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CGIU 2017: Student Reflection

Published: 7 months ago | 0 comments

By Carter Zenke

As the Clinton Global Initiative website will tell you, CGI-U is a 3 day-event “where students, university representatives, topic experts, and celebrities come together to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges”. I’m happy to report that this already impressive description is actually quite the understatement: CGI-U is not just a place to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges, it is a place where those discussions lead to amazing learning, those solutions are carried out with passion, and those global challenges become less daunting and more motivating.

I came to CGI-U as a student, but in more ways than just my affiliation to Duke. With such an impressive line-up of speakers, ranging from Daryl Davis to Bill Clinton himself, it would have been a loss not to. One specific theme I plan to take away from the conference and apply to my future projects is, put simply, the power of the personal story. This theme was regularly exemplified by the elevation of life stories not typically brought into the spotlight: whether they were how a DACA “Dreamer” created a hugely popular app helping other dreamers navigate life in the US or how a woman from Afghanistan started a school to educate girls in the face of the education discrimination they face there. I’m excited to see how the personal stories of others I encounter in my own everyday life can be leveraged to make people more passionate about positive social change.

Of course, I arguably learned much more from the students I met than from the speakers I listened to. A few conversations that stick in my mind even a week after the conference involve ways to successfully scale social change, how to combat negative stereotypes, and how to remain hopeful in the face of constant opposition. While these conversations can take place anywhere, something about the setting of CGI-U, among 1200 other students pursuing projects that tackle these issues, made them especially salient. Naturally, I’m extraordinarily grateful for the valuable conversations and connections that took place throughout Northeastern’s campus. I’ve learned that what makes CGI-U such an exciting conference is without a doubt the students that attend it.

As I continue to move forward with my own commitments to action, the memories of this conference will inspire me to always realize there’s a strong community of like-minded people doing the same thing. That alone makes the experience worthwhile. I highly recommend the conference to any other students looking to realize they’re not alone in their endeavors to improve the world.

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