearing Freeman confirm that sticking to what she’s most passionate about, motivated her.

The University of San Diego has worked on multiple levels to spread awareness for students to embrace their inner Changemaker. The weeklong, third annual Changemaker Fest presented numerous examples and opportunities to define, explore and put social change into action.

Prior to Thursday’s entrepreneurial speaker series, USD hosted a festival and career fair that was part playful with booths offering games and prizes and part grounded with those who focus on making a difference, whether it was through education, study abroad, community service, or students being filmed while sharing their bright social idea.

Patricia Marquez, director of USD’s Changemaker Hub and associate professor of management in the School of Business Administration, along with students Leo Brown-Young and Alexa McAnemy, introduced the 2013-14 Changemaker Challenge issue/contest: Examining food justice through the ways it both benefits (community gardens, social gatherings) and addressing problems (child obesity and hunger among the poor).

“This is an opportunity to unite everyone in the community through a social challenge, to have a dialogue and learn from each other so that we can come up with initiatives that benefit the whole community,” Marquez said of the Changemaker Challenge.

Perhaps food nourishment for human life will inspire USD’s Students for Life organization to participate in the Changemaker Challenge.

Angela Vanella, a junior architecture major, was at the Students for Life table. Standing next to a sign expressing encouragement for people to “Be a Lifesaver,” she offered multiple examples of how the organization’s members can find their passion for changemaking via human issues.

The group is dedicated to education for the campus community about homelessness (young and adult), AIDS, death penalty, immigration, human trafficking and more. Students for Life hosts L.I.F.E. Week each spring and examines these various topics.

Vanella said her Changemaker passion is tied to her architecture area of study. She is concerned about people who are displaced from their homes through government actions. Her interest, her passion, is at the heart of what both USD President Mary E. Lyons and USD Associated Students President Alex Hermann praised about USD’s Changemaker movement.

Hermann expressed three items that can help define a Changemaker: “Change starts from within. Understand the importance of servant leadership. Embrace gratitude.”

Lyons, speaking to the festival audience, said the Changemaker approach is recognized and appreciated at USD.

“What’s evolving in this community is an ecosystem that’s breaking down silos, barriers, obstacles and impediments to real, substantial change. The modeling you are doing as students — by your collaborations, cooperation by working together in creative and incredible ways — is defining what we mean at this university by being a Changemaker campus.”

“What you’re doing as social entrepreneurs, as Changemakers, is at the very heart of the mission of USD,” she continued. “When our founders created this university, they didn’t use the language of Ashoka, Changemaker or fest. They used a different language from their era. Even though there’s new language now, your work and your incredible talent are as vital and relevant today as was the inspiration of USD’s founders. My message to you is gratitude, encouragement and support. We are a Changemaker Campus. We are the Toreros. Congratulations. I’m so proud to be part of your community.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Changemaker Festival photos courtesy of Chris Keeney

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