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ASU grads hired to help create global change

portrait of ASU graduate Ryan Maloney
May 06, 2015

During his four years at ASU, Ryan Maloney mastered the old adage to do what you love and the rest will follow.

Now he and fellow ASU graduate Mentor Dida are seeing the result of that. Both have been hired to join Ashoka, the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, and help build a vibrant network of social innovators, partners and change makers. 

The two rose to the top of the highly competitive interview process and will work at Ashoka in Arlington, Virginia, after graduation in late May. Ashoka was established in 1980 and puts innovative ideas into practice to create change around the globe. 

During his time at ASU, Maloney, a digital culture undergraduate in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, followed his passion to help others. He dedicated himself as a change agent for Changemaker Central and helped to empower hundreds of fellow Sun Devils to get involved in community service, high-impact careers and entrepreneurship.

Maloney said that a question posed by an instructor his freshman year helped him re-examine his goals and realize he would have a greater reach if he focused on his passions rather than the security of a paycheck. 

“My freshman year, I was an engineering major and I took an ethics course. The instructor asked us to think of an engineer who was leading politically or in business,” he said. “When no one could think of one, he challenged us to reach beyond being just an engineer, to make an impact and do good. In that moment, I started to change my mind-set.”

Fueled with inspiration, Maloney started Table, a fundraising platform for local charities. It allows users to dine at their favorite restaurants while giving back to the community. The start of his new venture later introduced him to Changemaker Central, the Clinton Global Initiative and, eventually, Ashoka. 

In 2014, Maloney was accepted to attend his first Ashoka U exchange conference and experienced what he calls “one of the proudest moments of being a Sun Devil.”

The conference gathers more than 700 participants from 160 universities spread across nearly 30 countries. With limited student openings, Maloney was selected for creatively embedding social entrepreneurship in higher education.

“People may not realize it, but ASU is seen as one of the most socially innovative and entrepreneurially minded schools in the world,” he said.

After 13 interviews, Maloney accepted a position with the talent-growth initiative team at Ashoka, which will address economic development in alternative directions. Maloney will work with innovative job-training centers on the East Coast, helping to create a skilled workforce by training and placing 3,500 people into jobs in the first year, with a goal of getting 50,000 people into jobs in five years. 

Dida, a global technology and entrepreneurship graduate student, is known in the ASU community for his efforts to eliminate poverty in his homeland, Kosovo, by co-founding the non-profit organization Prosperity Initiative in Kosovo.

His innovative efforts caught the eye of Ashoka, and Dida was offered two positions within the organization. He accepted one within the Youth Venture department, cultivating trusting relationships with peer organizations and increasing connectivity and collaboration among North American social innovators. 

"Having the opportunity to work for Ashoka will enable me to expand my horizon and do anything in my power to introduce compassion, kindness and empathy into classroom curricula," Dida said. "I'm looking forward to learning from my colleagues and being inspired at Ashoka." 

ASU became the first university in the Southwest to join the Ashoka Changemaker Campus Consortium in 2010. This spearheaded the creation of Changemaker Central on campus and made ASU one of the now 30 higher-education institutions committed to transforming the educational experience into a world-changing experience. In addition, Changemaker Central at ASU received an Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Award for its high-impact approach to positive change and innovation in social entrepreneurship in 2013.

For Jacqueline Smith, executive director of university initiatives, sending two students to full-time staff roles at Ashoka demonstrates the university’s commitment to harness the energy, idealism and intellect of college students while providing resources and tools to make ideas and dreams a reality. 

"When I established ASU’s partnership with Ashoka in 2010, I hoped that by working together we would inspire more ASU students to choose high-impact careers," she said. "Now we are seeing the results of that work."