By Keith Pierce

Old Dominion University is preparing current and future leaders with a free online course open to high schools as well as the community. The new course, "Leadership for Social Change," offers participants a foundation in the principles and strategies to address 21st-century challenges and opportunities.

Brian Payne, vice provost for academic affairs, conceptualized the course to offer students and others the opportunity to explore contemporary leadership aligned with social justice and its importance, particularly in the nation's current climate. Admitted students may use the content of the course to seek the award of three credits at a reduced rate through the application of current testing policies.

"There has been an increased focus on social justice leadership and the role education plays in providing pathways for those seeking ways to leverage their passion to make an impact on the world around them," Payne said. "Our goal is to showcase ODU's strength in preparing students to address important social issues while also offering them the benefit of tuition savings."

From leadership skills to civic knowledge, the course aims to help participants become more engaged by equipping them to work collaboratively and emerge as change agents who can inspire others toward social good.

"We put this course together because now more than ever we need well-prepared leaders," said Bill Means, director of Career Development Services at ODU. "We recognize that a lot has changed in terms of what defines a leader in the 21st century. Today's leaders are young and old, diverse and creative, and they're open to change."

Social change happens through a collision of three worlds - social, economic and political. For social change to persist, according to the course outline, three components are necessary: political opportunity, organizational infrastructure and engaged individuals.

"Social change refers to the transformation of culture, behavior, social institutions and social structures over time," said Lisa Mayes, executive director for academic enhancement in the ODU Center for High Impact Practices. "Whether it's through social movements like Black Lives Matter, the Green Movement, affordable health care and even bullying in school, the demand for social change is real."

Participants who complete the course will be able to apply principles of social responsibility while working with others to lead and implement social change.

"Engaged leaders use their talents and voice to support so many movements, whether locally or globally," Mayes said. "Whether you are an athlete, social media influencer, singer, restaurant worker, business owner, employee, poet or student, this course will help you learn the necessary principles to make steps - small or large - toward your role as a social change leader."

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