Today we were congruent in our missions to integrate service into our lives by volunteering at the Gateway STEM High School in St. Louis.
An opening session with Chelsea Clinton, Gateway STEM Principal Beth Bender, President Bill Clinton, and three representing team members of the St. Louis Rams (Robert Quinn, Jake Long, and Chris Givens) introduced the school’s initiative to us. It answered the question of why we were there and what they were giving back to their community – providing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to high school students from an area primarily made up of first- and second-generation immigrants. There are over 1,000 students within this high school, which principal Beth Bender has been working at for five years. Prior to that, there was seven different principals in six years. The school is in rough shape; it requires much more than just the paint-job we gave to the cafeteria and the cleaning we did in various science labs and classrooms. It was very outdated, but a local business [Brightergy] recently installed 100 solar panels on the roof, contributing to a green initiative the school has started.
There was a great deal of press there, recording Bill and Chelsea helping the groups doing service work outside. It was nice to see everyone in casual clothes, sweating our asses off together in the toasty cafeteria. Forty students from the school also joined us. I believe we were doing a great thing by providing an aesthetically pleasing public school that all stakeholders in the community will take pride in.
The tagline of the Clinton Global Initiative University, turning ideas into action, was imbedded in my head as not only the purpose of the conference, but the motivation to press on, although by this point (post-closing plenary session) I was so tired.
I didn’t end up attending my office hours, but all my friends said that they were great. It was an opportunity to have an intimate discussion with one of many political leaders, celebrities, and activists with a group of 20 or so people.
Instead, I wandered around and met with the many students displaying their Commitments to Action, some that are already full-fledged organizations. I also spent a good deal of time networking. Once Mahmoud got out of his office hours, I found him sitting at a table with Myles Estey, the senior editor of Makeshift Magazine, the moderator of the work session I went to earlier that afternoon. I was intrigued by the work session simply because his title said “magazine editor,” so I was really excited to talk with him.
Makeshift Magazine is a relatively small-circulated publication covering grassroots projects from the ground up. There is a great deal of research published, as well as infographics and photographs from innovative projects and cultures across the globe. It’s really nicely done, but Myles was telling me about the trouble they’re starting to have as they reach workload capacity. “We are taking on more work as individuals to get everything done,” he said. “There is not much more we can do, and as a writer, I can’t ask someone to contribute content without paying them. Even if they want to do that, I don’t feel okay doing such a thing.” I sarcastically let out *intern*cough*cough* and he agreed that interns were the route to go.
I then asked many follow-up questions about the next step of the magazine, how they collect content, and all about their digital-presence. To save you from potential boredom, I’ll keep the conversation to myself, but feel free to ask me more if you’re curious.
Before being on my way, we snapped a quick photo, exchanged contact cards, and he invited me to shoot him an e-mail. I really enjoyed meeting someone with a similar interest in media as me, and I appreciated his honest insight on the magazine industry.
Although Mahmoud and I missed the CGIU Campus Representatives picture out on the green in front of the athletic complex, we were psyched because we got pretty good seats at the closing plenary, AKA ‘The Colbert Report’ show.
Stephen Colbert, with his wit and humor, welcomed President Bill Clinton to the stage just as he would on his own show. Their interview lasted 15-20 minutes, they filmed other transition production bits, and then the real Colbert came out. He was still just was funny and cunning as he plays on his late-night talk show, but he spoke a little more openly about his thoughts on global issues and what he hopes the future will look like for this three children, and the generations to come.
After the opening plenary featured Jack Dorsey, Colbert asked President Clinton if he used Twitter or not. Presuming a no, Colbert already created a satirical Twitter account for “PrezBillyJeff,” because it was the only Twitter handle available with a combination of his name. Right there on stage, Prez Billy Jeff sent out his first Tweet: “Just spent amazing time with Colbert! Is he sane? He is cool! #cgiu.” The audience responded fast, retweeting and replying to the President’s new account. I joked, “@KayAyWhyElleAy: @PrezBillyJeff That’s a quality first Tweet. Us millennials are so proud. @jack must be too. Fun idea @StephenAtHome #CGIU”
The floor was then opened to questions from the audience, and the session went live online. I didn’t have the guts to get up and ask something, and it was fairly competitive with hands flying up all over the place. The first question asked was, “Bill, we’re starting a CGIU band and were wondering if you’d rekindle your love of playing the saxophone and join us.” From that point on, there were less funny questions, and more serious questions regarding pressing issues.
Before we knew it, the session was over and the thousand of us were off to dinner or the office hours we registered for.
Tune in to ‘The Colbert Report’ tonight (April 8) at 11:30 p.m. ET for a special Clinton Global Initiative University themed episode to hear Stephen Colbert’s remarks at the closing session and his interview with President Bill Clinton.
After the lunchtime plenary session, everyone moved on to another round of skill or working sessions. It was my turn to attend a working session, of which I choose the Poverty Alleviation session (our area of commitment) “The Rise of Makeshift Innovation” with moderator Myles Estey, senior editor of Makeshift Magazine.
The panel also included Amy Sun, President and Co-founder of FabFolk; Sally Madsen, Design Lead at IDEO; and Aaron Stathum, an industrial engineer designer who participated in CGIU two years ago after inventing a time-saving washing machine for the developing world.
The session focused on how creativity rises organically, how to serve people with products or services but maintain culture (“do no harm” - Myles), how to identify the stakeholders’ hot spots, and where motivation comes from.
After the panel’s discussion we were asked to work into our round-table groups. We introduced ourselves and our Commitments to Action, then talked about how what we just heard will effect our personal projects in the future. One table presented their findings after; the student identified the differences between sympathy and empathy as motivation. Whether you do it to feel better about yourself, or actually stand for sustainable justice for that culture.
It was an overall interesting session although it was very abstract and lacked visual appeal. This was surprising considering the panel was half composed of designers.
Oh, did I mention Arizona Cardinals’ linebacker Sam Acho joined us? What a stud, and apparently ranked one of the top 20 smartest pro athletes.
During our lunch plenary session on Saturday, President Bill Clinton welcomed long-time sponsor and friend Peter George Peterson of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to the stage. Pete Peterson (I’ll keep typing his whole name because it’s fun to say) was ranked 149th on the Forbes 400 Richest Americans in 2008. He has a net worth of $2.8 billion. And let me tell you, listening to him, he deserved every penny. He was funny, charming, worldly, considerate, and inspiring. He was the one who said, “President Clinton – you will not only be considered a great President, but the best Post-President ever.”
His message to us was to focus on a positive vision – don’t focus on what you’ll have to give up, but what you strive to be. View this as a diet: don’t focus on giving up your favorite food, but visualize a better, healthier, sexier you. It gives you the mind-power and positivity to get there.
We then had a transition, where there was a Commitment update from One Bead, an organization started by Sara Wroblewski in 2012 that works with recycled glass blowers in Kenya to create bracelets that are sold for a profit. The profits go to improving education systems in the glass blowers’ community. I mentioned in an earlier post that when I arrived at Lambert airport on Friday, I met a girl from Wake Forest University. This particular girl, Quinn, is the cousin of the founder of One Bead, and described the project to me briefly on the shuttle to our hotels. It was great seeing the effectiveness of their work. Seeing is believing.
The lunch plenary session then proceeded with the “Looking for Unlikely Allies” Panel. This featured Will Allen, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, and Harvard student Sara Minkara. The session was moderated by author Bill Bishop.
I really enjoyed hearing from Will Allen, who works with sustainable urban farming and many other products to help bring food to people in impoverished areas. I am looking forward to reading his book, “Good Food Revolution.” On the subject of unlikely allies, Allen stated that it is important to get the most unlikely folks at the table; having them in the discussion makes a huge difference.
Quote of the session: “We have a genetic defect to want to be publicly loved.” – Senator Claire McCaskill
“It’s pretty powerful the impact that can be made through social media,” said social media maven Chelsea Novak of Mozilla, the company that brought you Firefox web browser.
I was in a more intimate classroom now, with about 40 other students, at a skill session titled “Creating Buzz: Using Social Media to Market Your Cause.” What could be more appropriate for me?
Commentators Chelsea Novak and Emily Yu shared with us tips and tricks of how to better engage people on social media. The biggest piece of advice for non-savvy social media users is that you want to be where your audience is, and consider the goals of your social media venture – are you trying to raise funds or just spread awareness?
Content is best received in two ways: a call to action or a graphic.
- A call to action: when you invite people to like, share, follow a link, take a poll – something to learn more and be engaged for a longer period of time.
- Graphics: People better receive images than words. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. A great tool is incorporating type on an image, or embedding photos with clickable links
Emily Yu, who works for the Case Foundation, then tackled the portion of the session to be fearless when it comes to using social media effectively. She suggested that all marketers think about utilizing social media from the get-go. She provided additional resources and made sure to reiterate that “social media used effectively could kill you,” because it is really easy to go overboard with updating followers about your brand.
I really appreciated the wealth of information about how to engage millennials in social media, so I approached Chelsea after to thank her. I mentioned my own blog, Assiduous Student (which you are currently reading), and asked about how to transition my blog from Assiduous Student to The Persevering Graduate (or something) after graduation next year. My senior capstone in the fall will help me to rebrand myself on social media, but it was still really nice to get some insight on how to transition smoothly without losing myself.
What are your thoughts regarding how I should transition my blog post-graduation? What would you like to see more of (now or in the future)?
This morning’s plenary session, titled “A Better Future for Girls and Women: Empowering the Next Generation” included Middlebury grad Shabana Basij-Rasikh, Managing Director of the School of Leadership in Afghanistan (SOLA); Hawa Abdi Diblawe; the President of Dell Stephen Felice, and was moderated by Chelsea Clinton.
Empowering women can be done in many different ways, including but not limited to entrepreneurship. Simply, teaching women how to express themselves, providing them means of communication, or giving them freedom to control their own finances is a way of empowering them. When Chelsea Clinton got her first computer in 1987, it allowed her to do so much - find Carmen SanDiego and do homework - she didn’t foresee what this technology would turn into.
Stephen Felice asked us, “What are you going to do with the power of technology? He asked us this, as millennials, so we don’t take it for granted as most Americans do. We’re so fortunate that things as widespread as social media enable self-expression.
Two things that Shabana said that I found most powerful were: ”90% of a woman’s income goes back into the family [as opposed to 30-40% of a man’s] to raise educated children.” This starts a cycle of empowerment. Secondly, she concluded the session by stating, “If I wasn’t an optimist, and wasn’t realistic, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing today.”
Photos courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/cgiphotos/
President Bill Clinton acted as the moderator of the first plenary session on Friday evening. He introduced to us Dartmouth student William Kamkwamba, author of “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope;” Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter and CEO of Square, Inc.; Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International; and fashion designer Kenneth Cole.
The entire panel was enthusiastic, inspiring, and passionate, but as a marketing major I took special interest in what Jack Dorsey had to say. President Clinton said, “[Jack] gave us a new, unprecedented way to communicate to each other…that could be embarrassing for all involved.” I really enjoyed the humor incorporated throughout the entire session.
The session was titled ‘Getting off the Ground: Stories of Starting Up,’ but there was a lot of talk about technology and globalization as well. Clinton stated the realization that 8 year-olds can go online and find out the things he had to go to University to learn, and we need to remember that many people around the world are still isolated to that. We take this technology for granted, and get frustrated when Facebook changes to timeline, or a web page takes a couple minutes to load. Arrg!
The video above is of Jack Dorsey’s first response, a general overview of why he started Twitter, etc. Jack not only got some love over Twitter during the conference, but also for the fact that he is a St. Louis-native, growing up just around the corner from where the conference is being hosted at Washington University.
During his answer, Jack stated that “constraints inspire creativity” in regard to tweets being limited to 140 characters. This struck me because in my Creativity and Conceptual Development class with Prof. Cinse Bonino, we spent a class discussing constraints and their connection to creativity. I tweeted at #CGIU “I want a simple one-word answer from all panelists, “What drives you?” Remember, @jack says, constraints inspire creativity.” Bill read the question on stage, and I couldn’t have gotten funnier answers. Kenneth Cole’s was definitely not one word. He said, “My one word is…You can change your outfit, you can outfit your change, or both.” Jack’s answer was simply, “Why.” because it is the easiest question to ask, but the hardest to answer.
Other bits and pieces I jotted down from this session were:
- "We need to build a culture where failure is okay, as long as it’s not the product of laziness.” - Bill Clinton
- Don’t let people define your life. Don’t give away your tomorrows. - Bill Clinton
- Every single day is a roller coaster. It’s why we do what we do. It’s a rush. - Jack Dorsey
- If you remember the purpose, the why, and how short life is, you can push past failure and get stuff done. - Jack Dorsey
- If you hate when people tweet stuff like what they had for breakfast, fine. But I’m going to tweet what I had for breakfast, and one person is always going to like it. My mom. She likes to know that I’m eating. - Jack Dorsey
- Know the problem and give them what they want but don’t expect. - Kenneth Cole, who also made a point to embed service in your work.
- The future is here, it just hasn’t been distributed yet. - Jack Dorsey paraphrasing someone else
- When people said to me, “You’re crazy! Go get yourself a job!” things were really hard because there was no support. I needed two things: to believe in myself and know that I could do it, and I needed the support of one other person, someone else. - Zainab Salbi (I added a third: do what you love and feel passionate for)
Overall, this panel started off the conference right. No manual alone can prepare us young innovators and leaders for the challenges ahead of launching and promoting our Commitments to Action. This advisory board was both entertaining and insightful. Enjoy the video above.
Wow. That was a chock-full afternoon. Full itinerary, full mind, full stomachs.
After checking into my hotel room, Mahmoud and I got lunch nearby at C.J. Mugg’s. I had a killer steak salad with grilled veggies, balsamic glaze, and sweet potatoes. Yum! We caught up on the past couple weeks, since we’ve both been so busy in our every-day lives back at Champlain, then headed back to catch a shuttle to Washington University’s campus with the other student members of the conference.
When I returned to my room to grab my jacket, I was alarmed by screaming girls stuck in the elevator around the corner from my room (I called the front desk and saved the day), and was instantly intrigued by the sound of Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us blaring from my room. I opened the door to meet my two roommates from Los Angeles, Michelle and Victoria, and we headed down to the lobby together, introducing ourselves through our Commitments to Action.
We met Mahmoud in the lobby, where we also met a new friend, Malika, and boarded the coach bus to campus. We were amazed by the campus and the signage for CGI U. Really blew us away. Just about everyone coming off the bus paused for a picture in front of the recreation center before check-in.
With check-in, we each received a gift bag tote and mug - to tell you the truth I really haven’t explored what else is in there. I just used the bag to cram all my stuff in. It came in handy.
We then headed downstairs and around the corner to the networking event and dinner, where some students or teams displayed their Commitments to Action. There were cocktail tables set up, and they fed us like kings and queens. I enjoyed local farmers market veggies and tons of watermelon.
After a couple hours of networking, snacking, and enjoying brewed teas and sparkling lemonade, I made my way down the hall to the ladies room to find everyone setting up for the night’s plenary session in the main hall.
I went right on ahead in, trying to get a seat as close to the stage as possible, and called Mahmoud to have him join me. On the floor level, we were surrounded by 1,000 other student members who submitted commitments to action to attend this meeting. On the upper level were attendees from Washington University, sitting in to hear the session on entrepreneurship titled “Getting off the Ground: Stories of Starting Up.”
Promptly at 6:30, we were briefed with a video summary of last year’s CGIU, their speakers, commitments, and the differences students’ made.
We were greeted first by Chelsea Clinton, who stated that, “To boldly express your commitment in the world, in a roomful of ‘do-gooders’ is not arrogant, it’s integrity.” She also acknowledged that we have the courage to bring these commitments to action and talk about them amongst our peers and experts, acting as huge support systems and critics.
Then President Clinton entered the stage. He spoke about how the definition of citizenship has changed over the past decades. One-half of all Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been established since 1995. This is mostly due to technology - the capability to educate oneself on pressing issues, share ideas, crowd-source, and communicate with others around the world.
Next was the expert discussion portion of the plenary session. For that, I will create a separate blog post.
It’s still exciting to be here, as one of a thousand students representing universities around the nation and the world, as one of eleven thousand original applicants. I would like to thank the sponsors of CGIU, that can be found on their website, for sponsoring my travel and lodging here.
First impressions: Immediately after exiting the plane, I was welcomed by the CGI U shuttle crew, guiding me and a number of other students to the hotel shuttles. The group of fellow CGI U attendees included a girl from Harvard, a boy from Brown, a girl from Wake Forest, and little old me from Champlain. At first I was intimidated, and then I was just plain old honored to be amongst exceptionally bright peers and discuss their unique Commitments to Action.
I arrived at Crowne Plaza in Clayton and was given a whole slew of things - a bottle of water, which I desperately needed after hours of plane-cabin air, information about the hotel and local restaurants, and a custom chocolate-covered cookie from Washington University St. Louis and CGI U! How fancy!
Now I’m checked into my room, no sign of a roommate yet, but I’m eager to meet up with Mahmoud for lunch. More soon!
Currently passing time in my gate at Logan International Airport in Boston, I am eagerly swinging my legs from the stool I’m perched upon awaiting my flight to St. Louis, Missouri for the Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting at Washington University. I’m hoping I meet some other students attending CGI U prior to the flight, so once I get there I no longer feel like a lost duckling.
Last night after working to capture the Class of 2013’s Trustee Dinner through fun little video interviews, I drove four hours to Newton, MA to meet up with my sister at Lasell College. After I arrived around midnight, I settled in and we watched Pitch Perfect until the wee hours of the night, barely getting a wink of sleep. Next thing you know, it was 4:30am. She and our friend Jenna drove me to the airport at 5am (thanks girls for waking up so early!), and plopped me outside my terminal to face the airport on my lonesome for the first time.
I’m so used to being a little duckling (couldn’t resist the video below for a laugh… even though it’s sad) following a pack of experienced flyers, but this time I just followed the crowd around me. There was an express baggage check outside, but upon entering the terminal, I forgot to snag my boarding pass at a self-check-in machine since I didn’t print it ahead of time. I went downstairs to security, only to be turned around. If early morning’s weren’t already hard enough. Back upstairs I went and then soon after was passed through security without a problem. What a relief, but alas, no fun stories to tell about my hands getting checked for explosive material or something, like I was at the Burlington airport in November.
As I wait, I look out at planes destined for sunny Florida and envision a trip to Pensacola to visit my grandparents in the near future. I mean, now that I’m a pro at navigating airports - Ha!
I heard St. Louis is nice though, and although I won’t get much of an opportunity to explore the city, I am ecstatic to be attending this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University meeting. Read Champlain’s press release about my team member Mahmoud Jabari ‘15 and I’s attendance by clicking the title of this post.
And follow along on my journey by following me on Twitter at @KayAyWhyElleAy or follow the live stream at @CGIU or #CGIU.