The Next Wave of Change Agents
By Dr. Ward Ulmer, Interim President of Walden University
Amid the recent headlines, we are seeing a message of change emerging. The message that “enough is enough” is loud and very clear. I can’t help but feel that as a society, we are at a tipping point. Social change is being spearheaded by those personally and deeply affected, and that’s precisely how pivotal transformations occur.
As I write this, people all around the world are continuing to speak out about the sexual harassment and discrimination they’ve experienced. Up until now, many of these stories have been private and personal, but due to the bravery of those sharing their stories, many of us are now having honest and necessary conversations with significant others, family, friends, and colleagues. Though Hollywood, the media, and politics have figured prominently in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, courageous people in other workplaces and on college campuses are also standing up to sexual assault, harassment, and inequality.
I am equally impressed by the brave young people who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last month. As the Parkland, Florida, community continues to grapple with the aftermath of this devastating event, these kids are seizing the moment and demanding action. They're taking their #NeverAgain message nationally, hitting shows like Real Time With Bill Maher and staging demonstrations such as the National School Walkout, held on March 14, as well as a "March for Our Lives" rally in Washington to urge Congress to consider common-sense gun solutions to protect our children and communities.
I am encouraged and inspired by this next wave of social change agents. Though some of their tactics are recognizable from past movements, their tone feels more urgent and their passion more palpable. It’s undeniable, the influence technology and social media have in turning up the volume on their messages.
How do we continue to cultivate positive social change? Perhaps it’s cliché, but our students, and our children, are our future. Walden, like other institutions of higher education, has the critical responsibility to prepare scholar-practitioners to make a difference in their careers and communities. We do that by providing exposure to other perspectives and offering opportunities to engage in meaningful discourse. We hope that through this, our students gain the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to raise the social consciousness of those around them.
I am eager to see how this new wave of social change agents moves the needle. Will they change the world? Or better yet, inspire others to change their mind-sets? I guess time will tell, but I look forward to seeing what comes next and joining in.