A social innovation fest of firsts as CQUni takes on Ashoka U

Published:09 April 2018

CQUni's Ashoka U delegates, including (top right) students Urusha Kansakar and Leslie Lowe, (bottom left) staff Shirley Ledger and Trixie James, and (bottom right) researchers Dr Wendy Hillman and Dr Kylie Radel.

CQUniversity was the first Australian university to be designated an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus – and our dedicated social innovators chalked up plenty more firsts as they attended the annual Ashoka U Exchange.

Held in Boston, Massachusetts, the three-day international conference attracted university leaders, academics and students to learn and share leading practices for embedding social innovation in higher education.

Here’s a few of the CQUni highlights from the busy event, held across 5 – 7 April:

Research agenda-setters

This year’s event was the first time the Exchange featured research presentations, and CQUni academics were front and centre to showcase their work.

Dr Wendy Hillman and Dr Kylie Radel presented their grounded theory analysis of seven case studies, to give a clearer picture of the challenging conditions for female entrepreneurs in the tourism industry in Nepal.

Dr Hillman is a senior lecturer in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Sciences, while Dr Radel is a senior lecturer in Marketing and Tourism in the School of Business and Law, and together they have developed keen interest in the Nepalese tourism industry, and opportunities for social innovation.


For the first time, scholarship opportunities were opened to CQUni staff as well as students to attend the big event.

A total of 119 people applied for ten scholarships, with five going to staff and five to students.

Social Work alumnus, lecturer and PhD student Shirley Ledger was one very enthusiastic participant, bringing her experience of creating regional community welfare social innovation projects, and sharing her Ashoka U adventures via a takeover of the CQUni Instagram.

Other scholarship recipients were:

Dr Olav Muurlink, Senior Lecturer in Social Innovation, Brisbane; Trixie James, STEPS Lecturer, Bundaberg; Laura Baker, Head of Course (UG) Management and Organisational Behaviour, Mackay; Jordan Mogg, Manager of Financial Accounting, Rockhampton; Leslie Lowe, Bachelor of Aviation and iChange presenter, Bundaberg; Urusha Kansakar, Master of Professional Accounting and iChange presenter, Melbourne; Charmaine Kuwana, Graduate Diploma of Mental Health Nursing, Yanchep WA; David Graham, Bachelor of Education distance student, Toogoom; Chizoma Okoro, Master of Arts student, Brisbane.

iChange good news to share

It was Ashoka U founder and CEO Bill Drayton who first coined the phrase “everyone a changemaker”, and our delegates were excited to share how CQUni is making that happen with the new iChange program.

So it was great to have iChange program manager Robin Dick attending Exchange 2018, as well as student presenters Urusha Kansakar and Leslie Lowe.

Office of Social Innovation director Lara Carton and program manager Ashley Clarke also attended, alongside CQUni including Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman, Senior DVC (International and Services) Alastair Dawson, and Council member Joel Buchholz.

CQUniversity launched the online social orientation program in February – currently available to commencing students in Term 1, and open to all students from Term 2.

All staff are also able to do the short, video-based program, which explores the history and future of social innovation at CQUni and globally, as well as exploring megatrends, co-design theory, and social innovation ecosystems.

More than 500 staff and students have already begun tacking iChange, with nearly 100 completing the program.