By Sara Butler
Professor Mike Williams, J.D., Ph.D., has been appointed the new director of the Changemaker Hub at the University of San Diego. USD is one of 26 schools that has received the designation of a Changemaker campus. This title supports our Catholic mission of community and social justice by generating a culture of innovation and forward thinking on our campus.
As the new director, Williams plans to pick up where previous leadership had left off.
“I’m hoping to build on the foundation that has been established the last three years or so,” Williams said. “The students have been really active with the Hub activities the last few years.”
As a faculty member, Williams is focusing on connecting professors with the Changemaker Hub. His vision for the organization revolves around student-faculty synergy.
“I’m particularly interested in getting faculty more involved and helping faculty see the ways that they can facilitate the Changemaker mission.” Williams said. “I’m anxious to talk to more faculty and get them excited about having these types of opportunities in these classes.”
Some of these opportunities include Community Service-Learning, study abroad programs and chances for funded research.
Williams stands by the university’s goal of creating a well-rounded individual in college, and plans to connect it to his work at the Changemaker Hub.
“I see this through the lens of: We are helping to promote active and productive citizenship, so we want people to be good citizens when they are here and when they’re gone,” Williams said. “Part of that is for all of us to see how we are part of a larger community, and how our actions can have benefits and positive social impacts for that community to make social change.”
As a USD alumnus class of 1992, Williams’ background lends him an interesting perspective with the Changemaker mission.
“USD was an amazing place when I was here, but there weren’t nearly as many opportunities to work with faculty, to do undergraduate research,” Williams said. “Community Service-Learning was definitely around and definitely was strong, but as a student I didn’t take advantage of it. Also, I don’t think we had any study abroad in the developing world.”
Now that Williams is here at USD behind the scenes, he is amazed by the growing opportunities that exist for current undergraduate students.
“Students are already doing this stuff, and what I see is just taking that next step of real practice, of getting our hands dirty and thinking about long-term relationships with communities locally, whether it’s Linda Vista or Barrio Logan or Logan Heights,” Williams said.
Williams has a program in Makuleke, a South African village, that he takes students to every semester, usually during summer intersession. The class works with a local group in the village called the Equalizers, as well as partners with a nonprofit in the community called Sharing to Learn. This community engagement class relies heavily on teamwork and a cooperative mindset.
“I think it’s important to not think about being a Changemaker as a superhero, a savior, or the us vs. them mentality or as a charity just making us feel good,” Williams said. “It has to be much more reciprocal and collaborative, and that takes time. The Hub should be a place that does more of that, and does it in an even more meaningful way.”
Williams is originally from Bakersfield, California. He is a husband and father, with two six-year-old twin boys. He is also a huge San Francisco Giants fan. In his spare time, he enjoys being outdoors, running and bike riding. In fact, Williams has even made efforts to integrate these interests as workplace involvements.
“We’re actually getting a little faculty softball team together this semester,” Williams said.
In addition to his director position, Williams is a professor for the political science department. This semester, Williams is teaching a lower division comparative class as a preceptorial for the Social Justice Living Learning Community. With new responsibilities as the director, he has had to cut down on his time in the classroom, but is excited for increased opportunities to be working with students outside the classroom.
“I’m very much into experimental learning,” Williams said. “It’s really about getting students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom in a practical setting outside of the classroom.”
The Changemaker Hub is hitting the ground running this year, with the Changemaker Fest happening the last week in September. Various events and activities will be held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, 2014. Students can also get involved with the Changemaker Student Committee, and the Changemaker Student Summit will be held in April 2015.