Sophia Wang '19, Michelle Chung '20, Kimberly Ly '20, Ngoc Ngo '20, Ishan Mainali '21 at the Ashoka U. Exchange

Five Hamilton students attended the 2018 Ashoka U Exchange, a conference that invites educators, social entrepreneurs, and students to discuss the importance of social innovation and how to cultivate unique ideas for change. With over 700 participants from around the world, the event was held in Boston from April 5-7.

The Ashoka U Exchange is an annual international conference where all of its participants share a common mission: educate leaders and embed social innovation practices into higher education. Hamilton is one of the 45 institutions across the globe that has embraced this vision, having been designated by Ashoka U as a Changemaker Campus in 2014. The title is only given to those institutions that have taken deep and proactive measures to drive social change.

The Exchange offered dozens of learning opportunities for participants, such as chances to hear keynote speeches, take part in networking sessions, visit social impact organizations around the city, and engage in themed workshops.

Some sessions included: “After DACA: Sanctuary Campus 101” which encouraged campus solidarity for undocumented young people as well as “Cultivating Changemakers & Creating Impact: Models for experiential learning” which focused on high impact experiential learning programs.

Interim Dean of Faculty Margaret Gentry also attended the conference, taking the time to discuss with Hamilton students the importance of social innovation and how to implement more practices on campus.

One unique aspect of the Exchange also included a networking session targeted for students to come together and discuss potential for collaborative change. Creating an “Idea Wall,” each student wrote down their own project ideas on posters before going around to share their comments and advice for others.

Participants not only had the opportunity to inspire each other with their proposals for change, but the chance to build lasting connections with other student innovators.

Ishan Mainali ’21 attended the conference as a member of the Hamilton Levitt Center’s Social Innovation Team—a group of students with a mission to foster social innovation opportunities on campus and in broader communities.

The team’s most recent project was proposing the campus’ first Town Hall which was held in collaboration with Student Assembly to cultivate community conversations. Mainali attended the Ashoka U Exchange in order to enhance his understanding of social innovation and bring his newfound knowledge to campus.

“It was interesting to witness so many different college campuses all across the world have a collective conversation on the inclusion of social innovation in our institutions,” Mainali said. “The majority of participants, who were mostly faculty and administrators, supported the idea of working with students to establish more socially innovative campuses.”

This year, participants Michelle Chung ’20, Kimberly Ly ’20, Ishan Mainali ’21, Ngoc Ngo ’20, Sophia Wang ’19 were a few of the 100 students at the conference. They were also joined by Chris Willemsen, associate director of the Levitt Center, and offered student travel funding by the Renyi Leadership Fund.

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