Are you a changemaker?

As a student, I learned an important lesson about being innovative on campus. That students influence other students!

I often wondered how to bring the change I wanted to see. And I would have conversations with faculty and staff about just that. But it never seemed to move anywhere. Later, I joined a couple of student groups that were supposed to give me direct access to important people on campus but those never went anywhere either. In fact, if there was a group of students who seemed to have unparalleled access there also seemed to be a toxic sense of hyper-competitiveness to get an idea in front of those people.

I stepped back from that life for a while and reflected on my experiences. While as students we were ineffective in influencing big change among administraors we were successful in grouping a large group of motivated students to talk to administrators. It happened almost every time. That bottleneck of hyper-competitive students was there because we influenced each other to speak up.

This was a breakthrough for me. I started investing more time in talking to students. And if a project idea we had couldn’t go up, towards institutional change we would send it outward. We started holding more community outreach events and making resources that worked for us and could be facilitated by us. With students I created a virtual reality simulation of space, an inclusive excellence council and study resources to help us be better learners. We didn’t wait for permission…

Keeping the overhead low
It’s better to go lean on your new ideas. You don’t want it to take too much of your personal resources and you don’t NEED a big institutional check to create something that works. If you want to create a new community, create it organically with word of mouth marketing. If you want to table an event with a banner, go to your local off-campus sign shop and see if you can get a donation or discount.

Mission statements
When you have an interest in something it often aligns with your own goals. A higher education community is the same way. Write a mission statement for every project you are on. One that clearly and efficiently states what you are going to do and who are you going to do it for. Then compare it to your university’s mission statement. If it matches then you may be able to get bigger support, and if it doesn’t, then it’s time to find other students who align with those goals.

Diverse network
Knowing what other people know allows you to ask the right students or leaders to be a part of your efforts. The key part about being a changemaker is you need an effective team. This doesn’t have to a formal team with roles and meetings, it can simply be a group chat that allows you to mobilize or communicate ideas. As long as you introduce people to each other and share that you are working collaboratively it will allow you to accomplish more than you were able to yesterday.

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Camille is a Mechanical Engineering student sharing about her personal relationships and experiences working in the tech field as a woman of color.

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