Episode 10 – Interview with a Founding Faculty of The First 30 Social Entrepreneurship Program and Disability Rights Activist Crystal Smith

 

Mums the word this week on Teaching Change as the hosts interview Professor of English, disability rights advocate, and secret-keeper extraordinaire Crystal Smith.  For Crystal, Valencia College was supposed to be a temporary detour along her journey through life. However, Valencia quickly became a destination when Crystal connected with her students, her peers, and the campus culture.

Crystal plays a unique role in the college’s social entrepreneurship program. She, along with Teaching Change host Jerrid Kalakay, are participants in Valencia’s First 30 course offerings where faculty team teach a group of students using a common theme. Last year’s theme was social entrepreneurship. Crystal felt this was the perfect marriage of the social justice ideas explored in her composition class with the economics and sustainability inherent to social entrepreneurship.

Crystal is also an active member of Valencia’s Peace and Justice Institute. She has taught workshops for Peace and Justice week. One of these workshops focused on the power of love letters to transform and heal. Participants wrote letters of encouragement to strangers and penned the missives on a designated tree. This past year’s theme was letters to the world where students expressed thoughts on news events such as the Syrian refugees and the Pulse tragedy.   

For Crystal, teaching is a deeply personal experience for both her and her students. “The curriculum comes in the room when the students do,” says Crystal. The first essay prompt she gives her students is “tell a story only you can tell.” The intimate nature of the responding narratives often moves Crystal to tears as she reads stories of abuse, hunger, and trauma. These papers are deeply private and Crystal holds them in confidence as the ultimate secret keeper. This assignment builds a relationship with her students and paves the way for community building in the classroom.

Crystal identifies herself as both learning disabled and physically impaired, both of which she readily shares with her students. For Crystal, the disclosure is empowering and models self-acceptance to those who may face challenges in their own lives. The first time Crystal articulated living with a disability was through a college essay when she applied to Stetson University. This proved to be a major stepping stone to the advocacy she practices today. Crystal encourages everyone to embrace their personal power and to claim their personal identity as she did all those years ago.

 

Crystal Smith’s Biography

Crystal Smith is a professor of English with a bachelors and a masters degrees in English as well as an additional bachelors degree in American Studies focused on American sub-cultures.  In 2005, her work in American Studies and disability awareness campus activism at Stetson University led to her winning multiple awards, including the Dian Christensen Award for Community Activism. Her dissertation in language and literature and continued scholastic interest was on the role of disability, embodiment, and femininity in the literature of Flannery O’Connor. As a professor, Crystal’s interests include social entrepreneurship, and she was on Valencia College’s first team of faculty that developed social entrepreneurship into a meta-major pathway. With regard to disability activism at Valencia College, in 2016, Crystal served on Valencia College’s Accessibility Advisory Group, which is a sub-committee of Valencia College’s Faculty Association.

 

Teaching Change Shout-outs
For more information on topics discussed during the show, see the list below.

First 30

The World Needs More Love Letters

Peace and Justice Programs

 

**Credit: The theme music for Teaching Change is provided by bensound.com.**

 

Episode 9 – Interview with Director of Sustainability for the City of Orlando and Co-Founder of IDEAS for Us Chris Castro Part 2

Episode 8 – Interview with Director of Sustainability for the City of Orlando and Co-Founder of IDEAS for Us Chris Castro Part 1

 

The surf’s up for this episode of Teaching Change! In this two-parter, the hosts talk chasing waves and sustainability with Chris Castro, the Director of Sustainability for the City of Orlando. Chris’ love of nature started at an early age in Miami, FL where he worked on his stepfather’s palm tree farm. His extracurricular activities included snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing–which was a major reason why he chose to attend the University of Central Florida (UCF) as an undergraduate. Orlando’s location gave Chris easy access to Florida’s exciting beaches and waterways.

Chris may have come for the surfing but he quickly found himself at home among Orlando’s emerging innovation and technology scene. Within these budding platforms, Chris saw the potential for initiatives involving sustainability. Chris’ path to his current advocacy and life’s work is a testament to the power of higher education and the personal development it affords. When asked about his interest in sustainability, Chris recalls the course in Environmental Sociology he took as a student at UCF. He credits this class with opening his eyes on how humans impact the world and each other with actions such as energy consumption and waste. These revelations sparked his interest in sustainability activism and in solutions to issues that plague the environment. That’s when Chris went mobile.

He rallied his peers together and formed IDEAS for Us, which began in 2008 as a UCF interdisciplinary organization of students working on policy and solutions to make college campuses more sustainable. Now IDEAS for Us has chapters all over the world, including one at Valencia College. The focus of IDEAS for Us revolves around energy, water, food, waste, and ecology. Two initiatives spearheaded by IDEAS for Us include Kill-A-Watt and Green Your Game. For Kill-A-Watt, students living in dorms compete to conserve energy and save money to win scholarships. Green Your Game promotes recycling, reducing, and reusing efforts at UCF’s tailgating events.

The conversation then turns to Chris’ work as an urban farmer and the importance of creating a sustainable agricultural system. Chris shares that food currently travels an average of 1500-1800 miles before it reaches a person’s plate. To address this issue, Chris co-created the Fleet Farming program that converts lawns and underused land into farms. Fleet Farming is made possible through Swarm Rides which consist of volunteers on bikes collecting the city-grown produce. The produce is then sold at farmers markets and to local vendors.

Chris wears many hats in addition to his day job. This episode just scratches the surface. Be sure to check back next week to hear the conclusion of Chris Castro’s interview.

Chris Castro’s Biography

(Per LinkedIn)

An award-winning sustainability professional, eco-entrepreneur, urban farmer, and community organizer working to accelerate the transition to a smart, resilient, and sustainable future.

Chris is currently the Director of Sustainability, Senior Advisor to Mayor Dyer, and Co-chair of Smart Cities for the City of Orlando, developing partnerships, policies, and programs to support the sustainability, clean energy, & climate-related goals of Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Green Works Orlando initiative.

In 2008, Chris co-founded IDEAS For Us, a global 501c3 non-profit & UN-accredited NGO, working to incubate global environmental solutions and fund local action that advances the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In 2013, he helped co-create Fleet Farming, a renowned urban farming program that is refining local food by building distributed organic agricultural systems through neighborhoods and communities.

Chris has held sustainability & energy-related positions with University of Central Florida, Orange County Government, and the US Department of Energy. In 2012, Chris also co-founded a clean energy consulting firm, Citizen Energy, that provides custom energy efficiency & renewable energy solutions for commercial buildings in the Washington DC Metro area.

In addition, Chris is a public speaker and has been recognized for his effort as an emerging environmental leader; including the ‘Guru of Green’ by the Orlando Business Journal, the 2017 Grist 50 Award, Top 30 Under 30 sustainability professionals by GreenBiz, formal recognition from President Bill Clinton, and a ‘Champions of Change’ awardee from the U.S. White House & Obama Administration. Chris has spoken at more than 100 conferences and events, including the United Nations HQ & the UN Rio+20 Summit, NASA Kennedy Space Center Innovation Expo, TEDx Orlando, Better Buildings Summit, and more.

 

Teaching Change Shout-outs
For more information on topics discussed during the show, see the list below.

Fleet Farming

Green Works Orlando

IDEAS for Us

 

**Credit: The theme music for Teaching Change is provided by bensound.com.**

 

Episode 7 – Interview with Founder of City Maid Green Diana Palmar


For this episode, Jerrid and Courtney venture out of the studio to chat with Diana Palmar, the Queen of Clean. Diana is the owner of City Maid Green located in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood. City Maid Green doubles as a cleaning service and retailer of plant-based cleaning supplies.
Diana’s entrepreneurial journey started when she and her friend were looking to earn a little extra money. They settled on a maid service but were concerned about prolonged exposure to commercial cleaning products. So in a move that would make her former science teachers proud, Diana went to work experimenting with various natural ingredients that would be safer alternatives. Several YouTube videos and a share of Breaking Bad moments later, Diana found the right combination of plant ingredients that satisfied her needs.
What started out as a summer venture has grown into a successful business that now has been an Orlando staple for 8 years. As City Maid Green’s customer base expanded, Diana hired additional staff to meet the demand. It was important to Diana to give her staff a living wage. Diana wanted her company to be a place where people enjoyed working and at the end of the day felt they had made a decent living for their hard work. Being a business owner has not been without its challenges. Whenever obstacles have gotten in her way, Diana uses her customers as motivation. Their interest in her green cleaning products and their positive feedback serve as encouragement to continue forward. Diana says that the possibility of failure has never crossed her mind. Those with entrepreneurship spirits live with a higher level of risk. Even so, she advises anyone with a heart to start a company to go for it.

Diana Palmar’s Biography
I studied visual communications and public relations at Berry College in Rome GA and moved to Orlando as a fresh graduate for my first graphic designer job at a non-profit. I’ve always believed in nurturing and using my talents and gifts to better society and this beautiful planet we live on. One summer, a friend and I teamed up to earn a little extra income by cleaning houses together. Having helped numerous companies with their branding as a brand designer, I launched my own cleaning company, City Maid Green. I wanted to create a company who’s existence was more than just the bottom line but one that worked with and for the flourishing of society and our earth. After researching numerous “green” cleaning products on the market, I ventured to develop my own that would exclude all synthetic ingredients and truly be GREEN. Over the last 8 years, City Maid Green has cleaned over 1,000 Orlando homes, sold thousands of cleaning products and hired dozens of Orlando women at a living wage. The ethos of our company is sustainability- for our workers, our earth, and our homes.

Teaching Change Shout-outs
For more information on topics discussed during the show, see the list below.

 City Maid Green

Episode 6 – Interview with Peace and Justice Institute Coordinator Rachel Allen

 

Rachel Allen, college professor, and peace connoisseur drops by the studio to discuss the origins of Valencia’s Peace and Justice Institute (PJI). Once a tiny seed of an idea, the institute has grown into a powerful vehicle for addressing social issues not only at the college but in the community as well.

PJI’s work is rooted in the Principles of How We Treat Each Other, a list of guiding practices that foster respect and community building. In times of conflict or frustration, the principles can be used as tools of reconciliation. Rachel’s work with the principles evolved from retreats she attended where Parker Palmer’s touchstones were used to encourage conciliatory acts such as turning to wonder and speaking your truth. Rachel knew that the inner work conducted at the retreat would have to be fundamental to the mission of PJI. Through the years, Rachel has discovered that the beauty of the principles is that it values all the ways we are different.

The principles are now firmly woven into Valencia’s culture. Faculty and staff are exposed to them as new hires. Departments request presentations to strengthen communication. Students learn about them through events, workshops and the New Student Experience course. Posters of the principles are even posted in many of the classrooms.

The good will of PJI and the principles have expanded beyond Valencia and into the community. The institute has facilitated trainings to city employees including police officers and firefighters because Orlando’s government leaders recognize the importance of treating each other with respect. This has given birth to a community that more and more speaks with a common language on matters of peace. This was very much on display during the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy when Orlando united against hate and violence.

Rachel recently fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams to meet President Jimmy Carter. She visited the Carter Center and heard from people that lead the work of peace and health throughout the world. Rachel’s admiration for President Carter and his teachings stem from his expression of love for everyone and his lessons of hospitality. The Declaration of Human Rights, drafted in 1948, was also a topic of discussion during her visit. President Carter believes this document is more important than ever—and so does Rachel. The Declaration of Human Rights will be the focus of PJI’s Peace Week which will take place either in late January or early July.

 

Rachel Allen’s Biography

Rachel Allen is a life-long educator and practitioner who supports others to practice and educate for peace and justice in their work and personal lives. She brings thirty- three years of experience as a leader and educator at diverse institutions including Eagle’s Nest Foundation, Outward Bound, the University of Oregon and Valencia College. At Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, Rachel is a tenured Professor of Humanities and founding member and director of the Peace and Justice Institute.

Rachel holds an M. A. in theater from the University of Oregon and a B. S. in interdisciplinary studies from Northwestern University. In addition to her decades of teaching and facilitation experience, she has experience providing strategic planning and vision, program and curriculum design, fundraising and community building practices. Rachel has studied with leading peace builders from Berkeley, Notre Dame, and Eastern Mennonite Universities is a certified Safe Zone advocate for the LGBTQ community and a National SEED Project Facilitator. Her community service includes work with the Coalition for the Homeless, Shepherd’s Hope, and Pine Hills Community Performing Arts Center. She serves on the board of ArtReach Orlando and is a member of the League of Women Voters. Rachel and her husband Willie Allen are the proud parents of two young children; they live in Maitland, Florida.

 

Teaching Change Shout-outs
For more information on topics discussed during the show, see the list below.

Peace and Justice Institute

PRINCIPLES FOR HOW WE TREAT EACH OTHER
Our Practice of Respect and Community Building

1. Create a hospitable and accountable community. We all arrive in isolation and need the generosity of friendly welcomes. Bring all of yourself to the work in this community. Welcome others to this place and this work, and presume that you are welcomed as well. Hospitality is the essence of restoring community.

2. Listen deeply. Listen intently to what is said; listen to the feelings beneath the words. Strive to
achieve a balance between listening and reflecting, speaking and acting.

3. Create an advice free zone. Replace advice with curiosity as we work together for peace and justice. Each of us is here to discover our own truths. We are not here to set someone else straight, to “fix” what we perceive as broken in another member of the group.

4. Practice asking honest and open questions. A great question is ambiguous, personal and provokes anxiety.

5. Give space for unpopular answers. Answer questions honestly even if the answer seems unpopular. Be present to listen not debate, correct or interpret.

6. Respect silence. Silence is a rare gift in our busy world. After someone has spoken, take time
to reflect without immediately filling the space with words. This applies to the speaker, as well – be comfortable leaving your words to resound in the silence, without refining or elaborating on what you have said.

7. Suspend judgment. Set aside your judgments. By creating a space between judgments and reactions, we can listen to the other, and to ourselves, more fully.

8. Identify assumptions. Our assumptions are usually invisible to us, yet they undergird our worldview. By identifying our assumptions, we can then set them aside and open our viewpoints to
greater possibilities.

9. Speak your truth. You are invited to say what is in your heart, trusting that your voice will be heard
and your contribution respected. Own your truth by remembering to speak only for yourself. Using the first person “I” rather than “you” or “everyone” clearly communicates the personal nature of your expression.

10. When things get difficult, turn to wonder. If you find yourself disagreeing with another,
becoming judgmental, or shutting down in defense, try turning to wonder: “I wonder what brought her
to this place?” “I wonder what my reaction teaches me?” “I wonder what he’s feeling right now?”

11. Practice slowing down. Simply the speed of modern life can cause violent damage to the soul. By intentionally practicing slowing down we strengthen our ability to extend non-violence to others—and to ourselves.

12. All voices have value. Hold these moments when a person speaks as precious because these are the moments when a person is willing to stand for something, trust the group and offer something he or
she sees as valuable.

13. Maintain confidentiality. Create a safe space by respecting the confidential nature and content of
discussions held in the group. Allow what is said in the group to remain there.

**Credit: The theme music for Teaching Change is provided by bensound.com.**

Episode 5 – Social Value Creation

 

In this episode, Jerrid and Courtney ponder the cost of social value, one of the core tenets of social entrepreneurship—the other being wealth creation. As a springboard for the conversation, Jerrid refers to Certo and Miller’s “Social Entrepreneurship: Key issues and concepts” which defines social value as having little to do with profit. Instead, social value is the fulfillment of long-standing needs such as food, water, and medical attention.

The hosts acknowledge how often they take comforts such as the Internet and electricity for granted because they are so readily accessible. Jerrid recalls a time when this was not the case. During the infamous 2004 hurricane season, Orlando was hit with three consecutive hurricanes. In addition to dealing with damaged homes, many people had to cope without water and electricity for days. This experience gave Jerrid a small taste of the hardships people face daily around the globe and further motivated him to help people facing social inequality.

For Courtney, the library is a perfect extension of social value. The magnitude of its resources and outreach strive to place everyone on an even playing field. In fact, in the aftermath of the Orlando hurricanes, libraries operated as safe havens where citizens could access helpful community resources, power, and the Internet.

One critical component missing from Certo and Miller’s definition of social value is the environment. The environment is a hot button issue with today’s social entrepreneurs as they look toward sustainability and combat climate change. Having recently weathered droughts and wildfires in Florida, this issue resonates with the hosts.

Ultimately, there is no definitive formula to measure social value. Unlike wealth creation, there are no tangible sales figures or profits to show a return on investment. This presents an ongoing challenge to social entrepreneurs who must not only articulate how their organizations will benefit investors financially but also how their organizations will benefit society.  

 

Teaching Change Shout-outs
For more information on topics discussed during the show, see the list below.

“Social Entrepreneurship: Key issues and concepts” by Trevis Certo and Toyah Miller

 

**Credit: The theme music for Teaching Change is provided by bensound.com.**

Episode 4 – Interview with Director of Sustainability and Guiding Coalition Member Resham Shirsat

This episode is brought to you by the three Ps: People, Planet, and Profit. Valencia’s Director of Sustainability, Resham Shirsat, joins the hosts in-studio to chat about sustainability and how it intersects with social entrepreneurship. She is also a fellow member of Jerrid’s Guiding Coalition who helped bring social entrepreneurship education to Valencia.

Resham’s passion for sustainability is driven by her own academic journey. As an undergraduate, she enrolled in an elective environmental class that changed her life. Resham credits the class for exposing her to some of the harmful ways profit was being earned at the expense of people and the planet.  Ever since Resham has embraced the mission to grow the economy in a way that is socially equitable and environmentally viable.

Resham’s work with students includes holding presentations, facilitating workshops, advising a branch of the IDEAS student club, and working with Valencia’s Career Center. The outreach to the Career Center gives Resham the platform to educate students on the multitude of sustainable career paths. She believes sustainability is the fastest growing job industry and employment in fields such as data management, information technology, and engineering will be essential to support the work.

Resham also shares news about Valencia’s upcoming Associates of Science degree program in Energy Management Controls Technology. A result of a $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, students will utilize campus and community resources outside of the classroom to align their coursework with real-world applications.

Outside of Valencia, Resham participates in Orlando initiatives such as the Smart City Summit and the Building Energy and Water Efficiency Strategy (BEWES) program. This participation allows her to support the city’s sustainability efforts by matching its needs with the college’s workforce development.

When reflecting on her role at the college, Resham defines her position as increasing revenue and protecting profits while doing good for people and the planet. She wants everyone to know that small changes in energy use and waste management can make a big difference. Every contribution towards sustainability counts. Rethink. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Teaching Change Shout-outs
For more information on topics discussed during the show, see the list below.

Valencia College’s Sustainability Department

Talking Trash with Resham Shirsat: Take the Pledge for a Mini Desktop Bin

Building Energy and Water Efficiency Strategy – City of Orlando

Energy Management Controls Technology Program

 

Episode 3 – 10 Things Social Entrepreneurship is NOT

 

Welcome to Episode 3 of Teaching Change. Since the last episode, Courtney has presented at the Florida Library Association Conference. Her presentation focused on how the Valencia East Book Nerds, the student club she advises, has helped its members succeed in their personal and academic lives. Meanwhile, Jerrid took a group of students on a field trip to First Green Bank to learn about its sustainability program. Kyle Sanders, the manager of the Winter Park branch, was a great host as the group learned about several of the bank’s initiatives such as energy efficiency, LEED-certified building material, recycling, and solar roof panels.

The conversation turns to Chris Miller’s blog post “10 Things Social Entrepreneurship is Not.” Chris Miller is the founder and CEO of Mission Center L3C. Jerrid is quite fond of the list because it covers common misconceptions that he has encountered during the course of his work.

At the top of the list is social entrepreneurship is not Facebook. As social media continues to be a ubiquitous part of society, it may come as no surprise that some people confuse the two. However, social entrepreneurship has more to do with business practices and social value than it does with likes and posting. Sure, Facebook can be used as a tool to promote businesses that may include social entrepreneurs, but the purpose of each is quite different.

Jerrid and Courtney also cover the blog’s assertions that social entrepreneurship is not charity, not necessarily nonprofit, and that it is most definitely not anti-profit. TOMS Shoes, which has been quite profitable, is a great example of this criteria. At TOMS Shoes, every time someone purchases a pair of shoes another pair is donated.

In another part of the world, India’s Grameen Bank also exemplifies how social entrepreneurship is not a synonym for charity. Founded by Muhammed Yunus, Grameen gives microloans to people who need small loans but are not eligible for traditional loans because they do not have capital. Muhammed Yunus and his bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

The rest of Miller’s list is reviewed, including social entrepreneurship not being a fad and not being about corporate responsibility. All of the “not” talk ultimately leads to a clearer understanding of how social entrepreneurship operates and how it impacts the world.

Teaching Change Shout-outs
For more information on topics discussed during the show, see the list below.

“10 Things Social Entrepreneurship is Not” by Chris Miller

First Green Bank

Grameen Bank

Episode 2 – Interview with Dean of Learning Support and Guiding Coalition Member Dr. Leonard Bass

 

Dr. Leonard Bass joins Jerrid and Courtney for Episode 2. Leonard is the Dean of Learning Support at Valencia’s east campus. As dean, he oversees New Student Experience, the library, Supplement Learning, the Academic Success Center as well as a host of other projects and initiatives. Plus, Leonard is Jerrid and Courtney’s boss!

Leonard tells the story of how he became involved with Valencia’s social entrepreneurship work thanks to Jerrid. At the time, Jerrid was working on his doctorate and saw a potential for starting a program.  Leonard says, “It is important for those in leadership to be comfortable with new ideas.”

The New Student Experience course also provided fresh perspectives into the value of social entrepreneurship education. The first common read for the course was Blake Mycoskie’s Start something that matters which tells the story of social entrepreneurship powerhouse TOMS Shoes. The basic principle of the company’s business model is that for every pair of shoes that is purchased one pair is donated.

The themes in the book provided a toolbox of strategies for students to use in their academic and everyday lives. Themes discussed included collaboration, building networks, time management, and good reputations. The positive student response to the book was another impetus for starting a full-fledged social entrepreneurship program. To that end, Jerrid wrote a white paper and he teamed with Leonard to look for others who were interested in joining what Jerrid fondly calls the Guiding Coalition.

The social entrepreneurship program has been a success so far. Leonard credits this with recruiting faculty who have a deep desire for the work and who have a certain level of expertise. He also found it essential to devise a strategic plan to assist in articulating the program’s purpose.

One other biggie, collaboration is key. You just might find allies in the most surprising places. For Leonard, his pleasant surprise came in the form of Valencia’s Sustainability Department. While he did not originally think to partner with Sustainability, the director Resham Shirsat has become one of the program’s staunchest advocates. So throw those assumptions out the door!

With what little spare time he has, Leonard serves on Convenant House Florida’s board which focuses on addressing the needs of homeless youth. He is a classically trained bassoonist, and also participates in mud runs.

 

Teaching Change Shout-outs
For more information on topics discussed during the show, see the list below.

Start something that matters by Blake MycoskieStart Something That Matters

Covenant House Florida

Tough Mudder

 

 

 

 

 

**Credit: The theme music for Teaching Change is provided by bensound.com.**