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Changemaker Central gives students tools to change the world

September 08, 2011

Changing the world just got a little easier for ASU students – with the launch of the new Changemaker Central on each campus.

Changemaker Central offers space where students can connect with others who are passionate about service, social entrepreneurship and the community. The centers are part of a national effort to harness the energy, idealism and intellect of college students, providing the resources and tools for them to make their ideas and dreams a reality.

The seed of this idea sprouted when ASU was named a Changemaker Campus last fall by Ashoka U, part of a global nonprofit network of social entrepreneurs that supports entrepreneurship education in colleges and universities.
ASU joined nine other colleges in the consortium, which includes Duke, Tulane and the University of Maryland. But it is the first school to meld service with entrepreneurship.

Changemaker Central provides students with technology, workspace and networking opportunities, and connects them with resources. Students can stop in and learn how to write a business plan. They can find like-minded students and faculty, or locate funding sources to fuel their ideas.

Emilio Galán, who won a 2010 Edson Grant for his start-up, honestHealth, to create a health care network for the uninsured, will serve as student vice director for Changemaker Central.

“Before Changemaker Central was created, I constantly ran into 'what next?' I was overflowing with ideas and the desire to realize them, without the direction and support of a community,” said Galan, an ASU senior in biology and society. “Now we can help students develop their ideas and push them to fruition.

“There are so many amazing programs are going on at ASU, and we want to make this the place to find and join them. We want to inspire and support people in changing our university, the community, the nation and the world.”
On a recent morning, the center in Tempe’s Memorial Union first floor was the scene of a planning meeting for one student organization. A young woman stood on a ladder to write suggestions on a giant whiteboard, as other students logged into their laptops and brainstormed ideas. Another small group huddled in one of the mediated conference areas.

Leah Luben, an economics junior who is director of Changemaker Central, says the centers are completely student-led, with a student leadership team of 11 students who work to advance its mission. Student employees called change agents assist in the day-to-day operations and answer questions from students wanting to get involved.

Inaugural activities will take place during September on all four campuses. The activities will feature Brian Bacon, the founder of the Oxford Leadership Academy and presentations by Suzanne Klahr, an Ashoka Fellow who focuses on access to learning, education reform and youth development.

Luben says during the year they will have a speaker series, bringing in current and past students who can talk about their ventures, including past winners of ASU’s Innovation Challenge. They’ll invite organizations that need volunteers. 

Luben worked for AmeriCorps for a year after high school graduation, serving with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hurricane-damaged areas of the country. She saw first-hand the power of young people’s tremendous energy and ideas, and their capacity to serve.

“That experience focused me on how I could use my time at ASU,” she says. “I like the idea of helping build a culture of students who are active during their undergraduate years, instead of waiting until after graduation.

“There are a lot of groups at ASU who are working toward social change, and a lot of students with great ideas. We can connect them, and provide space for collaboration. We tie them into entrepreneurship and service learning, and we also focus on high impact careers like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and Teach for America.”

The Tempe campus center is located in the Memorial Union; the Downtown campus center is located in the Post Office, room 104; Polytechnic’s is located in the Academic Center Building, room 110; and the West campus center will open later this month and will be located in the Fletcher Library, first floor.

ASU has more than 600 student organizations, 120 classes on entrepreneurship and hundreds of other activities and resources that can help students advance their efforts. Changemaker Central will harness those resources, funneling them into a very powerful force for social change.

For more information, visit or contact Diana Bejarno, director of Marketing & Communication, at

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