ASU starts preparations for Clinton Global Initiative University 2014

Molecular bioscience and biotechnology senior Nisarg Patel will take part in CGI U with a project called Biosensor. (Photo Courtesy of Nisarg Patel) Molecular bioscience and biotechnology senior Nisarg Patel will take part in CGI U with a project called Biosensor. (Photo Courtesy of Nisarg Patel)

Correction added.

More than 1,200 students from more than 70 different countries will gather this spring to come up with new solutions to world challenges during the Clinton Global Initiative University 2014 at ASU.

The event, which will take place from March 21 to 23, will include hands-on workshops and seminars facilitated by former President Bill Clinton and other notable speakers. More than $700,000 in funding is available for the best Commitments to Action.

Established in 2007, the program annually welcomes students from around the world to address global challenges in five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation and Public Health. Along with discussing world problems, participants will take concrete steps to realize their projects, establish connections and adopt methods of renowned speakers.

Jacqueline Smith, executive director of the Office of University Initiatives, said in an email that Clinton and his daughter Chelsea will participate in all three days of the event.

“Hosting CGI U is a tremendous honor," she said. "Staff from across the University have already started to prepare to host this event by marketing the student application deadlines, reserving venues, coordinating the catering needs and developing a security plan."

CGI U Director Bill Wetzel said the program received interest from many universities.

"We were really excited about going to ASU because of its commitment to innovation, focus on entrepreneurship education and student-driven social change," he said.

Students are also involved in helping put the event together. Molecular bioscience and biotechnology senior Nisarg Patel, a representative of CGI U at ASU, will take part in the event with a project called Biosensor, aimed at detecting bacteria and viruses in water for developing countries.

“I thought it was a really interesting opportunity, and I wanted to bring more people from ASU on board, because I think that a lot of students can really benefit from this kind of experiences and connections,” he said.

Over the years, many ASU students have participated in CGI U, including last year's winner DREAMzone and Cookstoves for Liberia in CGI U 2011.

Computer science graduate student Eric Luster took part in CGI U last year with a project called Detecting and Reporting Traumatic Brain Injury for Student Athletes.

"I got to give my speech directly to Bill Clinton," he said. "I knew that his wife Hillary had just had a concussion. This way, my project had a direct impact on his life.”

Although he didn’t win the program, it was a big kickoff for his project. After CGI U, he entered NSF I-corps, where he won $50,000 for developing his project and made important connections.

“Both milestones were key for staying on track and really focusing on my commitment," he said. "CGI U embraces your project and employs you to go out and find the correct people."

With more than 4,000 commitments proposed over the years, applicants might wonder how to come up with projects.

“It is important to keep in mind three criteria: commitments should be new, specific and measurable," Wetzel said. "What could help is to look up previous CGI U commitments and think what made them relevant to the points mentioned above.”

Lauren Wong, a journalism junior and a change agent at Changemaker Central, will attend the conference this year, even though her commitment is a work in progress.

“When I applied, I didn’t have a concrete idea, but I knew I wanted to get that experience," she said. "I don’t think CGI U should be just for people who have a solid idea, because I think that sometimes it’s almost too much pressure.”

Wong also said she encourages students to apply.

“It’s silly to hold yourself back because you think you’re not smart enough," she said. "It’s not necessarily about being the smartest, it’s about being passionate.”

The application deadline is Jan. 17.


Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @KseniaMaryasova

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an abbreviation in this article was incorrect. It has been fixed.

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