Cool Class: Strategies for Changemakers

This 300-level course is all about learning what it really takes to become, as Gandhi encouraged us to do, the change we want to see in the world.

On November 8, students dug rows and planted seeds in an Audubon Park neighborhood with Fleet Farming, an urban agriculture program developed by local nonprofit IDEAS For Us, Inc. (Photo by Scott Cook) On November 8, students dug rows and planted seeds in an Audubon Park neighborhood with Fleet Farming, an urban agriculture program developed by local nonprofit IDEAS For Us, Inc. (Photo by Scott Cook)

Rollins students interested in making a positive difference, in effecting real change in the world, have more opportunities and resources than ever before. The College’s recently renewed Ashoka U Changemaker Campus designation and its partnership with the new Central Florida Social Enterprise Accelerator speak directly to Rollins’ commitment to serving as a catalyst for social change.

All students, regardless of their major, can get involved in important hot-button issues through the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Hub, where students and faculty gather to develop creative and sustainable solutions to everything from poverty and the environment to education and health care. The Hub is a way of life, creating opportunities for mobilization on campus, in the local community, and on the global stage.

The social entrepreneurship and business major—born from this growing mobilization—is drawing students who crave positive change in the world even more than their daily Snapchat fix. By blending the boundaries of the public, private, and nonprofit worlds, this major prepares students for the 21st-century job market, which demands leaders steeped in service and armed with critical thought.

In Strategies for Changemakers, students refine critical social entrepreneurial skills, discovering that taking risks, thinking strategically, working with others, and being resilient can improve lives and sustain our society.

Instructor

Josephine Balzac, visiting assistant professor of business

Professor Balzac trying cranberry hibiscus, which she says tastes just like cranberries.
(Photo by Scott Cook) Professor Balzac trying cranberry hibiscus, which she says tastes just like cranberries. (Photo by Scott Cook)

Description

In a world that, at a faster rate than ever, needs innovative solutions to big problems, this interdisciplinary, community engagement course educates students to become agents of change. Students study social movements, meet with local community leaders, research the history of contemporary issues, and analyze strategies and systems while learning best practices of social innovation and entrepreneurship.

Balzac inspires her students to dig deep into social and environmental issues they’re passionate about by using human-centered design thinking, which favors interaction at the community level over a top-down approach.

“It’s essential to engage directly with the community you’re solving a problem for,” Balzac says, “and to understand the root cause.”

A panel of Central Florida changemakers engages students on topics of social justice.
(Photo by Scott Cook) A panel of Central Florida changemakers engages students on topics of social justice. (Photo by Scott Cook)

From learning the ways in which power and privilege operate and the importance of social justice to understanding how social enterprises differ from traditional nonprofits, students leave this class not only empowered but equipped to enter the real world as revolutionaries. They learn how to tell the story of their service or product as well as how to market it, measure impact, and scale their solutions to communities that need them most.

Snapshot

Students in Strategies for Changemakers aren’t just on the ground learning—they’re in the ground learning too. Digging rows. Turning soil. Planting seeds. Troweling roots. Through Fleet Farming, a program developed by local nonprofit IDEAS For Us, Inc., students get an up-close (and down-deep) look at what it means to serve a community.

On November 8, students worked with Fleet Farming to dig rows for arugula and spinach in the Audubon Park neighborhood. 
(Photo by Scott Cook) On November 8, students worked with Fleet Farming to dig rows for arugula and spinach in the Audubon Park neighborhood. (Photo by Scott Cook)

After answering questions about their favorite vegetable, students learned how this pedal-powered urban farming program transforms residential lawns into organic micro-farms and decreases greenhouse-gas omissions.

“We often fail to appreciate where our food comes from,” Balzac says, “and who’s out in the fields working hard for us to have food on our tables.”

On average a plate of food travels 1,500 miles before it gets to a consumer, Balzac says. In the process, it loses much of its nutrients through preservatives and freezing.

With 23 farmlettes in Orlando’s Audubon Park neighborhood, Fleet Farming is changing our options for consumption, selling greens and produce at local farmers markets and to area restaurants like The Sanctum.

“The students get to be a part of that, working together, delegating tasks among themselves,” Balzac says. “We were on the ground from the minute we arrived. Grabbing and tasting, pushing and pulling, interacting with nature in a real way.”

Student Perspective

“I’m so excited to take this community engagement course within my social entrepreneurship and business major, especially with Professor Balzac,” says Carlye Goldman ’19, who is also a global health minor. “She is one of the most inspiring professors at Rollins.”

“We’re learning far more than we ever could staring at a PowerPoint,” Goldman says. “By working with IDEAS For Us, I’ve been able to delve a little bit deeper into the field of environmental health, which is the career path I want to take. I’m so excited to be working with Fleet Farming this semester to gain a better understanding of how urban farming plays a role in environmental health issues.”

Changemakers Carlye Goldman ’19 and Mark Angelo ’18 prime the soil for the next planting.
(Photo by Scott Cook) Changemakers Carlye Goldman ’19 and Mark Angelo ’18 prime the soil for the next planting. (Photo by Scott Cook)

Mark Angelo ’18, a social entrepreneurship and business major, is a big fan of the literal dirty work that goes on at Fleet Farming.

“Not only is this course tailored to those seeking to make real change in the current business world, but it also nurtures students’ unconventional methods for finding solutions to complex world issues,” Angelo says.

“This opportunity is unique to Rollins,” Angelo says. “By having the opportunity to get involved with Fleet Farming, a true changemaker, I’m able to learn about new business models in a real-world sense. Hands-on learning is the best feature of this course."

Fresh papaya and mint leaves right out of the ground taste much differently than their store-bought counterparts.
Fresh papaya and mint leaves right out of the ground taste much differently than their store-bought counterparts.

Did You Know?
Balzac lives and breathes what she teaches her students. In fact, she was named a 2017-18 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation Faculty Fellow for her commitment to incorporating social innovation and entrepreneurship into her classroom and the community.

She also frequently speaks at conferences and serves on panels throughout Central Florida, working to address the change she is most concerned with: climate change.

Calling it “the biggest threat of our time,” she advocates for action plans on the local, state, federal, and international levels. She has participated in protests in front of Sen. Marco Rubio’s office, and she’s a member of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Green Works task force, which is working furiously to rework the city’s sustainability plan. “This is something we can’t take baby steps on. We must leap.”

“Question all the assumptions you have,” she tells her students. “You’ll always come up against naysayers because you’re disrupting the status quo, which is the only way to make real change.”

Learn more about the Social Entrepreneurship and Buisness programs.