Engage - Claremont Lincoln University

The Reality of Changemakers: Working Professionals Who Learn Online

In a recent article The Rise of the Sophisticated Changemaker, I was struck by the discussion of overcoming silos between different divisions in higher education. In fact, my colleague and I even wrote a response to this said article.

I would riff on the idea of silos, which they introduce early, and point out the [to us] obvious:

A huge and often unmentioned silo exists, both in higher education and in public perception of training and professional development: between on-ground endeavors and digital education.

Why is there this perceived disconnect?

Why, when we think “higher education,” do we continue to picture folks in their 20s and 30s 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.

Claremont Lincoln University students learn alongside one another in the Claremont Core courses, taking advanced sequence of courses in Mindfulness, Dialogue, Collaboration, and Change.

At the same time, each cohort pursues its own course of study 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.
  • A MEL student has opened a fair trade coffee shop in Portland.

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

The Digital Changemaker at CLU

We are teaching those subjects identified by Ashoka U as important concepts to building the educational framework: system 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 are brought together twice a year for an educational exchange with students and CLU staff.

I would end on a more forgiving note—that it’s natural for us to think first of older ways of educating and learning.

But it’s this very posture of looking ahead/looking at the wider external landscape that exemplifies changemaking.

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.

Highlighting process instead of product, she proposes “funding for learning, not just solving” and calls readers to “celebrate a range of social impact roles.”

Indeed, it is important for students to identify with many roles involved in social change—including those played by leaders, managers, activists, and change agents across business, government, and nonprofit sectors.

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

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