This past weekend, a group of 18 UC Berkeley students and alumni attended a national conference in St. Louis that aimed to combat some of the world’s most pressing problems.
The Clinton Global Initiative University in St. Louis, sponsored by former president Bill Clinton, allowed attendees to interact with successful leaders and celebrities such as Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Stephen Colbert, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.
UC Berkeley joined the Clinton Global Initiative University Network this year, the program’s inaugural year. The network is a coalition of universities that supports students who have made a “Commitment to Action,” or a one-year plan to address a critical challenge in one of five categories: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.
This year, the Blum Center for Developing Economies represented UC Berkeley in the network, and many students affiliated with the center applied to the CGIU for admission to the selective conference.
According to a Blum Center press release, the students were selected for their passion and energy and the strength of their “Commitments to Action.”
“I think the biggest inspiration for the Berkeley students (who went), in terms of meeting these famous leaders, is in discovering the long path of trials and victories these individuals have experienced,” said Sean Burns, the director of student programs at the Blum Center. “The leaders become more human, and the complexity of their work becomes more visible and accessible.”
Clinton’s presence in particular seemed to add an air of excitement to the event for many of the students.
“It was pretty cool because he actually seemed really interested in our project, so he asked a couple of questions, made some suggestions and just had a normal conversation with us,” said graduate student Matt Pavlovich.
Many of the students who went appreciated the networking opportunities that were available in such a high-profile conference.
“I loved talking with the other students there, many of whom are working on commitments around the world and were really eager to help us improve our own projects,” said junior Karem Herrera.
Stephen Colbert also attended the event and even interviewed some of the UC Berkeley students in character.
“That was one of the toughest interviews I ever did, but Stephen Colbert out of character was really gracious,” said junior Connor Galleher.
As the event ended, some students left with a renewed passion for developing their commitment.
“We’re so excited to continue working on our project, and we definitely want to go again next year,” Galleher said.
Contact Jason Liu at [email protected]