Washington U. to Host National Student Public Service Conference

Students ­attended workshops throughout ­November to develop their ­applications to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University, to be held this spring on the Danforth Campus. (Sid Hastings)

Washington University in St. Louis will serve as the host of the sixth annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), April 5–7, 2013, on the Danforth Campus.

Building on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative, which annually brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges, President Bill Clinton launched CGI U in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on ­college campuses around the world.

Past CGI U presenters include Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state; Jon Stewart, comedian and political commentator; Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist; and Usher, entertainer and philanthropist. At press time, the university announced that Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, and Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, will be among the presenters joining President Bill Clinton.

“Through CGI U, President Clinton is providing a platform for students from around the world to develop their civic commitments and connect with others who share those same passions.”

—Amanda Moore McBride

The CGI U objective speaks to the heart of the university’s mission of public service and global leadership, says Amanda Moore McBride, associate dean of the Brown School and director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service. “Through CGI U, President Clinton is providing a platform for students from around the world to develop their civic commitments and connect with others who share those same passions,” McBride says. “He wanted to change the emphasis of civic leadership from those that have already attained positions to those who could aspire to them.”

The initiative at Washington University will bring together nearly 1,200 attendees — including approximately 200 WUSTL graduate and undergraduate students — to be educated in CGI U’s five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health. Through a competitive application process, interested students outline a new, measurable goal (or ­“commitment”) they learn to achieve by attending. McBride says, “Their commitment will be something that’s within their power and wherewithal to influence and that can be used to ­galvanize the interest of others around the issue.”

Those participating will attend skill-building workshops (such as fundraising) and content-driven plenary ­sessions on the five focus areas, all facilitated by leaders from around the world, and all designed to help students realize those ­commitments. Organizers are also planning ­satellite viewing locations, with faculty-led discussions, to allow ­additional students, alumni, faculty and staff to ­participate in the conversation.

Besides the university’s proven capability for ­hosting events of CGI U’s size and caliber, McBride says that Washington University’s students were enticement for CGI U. “The reputation of our students’ civic commitments precedes us,” she says, pointing to statistics that show the undergraduate student body’s degree of volunteering and community service about 10 percentage points higher than those at its peer institutions.

Speaking to the event’s ripple effect, McBride says, “For the students who are on campus during this time, for those who are selected, this will be a touchstone for the rest of their lives.”

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