Community Service Series Goes Global

October 9, 2006

social entreprenuer Venkatesh RaghavendraRaghavendra, director of global partnerships for Asia at the Ashoka Institute, visited Mary Baldwin October 18. He was a guest in several classes and gave a public talk,“One Way to Really Change the World,” at 7 p.m. in Francis Auditorium.The Ashoka Institute is a non-profit organization that invests in and supports social entrepreneurs who propose innovative solutions to global issues.

Raghavendra began his professional career as a mechanical engineer, but he traded the mainstream route for a position with Canadian Outward Bound, where he specialized in experiential education. He went on to work with indigenous people in the Western Ghats, a mountainous region that extends along the western edge of the Indian peninsula, for 13 years before joining Ashoka. While concentrating on the Western Ghats, Raghavendra co-founded The Adventurers, an organization that creates and promotes outdoor and adventure activities to draw people into the area and engage them in social change projects to protect the natural and human heritage in the area.

During his time in Staunton, Raghavendra discussed the relatively new concept of social entrepreneurship. As stated by the Ashoka Institute: “The job of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a part of society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck. He or she ? solves the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.”

Raghavendra’s visit came on the heels of that of Sanjana Das, another important figure in global affairs. Raghavendra and Das both appeared as guests in the college’s Community Service Speaker Series, which added a decidedly international flair to the campus’ frank discussion about the impact of public service. Das and Raghavendra, both natives of India, also appeared in classrooms, public discussions, and community meetings.

International Peacemaker Sanjana DasDasaddressed the plight of Asian street children October 11, and Raghavendra will talk about social entrepreneurship in the context of his work in the rainforests of southwestern India and also with the Ashoka Institute this week.

“The Quality Enhancement Plan’s emphasis on Civic Engagement in a Global Context helped us think about bringing that dimension into the series,” said Roderic Owen, professor of philosophy and one of the campus’ leaders in community service involvement.

Human rights activist Sanjana Das’ visit washighlighted by a public discussion in Francis Auditorium. Students and community members had several chances to meet with Das more intimately: She will served as guest speaker in a new course, Ghandi and Peacemaking, and appeared in the course Faith, Life, and Service, as well as those that cover community service learning and ethics. She met with students in the Quest program and those studying Asian studies and sociology. Her interactions outside the Mary Baldwin campus included a public discussion hosted by First Presbyterian Church at 7:30 p.m. October 12 and a meeting with local Kiwanis Club members.

Das was recently appointed by the Presbyterian Church (USA) as an international peacemaker to share her expertise with others. As coordinator of children’s concerns for the Church of North India, Das works to ensure children’s basic needs are met, to protect and rescue them from exploitation and abuse, and to give them opportunities for development and education.

“I believe every child has the right to be born, to develop and to live a full life of dignity — in a world where a child can dream of a future life and get opportunities to fulfill those dreams,” she said.

Guests scheduled as part of the Community Service Speaker Series for the remainder of the semester are as follows:

    • October 25: Helen Burke, executive director of Valley Mission, and Leslie Ewald, program support supervisor for Court Appointed Special Advocates


    • November 1: Urbi Nash, environmental engineer and contributor to Riverfest of Waynesboro, and George Thompson, president and publisher for the Center for American Places


    • November 8: Susie Oberg, volunteer coordinator for the Commonwealth Center for Children and Youth, and Pamela Huggins, representative for AMC hospice care


  • November 15: Sandra Stanwitz, executive director of the United Way of Greater Augusta, and Susan Peyton, manager of Skyline Council of the Girl Scouts of America