750 participants. 150 colleges and universities. 100 sessions. 3 days. 1 Ashoka U Exchange.

By Kalese Justice, Rollins College Student and Innovation Hub Bonner Leader

I had the amazing opportunity of being one of the only two students who were chosen to attend the Ashoka U Exchange conference in Miami from Thursday, March 2nd through Saturday, March 4th. The Ashoka U Exchange is an annual conference that takes place in a different city each year. The Exchange is not your ordinary conference. It focuses on social innovation, social change, and social entrepreneurship within higher education on college campuses. The conference is packed with keynote speakers, panels, workshops, and site visits to some of the community partners that surround the conference center. At the Exchange people from all over the world come to learn how they can develop a stronger system to create social innovation within their everyday life and on their campus. Personally, for me, this Exchange was about learning what it means to make a social impact at Rollins College.

From a 1st year undergraduate student’s perspective, the exchange conference was something that I have never seen nor been introduced to before. There were people from all over the world. Each person came to Ashoka U because we all share the same passion—wanting to make a change in the world. However, each person at the exchange came in with a new innovative idea and hoped to learn how to make that change in the world or on their college campus. The diversity in race and age was incredible and inspiring. There were over 80 sessions to choose from spread out over the course of 3 days. I was so excited about the sessions, so much that I wish I could go back in time and attend all the sessions again. Each session held new knowledge, opportunities and programs that had to do with either social innovation, social change, or social entrepreneurship. Although, many of the sessions were geared towards educators in higher education, I must say that I still learned more than I expected. One of my favorite sessions took place at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. The Pérez Museum is about enriching the community that you are a part of. The museum takes the original museum experience beyond the museum’s walls and into the community with a variety of outreach programs across Miami-Dade County. One of the outreach programs is called B-Me. B-Me is an organization that focuses on asset- framing to tell better stories. They recognize black men as assets and not threats to the community. In our session, a couple of things stood out to me, the first being “value all members of the human family” and the second “the story you tell creates the life you will live”. If every human could value everyone as a part of their own family, then the world would become a better place over night. Today in society people are too wrapped up in creating a judgement on people based on their skin color or their past.  How we value others depends on how we value ourselves. “You will be as much value to others as you have been to yourself”. – Marcs T Cicero


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