New Orleans transplant encourages new generation of social innovators

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As Director of University Partnership and Social Innovation, Stephanie Barksdale has spent the past five years working with social innovation at Tulane, helping to establish the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship minor. About a year ago, a $14.5 million endowment enabled her to help found a space for design thinking and social innovation: the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation. “I want our students to take risks, to fail, to try again and to feel like they could be part of something,” Barksdale said.

During her undergraduate career, Barksdale majored in Costume Design and German Studies at Scripps College in California, where she grew up. In 2006, during graduate school at New York University, she first discovered the concept of social entrepreneurship.

Barksdale regrets not being able to find her passion sooner and hopes her work with social innovation helps students discover what they want to do earlier.

“I wish that it didn’t take me until my 30s to find that,” Barksdale said. “And if this generation could find that in college, it’s just a better future for all of us.”

Program Manager for Student Programming Julia Lang, as well as leader of design thinking workshops at the Taylor Center, said one of the goals of the center is to get students excited and productive right now.

“It’s neat to see students engaged in a space where they are launching ventures or starting student organizations, or really creating change here and now,” Lang said.

The Taylor Center promotes the ideals Barksdale has worked hard to emphasize in social innovation, leadership and design thinking. At the center, faculty facilitates human-centered design crash courses, of which two are left in the fall semester.

Read more about Barksdale’s role in fostering social innovation at Tulane here: The Hullabaloo