More than 400 WU students compete for 200 CGI U spots

| News Editor

Only half of the Washington University students who applied to Clinton Global Initiative University will have the chance to participate in the spring conference.

More than 400 students applied for the 200 spots that CGI U reserves for students of the host university, including individuals and groups from each of the University’s undergraduate colleges and graduate schools.

Nearly 200 of those applications were turned in on the day of the deadline.

“The culture here is that people wait until the last minute, and so I was nervous the beginning part of the week because I wasn’t sure what the numbers [of applicants] were going to turn out to be,” said Robin Hattori, assistant director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service and co-coordinator of the steering committee that will review the applications.

“We got a groundswell at the end there. So, I’m glad that students did come through and want to participate,” she added.

Senior Ethan Lynch said he and his group of three other students submitted their proposal five minutes before the deadline.

“We’re college students,” he said.

Hattori and Associate Vice Chancellor of Campus Life Jill Carnaghi met with students and hosted a series of workshops last semester to help applicants develop their proposals for a “commitment to action.”

“The thing with CGI U is you’re not really just applying to attend the conference itself, you’re applying to make a commitment to action. That process weeds out people who are not as serious because they do have to put some thought into what they want to do with their commitment,” Hattori said.

This week, around 30 faculty and staff from across the University will divide into subcommittees to read through the 400 applications. The committee decided not to bring on student reviewers, so as to avoid any conflicts of interest.

At least two people will read each application, sorting out those students who are “accepted” or “promising” to discuss with the full committee on Feb. 7.

When the committee has made its final decisions, it will send its recommendations to CGI U, which will send out letters of acceptance to students in mid-February.

“We’re on a pretty compressed timeline, and the nice thing is we have a big review committee and everyone’s been trained,” Hattori said. “We’re relying heavily on our colleagues to make this all come together, and I think it’ll be a pretty smooth process.”

Hattori was pleased to see diversity among the applicants.

“I was happy to see the diversity of people who responded and who have an interest in these global issues because I think that’s definitely how we have to inspire the next generation to tackle them [through an interdisciplinary manner],” she said. “Because, you know, something you think might just be an engineering issue like, say, clean water, also has public health impacts, it has education impacts. It was great to see that type of diversity in the pool.”

Carnaghi noted that several of the applications reflect student projects that are already underway.

“Some of the graduate and professional students have kind of already been doing something in the area of which they submitted a commitment to action, but they want to do something different to move it ahead—and it’s same with undergraduates,” she said.

Sophomore and Student Union Senator Ryan Halvorsen began work on his proposal, a sustainability awareness campaign called Tote Green WUSTL, last semester.

“I think CGI U will be…kind of like a think tank because, you know, there’s only so much that I know on how to implement certain things and what I think is good. But viewing it from other people’s points of view, maybe there’s things I’m forgetting or things I can keep pushing toward that I think is a good idea,” he said. “I think that’s the main thing I see out of it, that collaborative element.”

Once the participant recommendations have been decided upon, the University’s CGI U committee will continue with other preparations for the conference.

The committee is accepting applications for student volunteers for the conference until Feb. 8.

“We’ve got a very healthy number [of volunteer applicants] now, and if it’s anything like the application for participants, we should get a huge surge at the end,” Carnaghi said.

The committee is also working to finalize a community service event for the CGI U participants on the Sunday, after the conference, and an “exchange fair” during the weekend for local student group chapters of national organizations to network with peers from other institutions.

Hattori has corresponded extensively with George Washington University, which hosted CGI U last year, about what to expect from the conference.

“They said that the hugest benefit was to the students because they got to have access to things they normally don’t get access to, and they were just truly inspired and excited by the energy in the room,” she said. “And so I think for the 200 students who are selected to go, it’s going to be a really cool, sort of once in a lifetime sort of thing.”

Hattori said she hopes that those students who are not selected will continue to pursue the commitments to action they’ve developed.

Junior Jake Lyonfields said he and a fellow student hope to pursue their project whether or not he has the chance to attend the conference.

“I think we may not have necessarily thought about this particular idea had it not been for the CGI U, and it’s something that we’re really interested in pursuing regardless of whether we get selected,” he said.

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