BW Hosts Annual Social Change Summit

The annual Social Change Summit took place on Feb. 6 with some changes made to the event’s format. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was held virtually this year. The event was hosted by The David and Frances Brain Center for Community Engagement, The Center for Innovation and Growth, The Center for Inclusion and BW Student Life.

This year’s  Summit featured six speakers. The keynote speaker was Brandi Davis, the principal at the I Promise School located in Akron. Topics of discussion from the speakers included racial justice, homelessness, mental health, juvenile justice and LGBTQIA+ rights.

The Social Change Summit is an annual event that was created in 2016 to give students an opportunity to connect with members of the community and learn about social issues currently impacting our country.

Hannah Schlueter, LaunchNET program manager at the Center for Innovation and Growth, spoke to the purpose and impact this event seeks to provide students. “We wanted to provide an event where people could openly have a dialogue and learn about issues they are passionate about. We go into this summit wanting to provide an open and safe space for students to learn about some of these challenging topics,” said Schlueter.

Several adjustments were made to the event this year due to the switch to a virtual format. The summit typically lasts a full day, featuring several speakers throughout the morning and afternoon. This year, the event lasted two hours in totality.

The event was divided into three breakout sections lasting 20 minutes each, in an effort to make a virtual lecture most engaging for students who are now experiencing virtual schooling as well. The quick pace, variety of topics, and rotation of speakers differentiated the event from a typical Zoom class.

Even with these adjustments, the Social Change Summit was a successful event. 88 people attended the event virtually, which Christy Walkuski, director of The David and Frances Brain Center for Community Engagement, noted as the highest attendance for a virtual event this year. Feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive according to Schlueter and Walkuski, with attendees wanting the event to have lasted longer.

“This proved to us that you can still do important and engaging events online,” said Walkuski. She said that the success of the rotation style format gave them ideas for future events utilizing Zoom and breakout rooms, even after the pandemic ends.

The Social Change Summit reflects the mission statement at BW, assisting students in finding ways to become contributing, compassionate citizens of society. The event is intended to serve as a starting block, inspiring students to gain further knowledge and take action on issues they are passionate about.

“Social change is not just a one and done situation. There is a lot of work and complexity to the problems posed throughout social change. This is a way for students to start having those conversations and getting exposed to those topics and think about what their role is and what they can do,” said Schlueter.