15 Washington University students selected to attend CGI U​

​Projects range from an urban farming project for local immigrants to  a post-surgical support network in Chile

For the third straight year, Washington University in St. Louis students have been selected to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University Commitments Challenge – a bracket competition where students face off to raise money for their service initiatives.

Samantha Pitz, Erica Sloan and Jess Thea, all sophomores in Arts & Sciences, advanced to the “Sweet Sixteen” for “Cultivating Connections,” an urban farming project that connects Washington University students to new immigrants and raises money for the International Institute Global Farms Initiative. By partnering with a leading local agency, Cultivating Connections is both efficient and sustainable, Thea said.

“We are building lasting relationships between students and these new Americans,” Thea said. “Part of our goal is to to raise money so they can expand and buy fencing, but we also want to raise awareness on campus about St. Louis’ diverse and rich fabric. I have learned so much meeting immigrants from Bosnia, sub-Saharan Africa, all over the world.”

The winner will be announced Sunday, March 8, at Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), being held this year at the University of Miami March 6-8. Pitz, Sloan and Thea are among 15 Washington University students who will be presenting their projects, which CGI U calls Commitments to Action. The students have received support and mentorship from the Gephardt Institute for Public Service and former CGI U student participants.

Cultivating Connections strives to support community gardens for immigrants. (Credit: Courtesy image)

Scheduled 2015 speakers at CGI U include Masha Alekhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova of the rock band Pussy Riot; Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore”; Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway; and Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

In 2014, then-sophomores Daniel Feinberg, Caitlin Lee and Madelyn Welsh won the Commitments Challenge for “Stay in Touch,” a texting service that enables disaster victims and their families anywhere in the world to communicate using any mobile phone.

In addition to Pitz, Sloan and Thea, other Washington University students attending CGI U are: sophomores Divya Babbula, Anika Kabani, Taylor Maxwell and Jeff Rosenthal and seniors
Mackenzie Findlay and Christy Marx, all from Arts & Sciences; and
Yujie Bai, Shikha Mittal, Biva Rajbhandari, Ismail Siyam, Preetha Swamy and Zhen Zhang, all students in the Brown School.

Washington University hosted CGI U in 2013. Founded by the Clinton Global Initiative, an initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, CGI U supports projects that advance five focus areas: education, environmental sustainability, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.