Social Innovation Labs - Fall 2017

Following an animated response from faculty and staff across the university, the Baylor Social Innovation Collaborative (BAY-SIC) is set to launch a diverse array of transdisciplinary projects that aim to discover and develop new ways of promoting hope and human flourishing. Because our most important problems are not reducible to any one discipline or field, and because we operate in a world in which challenges are less foreseeable and knowledge less reliable, embedded in many of these projects is an effort to design new models for collaborative teaching and learning across our 12 colleges and schools.

This fall we will launch five new “social innovation labs,” courses that promote a new way of doing business by assembling diverse groups of faculty, staff, and students to work together with community partners—both local and global—on wicked problems and generative solutions. Below are brief descriptions of our first five “labs.” General questions about them can be directed to Andy Hogue (andrew_hogue@baylor.edu), with questions about specific courses addressed to the contact person listed below in each description.

Campus Hunger: Students, Systems, and Solutions
Food is not just necessary for life: food is life. The food we eat tells a story about how we see ourselves, with whom we associate, how we spend our money, and even what our most deeply held values and beliefs are. Food is also embedded in powerful cultural, economic, political, and educational systems. However, limited access to food affects an individual’s ability to participate in experiences, social groups, and systems. Despite the perceived affluence of higher education, a greater percentage of college students struggle to pay for food than in the general population. How might hunger affect the college experience, and what can be done about it?

Led by faculty from the School of Education, Truett Seminary, the Texas Hunger Initiative, Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, Hankamer School of Business, and the Honors College, this course is available to students in any field, who will begin to understand the complexities surrounding food and hunger in society and then explore their roles in higher education settings. Students will also design and carry out research-based responses to campus hunger.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Nathan Alleman: nathan_alleman@baylor.edu

Child Migration in the Western Hemisphere
This social innovation lab explores the causes, characteristics, and consequences of the migration of children from Mexico and the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras). Taught by Victor Hinojosa (Honors/Political Science) and Lori Baker (Anthropology/Office of the Provost) with guest lectures by Elaine Hernandez of the Texas Hunger Initiative’s McAllen field office as well as additional faculty and staff, the course will help students understand who these child migrants are, the conditions that drive their migration from their home countries, and the challenges they face along the migrant pathway and upon their arrival in the United States. The course aims to build collaborative, interdisciplinary research teams, which will examine particular aspects of the crisis and develop interventions to aid these migrants and prevent future child migration. Students will be encouraged to continue their research in the spring semester in a research and implementation seminar.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Victor Hinojosa: victor_hinojosa@baylor.edu

Healthy River, Healthy Community
Throughout their course, rivers are used and managed by multiple human and non-human stakeholders and groups, which often present conflicting demands with regard to quality and quantity of water needed. On a national and global scale, water is inextricably linked to critical social issues such as energy use, health and human development, poverty, food scarcity, and environmental degradation. Through this course, students will explore local water issues as a model for better understanding global water issues. Students will delve into the complexity of this growing global issue through first-hand experiences, including a river trip, field-based activities, and studying museum natural history collections. Water will be explored through social, scientific, economic, ethical, and natural history lenses.

The course will be taught by faculty and staff from the School of Education, Hankamer School of Business, College of Arts and Sciences (Departments of Religion and Environmental Science), the Mayborn Museum, Informed Engagement, and the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Suzanne Nesmith: suzanne_nesmith@baylor.edu

Combatting Human Trafficking
Combatting Human Trafficking is a comprehensive course that investigates ways to eradicate human trafficking. This course will involve the examination of contemporary human trafficking issues and modern-day slavery through an interdisciplinary lens. Students will analyze systemic intersections that create the environments that perpetuate social inequalities, while also constructing innovative strategies that dismantle and disrupt systems of oppression. Learning from and working with faculty from various colleges and schools at Baylor, including the School of Education and the School of Social Work, students will explore human trafficking through social, economic/business, educational, and political perspectives, including examining the roles of social change theories, supply and demand, trauma-informed educational theories, and policies imperative to addressing this wicked problem. Through this course, students will collaboratively design approaches to combat human trafficking and execute these innovative methods within a local community.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Elizabeth Goatley: elizabeth_goatley@baylor.edu

Social Innovation with At Risk Older Adults
At-risk older persons fill the hidden corridors of subsidized apartments, substandard housing, and low-end motel rooms of every street and rural route in and around Waco. They live in the crucible of increasing economic, health care, and community service scarcity. The weight of poverty and cutbacks in health and human services press on their vulnerabilities with a fierceness that is unprecedented. Even in this context, researchers document the resiliency of this population. Vulnerable older persons’ steadfast attempts to hold on to independence and hope are an opportunity for the university to walk alongside them in ways that recognize and build on the virtues that sustain them.

This course aims to address impoverishment and isolation by working with vulnerable older persons in Waco and the surrounding area using interdisciplinary knowledge, research, and practice through engaging with local agencies and community partners. Faculty from the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences and the School of Social Work are leading this endeavor, with additional schools and colleges at Baylor expected to come alongside these collaborative efforts in order to discover assets and vulnerabilities of the older persons living in our community and establish deep, reciprocal relationships.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Dennis Myers: dennis_myers@baylor.edu