Clinton initiative to support innovative proposals

Photo courtesy Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U)

The eighth annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) meeting will be hosted at UM from March 6-8, bringing together more than 1,000 college students from around the world.

UM will become the first school to host CGIU twice, having previously hosted it in 2010.

Students will create and present projects to tackle issues within CGIU’s five focus areas of education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.

This year, more than $900,000 in funding opportunities will be available to select CGIU 2015 students to help them turn their ideas into actions.

Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, is co-chairing CGIU with Gail Cole-Avent, executive director of student life and assessment, and Patricia Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs.

According to Wiemer, there will be 95 projects at this year’s meeting and 150 UM studen ts will be participating.

Here is a sampling of projects created by UM students.

Solar Saver

Architecture students Sammy Schneider and Catherine Crotty want to help lower electricity costs for people living in low-income housing areas by making the windows in such houses create the power for the rest of the house.

The “transparent luminescent solar concentrator” is a material that could cover windows and possibly even cell phone screens, and concentrate solar power to create energy without making the material change color. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michigan State University have recently been making strides in their research with the material.

The material has a tongue-tying name, but Crotty and Schneider just refer to it as the “solar saver,” because they’d like to use the technology to power low-income homes with Habitat for Humanity.

“The main goal is to eventually establish a net-zero home so that people who are impoverished and living in these homes don’t have to pay for electricity bills and energy bills,” said Schneider.

The problem for them is that the technology is still underdeveloped and being researched, so it could be five years before there is a finished product.

“Our idea is that you would do the testing and research in Habitat for Humanity homes,” Crotty explained. “So we’re collecting their data and they’re giving us technology to use and help someone.”

The upWARD Scholarship

Regular full-time and part-time employees of UM can be granted tuition remission after two to five years of work, for either themselves or their dependents. But this policy does not extend to campus Chartwells and Unico employees.

Senior economics major Andre Buchanan and junior anthropology major Yazmine De La Cruz plan to change that. Working under the education focus area for CGIU, they are creating a scholarship for these employees modeled after conventional tuition remission. It will be called The upWARD Scholarship.

“Applying to the CGIU helped us take a small problem that we saw, being two students who eat at the dining hall everyday, and really make a plan to make it happen,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan and De La Cruz are still deciding on the specific eligibility requirements for future recipients of The upWARD scholarship. The next step in the process is networking and fundraising, which De La Cruz said will be facilitated by attending CGIU.

“We can meet different kinds of people who have won grants before, so we can gain experience from them and how they’ve done so,” De La Cruz said.


Sophomore Martina Sandoval is working on the CROWN Nutrition and Education project for CGIU. The project will be involved in the education section.

“I am excited because CGIU is a great opportunity to meet powerful leaders of the world, some of which I have looked up to all of my life, as well as students from all over that are passionate about the work that they do,” Sandoval said. “But, most importantly, because it is actually giving me the opportunity to change people’s lives through our actions.”

CROWN is an umbrella initiative that encompasses the three areas of nutrition and education, micro-financing and health. The group aims to target communities and their specific needs and to provide them with the resources to become self-sufficient in those three areas.

Sandoval is one of the members responsible for the education and nutrition group, and one of the initiatives this summer is to help a fishing town in Brazil by teaching English to the fishermen’s children. The group believes they will help the community regain a sense of wellness and welfare by working directly with community members.

“I am excited about my project because it is the first time that this type of aid is reaching Ilha Grande in Brazil,” Sandoval said. “The thing that I think is most important is that we are focusing on what the community needs, things that they have directly expressed interest in and how we are approaching the project in a cultural-sensitive way.”

The “F” Word

Junior Daniela Lorenzo is working with junior Mariana Gaviria on a Human Rights project called The “F” word.

“Our goal is to bring social change through gender equality by making it a two-sided conversation,” Lorenzo said. “Oftentimes, gender issues are seen as a female issue exclusively, and activism and feminism really has gotten a bad name, so we want to change that.”

The group wants men to be a  part of the conversation and to enact positive change. The “F” word works to target the UM campus by attempting to raise awareness.

“People try to fix issues far away even though there are plenty of problems in their own backyard, so we wanted to stay close to home,” Lorenzo said.

The group hopes to develop a coalition that unites already existing, on-campus  groups that deal with the issues of gender. The project will work alongside these organizations to create programming in the fall that sheds light on the many facets of gender inequality.

This would be a longstanding committee that would create yearly awareness planning and facilitate open conversation about gender on campus. They also want to form a model that other schools and institutions could later pick up.

“Conversations nowadays center on rape or violence, but these are issues that stem from the idea that men and women aren’t equal,” Lorenzo said. “You can’t fix many issues until you fix the root problem.”