More than 1,000 students from around the world will come together this weekend at UC Berkeley to discuss pressing global issues, and to dig deep for creative solutions to these challenges.
The three-day meeting — to take place Friday through Sunday — is part of Clinton Global Initiative University, an effort launched by former President Bill Clinton in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses. The event, now in its ninth year, will be hosted by Clinton and daughter Chelsea, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, and will feature a host of other speakers, from NASA astronaut Cady Coleman to late night talk show host Conan O’Brien.
“We are thrilled that UC Berkeley has been chosen as the host campus for this important conference that engages our young people in changing the world,” said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “The work of the foundation is truly inspiring, and I can’t think of a more appropriate setting for this gathering given our deeply rooted public-service mission. This will be a great showcase for the talents of college students coming together to put ideas into action in addressing major global challenges.”
To be considered for the event, thousands of undergraduate and graduate students submitted project proposals with a focus on one of five areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health. In addition, applicants were required to make a “commitment to action” — a detailed plan that outlines how projects are new, specific and measurable — demonstrating their projects’ potential to have a concrete, lasting impact on a local or global level.
Michelle Nie, a junior majoring in business administration, is one of 150 Berkeley “commitment-makers” selected to be a part of the event. She and her team — Ankita Joshi, a mechanical engineering major, and Aubrey Larson, a public health major — hope to launch a social enterprise called Māk, a company devoted to empowering urban youth to become designers for 3D-printed products.
Nie says 3D printing is becoming an important skill to have in the engineering, architecture, art, animation and entertainment fields. “I see 3D printing as a valuable skill for our under-resourced youth to create solutions within their own communities,” she says. “It blends together technical STEM skills with creative design skills to create new possibilities for solving the world’s greatest problems.”
Other Berkeley commitment-makers include Thato Keineetse, a master’s student in business, whose project is dedicated to alleviating energy poverty and water scarcity in sub-Saharan Africa by making sustainable clean-technology solutions more affordable; Anh-Thu Ho, a bioengineering major, who plans to develop a mobile platform to connect qualified health interpreters in the Bay Area with patients of limited English proficiency; and Peter Bittner, a student in the Graduate School of Journalism, who’s working to provide women migrants in Mongolia with the resources they need to develop their own small businesses.
To kick off the event, participants will meet Friday for a networking event and dinner, and will tie off the night with an evening session, “The Courage to Create.” Chelsea Clinton will deliver opening remarks, and the former president will moderate the discussion with Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder and editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl.net; Cady Coleman, an astronaut with NASA; and Salman Khan, founder and CEO of the Khan Academy, a nonprofit that provides free online educational resources to people across the globe. The three will discuss what inspired innovation and creativity in their fields and address how students and universities can support a broader culture of collaboration.
Saturday will include a full day of panel discussions, workshops and collaborative sessions on topics ranging from how to build cross-cultural alliances to fighting mental health stigma with social support to how to raise money for commitments.
To conclude the weekend, students and volunteers will meet at Havenscourt campus in Oakland on Sunday to spend a “day of action” working on a variety of neighborhood and school improvement activities, including urban agriculture, facility cleanup and mural painting.
Previous CGI U commitment-makers from Berkeley include Rebecca Peters, who graduated in 2014 with Berkeley’s highest honor, the University Medal, and is now carrying out graduate work in water policy in the U.K. funded through the Marshall Scholarship; Ashley Miller, who has carried out her CGI U commitment to expand access to safe, treated water in coastal Kenya; and the Kanga Kare student team, which is working to develop low-cost baby incubators in developing countries to prevent neonatal deaths.
Since CGI U began, the meeting has engaged more than 7,500 students from 145 countries and all 50 U.S. states, awarding more than $2 million in funding to students with qualifying projects.