Engage - Claremont Lincoln University

Digital Changemaking: Education for a Widening World

Silos. We all decry them, and yet: our perspectives continue to limit us.

We recently read “The Rise of the Sophisticated Changemaker,” published in the Association of American Colleges & Universities on preparing changemakers in universities. I was struck by the usual discussion on the divisions, or silos, that exists across campuses.  Those silos, the article states, have created a limited collaborative environment that is toxic when trying to propose new solutions to the wicked social challenges in the world.

We would like to challenge the authors, Marina Kim and Erin Krampetz, to discuss the often unmentioned silos both in higher education and in public perception of training and professional development: on-ground endeavors and digital education. Even while Kim and Krampetz urge their readers to look beyond typical divisions to increase collaboration, they fail to recognize this persistent divide.

Why is there this perceived disconnect?

Why, when we think “higher education,” do we continue to picture folks in their twenties and thirties living and studying in brick buildings, surrounded by physical campuses, working solely on their degrees?

This is not the reality. Indeed, we know that most graduate students are working professionals; many of them also full time parents or seeking additional education to switch professions or further their careers. And 13.1% of all college degrees—both undergraduate and graduate—were taken entirely online as of 2013—a number that’s only increasing.

Claremont Lincoln University students learn alongside one another in the Claremont Core courses, taking advanced sequence of courses in Mindfulness, Dialogue, Collaboration, and Change, while each cohort pursues its own discipline in MA degrees in Ethical Leadership, Interfaith Action and Social Impact.

Our new educational approach immerses students in a dynamic learning community and encourages the exploration of diverse beliefs, values and traditions. The majority of our students are working professionals, balancing career, family, and community activities.

An MSI student is developing workshops to teach mindfulness to parents of children with disabilities, while teaching full time.

A MEL student has opened a fair trade coffee shop in Washington, balancing his nonprofit endeavor with getting a graduate degree.

These are typical sophisticated changemakers, participating in growing-edge learning environments, disrupting stifling patterns that silo human relationships, and making a difference in their communities.

We are teaching those subjects identified by Ashoka U as important concepts to building the educational framework: systems thinking, solutions, innovation, scale and impact assessment. Students are given opportunities beyond the online learning environment from a new study abroad with an NGO, access to a portfolio of social businesses in which in an online partnership, developed from the idea of an internship. Faculty members are brought together twice a year for an educational exchange with students and CLU staff.

It’s natural for us to think first of older ways of educating and learning, but it’s the very posture of looking ahead and looking beyond that exemplifies changemaking. And so, we leaders need to be especially mindful of being inclusive and even provocative when it comes to sharing and amplifying programs and resources in this field.

Anita Leffel

Anita Leffel

Dr. Anita Leffel is the Dean of the Social Impact program at Claremont Lincoln University. She received her Ph.D. in educational human resource development at Texas A&M and a master's in education from the University of Houston. Dr. Leffel received the Acton Foundation for Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Entrepreneurship Education in 2007.

Claremont Core

Claremont Lincoln University

Add comment