Fifteen Cornell student delegates, including six students from the College of Arts & Sciences, participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University conference Oct. 13-15 at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.
The meeting brought together more than 1,100 student leaders, who made “Commitments to Action” in the initiative’s five focus areas: education; environment and climate change; peace and human rights; poverty alleviation and public health.
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative convenes global and emerging leaders to create and implement solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.
Commitments to Action, which are plans for addressing a significant global challenge, are the defining feature of the initiative. Since 2005, initiative members have made more than 3,600 commitments, which the initiative says are improving the lives of more than 435 million people in 180 countries.
Kanyisola Obayan, a doctoral student in Africana studies, focused her work on education.
“I chose education as my commitment to action because education is the foundation of progress and innovation in any society,” Obayan said. “In particular, I focus on creative arts education, which tends to be marginalized within the Nigerian education system.”
Obayan is the founder and executive director of a nonprofit organization, Orisun Collective Inc., which hosts residential summer camps in Lagos for the creative arts. Orisun Collective collaborates with local secondary schools, nonprofit organizations and tech companies to equip students with practical skills and resources to tackle pressing societal issues in their communities.
“My board members and I seek to empower Nigerian youths, foster innovative thinking, cultivate leadership and strengthen academic skills,” Obayan said. “With our program’s emphasis on community building and addressing inequity, we will empower students to be innovative leaders for social change in addition to sharpening their academic capabilities.”
Cynthia Lin ’18 and Qiuwei Yang ’18, co-directors of The Scientista Foundation chapter at Cornell, are also focused on education. They are committed to creating an interactive, educational workshop series aimed at promoting a STEM education among middle school girls and providing them with the resources and tools necessary to become future leaders in STEM.
“My team and I wanted to contribute to the retention of women in STEM by beginning a sustainable, local initiative to do so,” Lin said. “Clinton Global Initiative University would be a great opportunity to set our ideas in motion.”
By focusing on education, Lin hopes to use her team’s Commitment to Action to promote earlier STEM exposures for female students.
“We chose to focus on middle schoolers because that is when they begin to view math and science as ‘boy subjects’ and change their career paths accordingly,” Yang said. “We talked to some parents who were heavily involved in the Ithaca school district, and they said a lot of middle school girls who may have been involved in the math team or Science Olympiad in elementary school stop participating because none of their friends are involved.”
Gender stereotyping leads many young girls to be unaware that careers in science are relevant to their lives and are an option for them, Lin said. “It is important to allow these students to build an understanding of societal obstacles that women face in their career paths and to teach the students that they can achieve and persevere.”
Sena Katako ‘19, Dennis Nyanyo ‘18 and Samuel Opoku-Agyemang ‘19 chose public health as their Commitment to Action. Through their tech start-up, Hewale, which means “good health” in Ga, they aim to improve the Ghanaian patient experience.
“We hope CGU will help us meet other social entrepreneurs and NGOs that we can form strong partnerships with,” Nyanyo said. “We are a young start-up very much in the development stage. Our long-term goal is to improve efficiency in Ghanaian public hospitals.”
Nyanyo and his team have initiated conversations with hospital administrators in Ghana about ways to make hospitals switch from paper to electronic forms of record keeping to speed up treatment for patients.
“Through CGI U, we will be able to set measurable goals and to make significant impacts through our Commitment to Action,” Opuku-Agyemang said. “We are still trying to understand the problem well first. We are going back to Ghana in December to collect more information from hospitals. We really want our good intentions to translate to results. If we can get public healthcare right in Ghana, then this can be applied to other neighboring African countries.”
Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.