Six SMU students are attending the 6th annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) at Washington University in St. Louis April 5-7, 2013.
Former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, head of the Clinton Foundation, will also participate in the CGI U gathering and announced this year’s agenda and featured participants in March. The event will bring together more than 1,000 college students with innovators, thought leaders, and civically engaged celebrities to address challenges facing their campuses and communities in areas such as education, environment and climate change, human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health.
“I believe that this is the perfect chance to represent SMU on an international scale and showcase how much the school has contributed to help us help the community,” says Joshua Bakarich, a sophomore finance and economics major. Bakarich is co-founder of PROPS Social Ventures (Provide Relief Of Poverty Situations), a nonprofit microfinance and financial literacy initiative focusing on the downtown Dallas area.
Bakarich is eager to participate in CGI U because “our nonprofit is not only ready to continue promoting business growth and development in Dallas, but also to take the next step in developing a sustainable education curriculum,” he says. “I also want to bring home and share the experience at CGI U and encourage the rest of the school to get involved.”
“CGI U is an excellent way to not only learn from some of the best leaders of the world, but also meet and network with people like me who have taken on philanthropic causes,” says Ashley Wali, a sophomore finance major and fashion media minor. Wali has created The Nari Project, which develops “crisis kits” that provide battered women with basic necessities as they transition from critical situations to a secure environment. She plans to partner with Dallas’ Genesis Women’s Shelter to tailor a new version of the kit to fit the needs of North Texas women.
“One in four women will know domestic violence in her lifetime, while one in three teenage girls will be physically assaulted by a boyfriend,” Wali says, citing statistics provided by the Genesis Shelter. “And while it is important to address underlying cultural and social issues, the dire situation of these victims must be addressed first.” She is especially looking forward to a CGI U panel on empowering the next generation of girls and women, whose participants will include Chelsea Clinton, Muhammad Yunus, and Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe. “It is such a great opportunity to learn from some of the most inspirational leaders our generation has seen.”
More than $400,000 is available for students to carry out proposals, called Commitments to Action, they will make at CGI U. The funding comes primarily through the CGI University Network of 33 colleges and universities, including SMU, that have committed to support, mentor, and provide seed funding to student innovators and entrepreneurs from their respective schools.
“The schools that have joined the CGI University Network are supporting student commitment-makers to create positive change across the globe,” said President Clinton. “This year, CGI U will bring together more than 1,000 college students representing all 50 states and six continents to explore concrete ways to build a better tomorrow. I look forward to working with the young leaders who come to Washington University in St. Louis this April with their enthusiasm and their ideas.”
Currently, SMU is supporting 8 students in Clinton Global Initiative University projects:
- Joshua Bakarich
- Rahfin Faruk
- Richard Nixon
- Chibundu Nnake
- Daisuke Takeda
- Ashley Wali
- William Wooten
- Michael Zincone
“It’s inspiring to witness the power of CGI U students, whose energy, ideas, optimism and determination continually expand the possibilities for public service,” said Chelsea Clinton, who serves on the board of the Clinton Foundation. “By joining an extraordinary community of young people, thought leaders, and experienced entrepreneurs, students attending CGI U 2013 will have the opportunity to make real contributions and forge connections that last a lifetime.”
Kelsey Reynolds (’14) contributed to this article.