Last spring, in a packed auditorium at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., nearly 1,200 college students took to their feet to welcome two featured speakers, one of whom was Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
“His commitment to changing the world and to making conditions around it better has been very inspiring,” said Stewart, referring to the other featured speaker and event founder, former President Bill Clinton.
Among those cheering in the audience were 11 students from the University of Houston. They took part in the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference, launched in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world.
“It was just so awesome to be there with so many people who are passionate about making a difference in this world, and they are all motivated and committed to it,” said Cecilia Cai, who was among the UH delegation. “CGI U was there to provide the tools and resources to help us do that, and it’s just wonderful.”
Each student developed their own Commitment to Action as a part of the application process. The commitments entailed a specific plan of action that addressed a pressing challenge on their campus, in their community or in a different part of the world. The conference then connected these students with leaders in business, politics, entertainment and philanthropy to teach them how to execute their plans.
Cai, who volunteers with an organization that helps refugee students with immersion into their schools, said attending CGI U was a “mind-blowing” experience and gave her great tools to help carry out her commitment that involves creating a fellowship program to mentor middle school and high school foreign refugees.
“Obviously President Clinton was there, but he also invited other very famous celebrities, nonprofit leaders and government leaders to come talk to the college students about why you need to make a difference, how you make a difference, and there were workshops that equip you to further carry out your commitment,” said Cai.
Jason Bergeron, director for the Center for Leadership and Sorority and Fraternity Life at UH, said the UH Division of Student Affairs helped to fund the cost of the conference for the students as a way to engage them in direct dialogue with leaders from all sectors of government and business.
“If they have an idea about a global issue, the university wants to provide them the resources and connect them with the right people, whether they be in the Houston area or on a national level to be able to create meaningful change,” said Bergeron.
For more information about the conference and the Commitment to Action plans that UH students prepared, visit http://www.uh.edu/cfsl/leadership_development/CGIU.html.