WLU centre adds social innovation focus

News May 10, 2016 by Brent Davis Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO — Joanne Benham Rennick doesn't believe in business as usual.

And she doesn't think a lot of today's students do, either.

"We are looking at a world that is full of really complex challenges," she says. It's a reality that young people are tuned into like never before.

"They have this kind of global, complex mindset in a lot of ways, and what do you do with that?"

As the new executive director of the newly renamed Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at Wilfrid Laurier University, Benham Rennick hopes to provide students with opportunities to make a difference.

"Social innovation is the kind of tool students are really excited about," she says. "(It's about) getting a young person who's interested in entrepreneurship to also think about the broader implications of running any business."

It's not just about making money, she says.

"I find that, as Canadians, we're talking about not just tech innovation but social innovation, but sometimes in those conversations that gets sidelined."

Adding the words "social innovation" to the Schlegel name speaks to a direction Laurier has been moving in for a number of years, Benham Rennick says.

Earlier this year, Laurier became the second Canadian university to receive a Changemaker Campus designation from Ashoka U — a global network of social entrepreneurs — recognizing its leadership in social entrepreneurship and social innovation education.

And Laurier received a three-year, $500,000-grant through the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation's Recode project, which provides social entrepreneurship opportunities at the post-secondary level.

The Schlegel Centre serves as the umbrella organization for Laurier's entrepreneurship programs and activities. Examples of socially minded initiatives include the social entrepreneurship option, comprised of seven credits, that is available to all undergraduate honours students, and the Purpose Lab, a collaboration space for students, faculty and staff to work on social innovation projects.

Benham Rennick, an associate professor in global studies, will also continue to teach during her three-year term as executive director.

She previously taught in Laurier Brantford's Contemporary Studies program and was director of an international service-learning program at St. Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo.

Outside of the academic environment, Benham Rennick has worked in the government and non-profit sectors, and owned her own business for a number of years.

"I'm not your typical academic," she says, adding that she obtained her PhD after a decade in the corporate world.

"I was quite tired of business as usual," she says. "I was looking for impact."

Benham Rennick says she felt she could do that best in an educational setting, with a "desire to empower young people as agents of change."

The Schlegel Centre's and Laurier's social reach goes beyond its students, too, Benham Rennick says, citing a recent non-credit neighbourhood changemaker program offered at the Brantford campus.

"We are very interested in providing offerings that are needed but are not yet available beyond the classroom setting," she says. "We're a public institution. We're intended to serve public needs."

bdavis@therecord.com , Twitter: @DavisRecord

WLU centre adds social innovation focus

News May 10, 2016 by Brent Davis Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO — Joanne Benham Rennick doesn't believe in business as usual.

And she doesn't think a lot of today's students do, either.

"We are looking at a world that is full of really complex challenges," she says. It's a reality that young people are tuned into like never before.

"They have this kind of global, complex mindset in a lot of ways, and what do you do with that?"

As the new executive director of the newly renamed Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at Wilfrid Laurier University, Benham Rennick hopes to provide students with opportunities to make a difference.

"Social innovation is the kind of tool students are really excited about," she says. "(It's about) getting a young person who's interested in entrepreneurship to also think about the broader implications of running any business."

It's not just about making money, she says.

"I find that, as Canadians, we're talking about not just tech innovation but social innovation, but sometimes in those conversations that gets sidelined."

Adding the words "social innovation" to the Schlegel name speaks to a direction Laurier has been moving in for a number of years, Benham Rennick says.

Earlier this year, Laurier became the second Canadian university to receive a Changemaker Campus designation from Ashoka U — a global network of social entrepreneurs — recognizing its leadership in social entrepreneurship and social innovation education.

And Laurier received a three-year, $500,000-grant through the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation's Recode project, which provides social entrepreneurship opportunities at the post-secondary level.

The Schlegel Centre serves as the umbrella organization for Laurier's entrepreneurship programs and activities. Examples of socially minded initiatives include the social entrepreneurship option, comprised of seven credits, that is available to all undergraduate honours students, and the Purpose Lab, a collaboration space for students, faculty and staff to work on social innovation projects.

Benham Rennick, an associate professor in global studies, will also continue to teach during her three-year term as executive director.

She previously taught in Laurier Brantford's Contemporary Studies program and was director of an international service-learning program at St. Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo.

Outside of the academic environment, Benham Rennick has worked in the government and non-profit sectors, and owned her own business for a number of years.

"I'm not your typical academic," she says, adding that she obtained her PhD after a decade in the corporate world.

"I was quite tired of business as usual," she says. "I was looking for impact."

Benham Rennick says she felt she could do that best in an educational setting, with a "desire to empower young people as agents of change."

The Schlegel Centre's and Laurier's social reach goes beyond its students, too, Benham Rennick says, citing a recent non-credit neighbourhood changemaker program offered at the Brantford campus.

"We are very interested in providing offerings that are needed but are not yet available beyond the classroom setting," she says. "We're a public institution. We're intended to serve public needs."

bdavis@therecord.com , Twitter: @DavisRecord

WLU centre adds social innovation focus

News May 10, 2016 by Brent Davis Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO — Joanne Benham Rennick doesn't believe in business as usual.

And she doesn't think a lot of today's students do, either.

"We are looking at a world that is full of really complex challenges," she says. It's a reality that young people are tuned into like never before.

"They have this kind of global, complex mindset in a lot of ways, and what do you do with that?"

As the new executive director of the newly renamed Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at Wilfrid Laurier University, Benham Rennick hopes to provide students with opportunities to make a difference.

"Social innovation is the kind of tool students are really excited about," she says. "(It's about) getting a young person who's interested in entrepreneurship to also think about the broader implications of running any business."

It's not just about making money, she says.

"I find that, as Canadians, we're talking about not just tech innovation but social innovation, but sometimes in those conversations that gets sidelined."

Adding the words "social innovation" to the Schlegel name speaks to a direction Laurier has been moving in for a number of years, Benham Rennick says.

Earlier this year, Laurier became the second Canadian university to receive a Changemaker Campus designation from Ashoka U — a global network of social entrepreneurs — recognizing its leadership in social entrepreneurship and social innovation education.

And Laurier received a three-year, $500,000-grant through the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation's Recode project, which provides social entrepreneurship opportunities at the post-secondary level.

The Schlegel Centre serves as the umbrella organization for Laurier's entrepreneurship programs and activities. Examples of socially minded initiatives include the social entrepreneurship option, comprised of seven credits, that is available to all undergraduate honours students, and the Purpose Lab, a collaboration space for students, faculty and staff to work on social innovation projects.

Benham Rennick, an associate professor in global studies, will also continue to teach during her three-year term as executive director.

She previously taught in Laurier Brantford's Contemporary Studies program and was director of an international service-learning program at St. Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo.

Outside of the academic environment, Benham Rennick has worked in the government and non-profit sectors, and owned her own business for a number of years.

"I'm not your typical academic," she says, adding that she obtained her PhD after a decade in the corporate world.

"I was quite tired of business as usual," she says. "I was looking for impact."

Benham Rennick says she felt she could do that best in an educational setting, with a "desire to empower young people as agents of change."

The Schlegel Centre's and Laurier's social reach goes beyond its students, too, Benham Rennick says, citing a recent non-credit neighbourhood changemaker program offered at the Brantford campus.

"We are very interested in providing offerings that are needed but are not yet available beyond the classroom setting," she says. "We're a public institution. We're intended to serve public needs."

bdavis@therecord.com , Twitter: @DavisRecord