Transforming the World

Hillary Clinton joined her daughter, Chelsea Clinton at Saturday's CGI U meetings.

By Megan Ondrizek

Hillary Clinton joined her daughter, Chelsea Clinton at Saturday's CGI U meetings.

Transforming the World

By Megan Ondrizek
CGI U meetings Saturday focused on global issues and the ideas students have to tackle them.

A series of breakout sessions and workshops highlighted Saturday’s meetings of the Clinton Global Initiative University at the University of Miami, with particular attention to CGI U’s five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health.

Immediately following the opening plenary on Saturday morning, reporters with on-campus student media outlets were given the opportunity to sit in on a media roundtable with Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, and two UM students whose Commitments to Action received seed funding, Andrea O’Neal and Nika Hosseini.

While describing their commitments to action, O’Neal and Hosseini both agreed that CGI U is the perfect platform for students who are just getting involved with issues that they feel passionate about.
“You’re in a room filled with people who want to change the world,” said O’Neal, a senior majoring in Public Relations and Human Development. “The excitement is contagious and drives you to finish your commitment, and it inspires other people to get on board.”

O’Neal and her partner, Madelyn Elia, earned a grant for their commitment with SPARK - a mentoring organization UM students created to encourage young women to “spark” their way to brighter futures. The program aims to partner UM students with pre-adolescent girls from third grade to fifth grade, when they first begin to struggle with positive body image, self-esteem and social issues within their personal environments.
Chelsea Clinton echoed that early mentoring is of utmost importance for young girls, especially in terms of early education.

“It is crucial for us to engage young people in STEM,” Clinton said. “Starting in fourth grade, girls are called on less in math and science classes. It sends a subtle signal that their answers are less important. We cannot diminish their potential.”

Personal experiences and backgrounds have influenced Commitments to Action since the founding of CGI U. Since 2007, the Clinton Foundation estimates that more than 6,500 students have made more than 4,800 commitments. Of those, about half have either met or exceeded their completion target.

“Some people very much use their commitment as a launching pad for their careers,” Chelsea Clinton said.

Robin Bachin, UM’s assistant provost for Civic and Community Engagement, moderated the working session on poverty alleviation, “More than a Roof: Solutions for Urban Slums.” Much of the work out of UM’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement, of which Bachin is director, focuses on sustainable housing. The session highlighted community-driven urban planning and creation of affordable, secure housing options for residents of urban slums, such as the favelas of Brazil.

Opening remarks for Saturday’s opening plenary session, “The Power of Big Data,” shed light on society’s pre-conceived ideas of global challenges. Remarks were provided in the form of an interactive presentation from Hans Rosling, professor of International Health and “edutainer” (educational entertainer) at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and founder of the Gapminder Foundation.

Gapminder offers an interactive, fact-based worldview on the world and surveys what people know about the world through its “Ignorance Project.” Audience members were asked to answer a series of multiple-choice questions using clickers provided at each seat, and each incorrect answer from the audience further proved Rosling’s argument: “If you don’t know about the present, you can’t think about the future,” Rosling said.

The actual power of big data helps to expose our ignorance in order to better navigate toward the future we want to have, Chelsea Clinton remarked as she opened the morning plenary session as moderator.

“Big data is the next big technology disruptor that has the power to transform all industries,” said Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel Corporation’s Data Center Group.

With the evolution of technology and pervasive computing, big data provides the opportunity for data mining, which in turn informs public knowledge and allows for communities to be more empowered.

“Sharing and cloud computing is part of our collective memory,” said Christopher Barr, director of media innovation for the Knight Foundation. “We live in an age of information surplus. We must filter through all that data to identify the problems we actually have in this world, in order to find solutions.”

In innovation, passion and commitments to action, change—and the power to transform the world—begins simply with personal motivation.

Megan Ondrizek can be reached at 305-284-3667.