UAB students to showcase high-impact community projects at Clinton Global Initiative University summit

Students from four schools and nine majors will travel to CGIU in March.

clinton 2Seventeen University of Alabama at Birmingham students have been selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University on March 6-8 at the University of Miami.

Founded in 2007 by former President Bill Clinton, CGIU engages the next generation of campus leaders to address global issues in the Initiative’s five focus areas: education, environmental and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health.

“Students from diverse disciplines across our campus have long been involved in international initiatives that stem from our mission of teaching, research and service,” said Suzanne Austin, Ph.D., senior vice provost for Student and Faculty Success. “UAB is proud to work with CGIU to foster students’ ambitious projects that will serve local and international communities. We are very proud of and excited for these 17 outstanding students.”

To join CGIU, students develop Commitments to Action, which are new, specific and measurable initiatives that could benefit their own communities or communities around the world.

“I love CGIU because it enables students to engage in something they’re passionate about that is not necessarily something that’s related to their major or their course of study,” said Libba Vaughan, UAB’s coordinator of service learning. “When I talk to students about CGIU, at least one student in the room lights up, because they already have an idea they’re excited about. CGIU is a way for them to jump-start their idea.”

At the meeting students get feedback on their ideas and learn steps they can take to fulfill their commitments.

“The meeting teaches students skills such as fundraising and expands their network of people around the world who can help them make their idea happen,” Vaughan said.

The students represent four schools and nine fields of study. Fourteen participants are undergraduate honors students, and three are graduate students.

Three biomedical engineering majors, Gaurav Agrawal, freshman and Science and Technology Honors student, Ananya Bandyopadhyay, sophomore and UAB Honors Scholar, and Sara Liaghati-Mobarhan, senior and Science and Technology Honors student, are planning a project called “Engineers Next Door – Lavatory Initiative” that will partner with local citizens to build toilet infrastructures in Rajound, India. The project will provide safe, sanitary facilities for women of lower castes in the state of Haryana, in northern India.

Junhi Chang, sophomore in biomedical engineering and student in the Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, and Joseph Richardson, sophomore international studies and political science major and Experiential Learning Scholar, want to raise awareness of proper mental health care among the growing Korean-American community in Alabama. Their project, “Healthy Minds, Healthy Community,” would work against the Korean cultural stigmatization of mental health issues such as depression and eating disorders.

Students in the master of science in criminal justicedegree program Jessica Deitzer, Julien Grayer and Megan Webb, who also is pursuing a master of public administration degree, plan to confront misinformation on crime through a project called “Smart on Crime: Bridging the Gap between Perceptions and Reality.” Public misinformation can affect criminal justice policy, as crime is highly politicized and politicians seek to please the public. The goal of this commitment is to confront this misinformation with objective, empirical data and make it easily accessible to the American public by creating an attention-grabbing website that is both informational and interesting.

Raghu Kasa, junior public health major and Global and Community Leadership Honors Program student, wants to establish a chapter of ONE at UAB to campaign and advocate for the reduction of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. ONE at UAB will engage students to act upon issues that sub-Saharan African countries face, including infectious diseases, lack of reliable power and chronic hunger. Students will work collaboratively to make change on a local and political level.

Rebecca Massey, freshman biology major and Science and Technology Honors student, proposes a program called “Pre-Med Partners” that will address the lack of diversity among medical students in the United States. A student organization at UAB will partner current pre-med students with underprivileged high-school students, giving them the resources and mentoring they need to become successful pre-med students and doctors.

Ali Massoud, senior international studies major and University Honors Program student, will be attending his second CGIU. He proposes an “Egyptian Exchange” to send a group of UAB students to Cairo to collaborate with Egyptian students to find solutions to problems present in both countries, such as socioeconomic disparity, gender inequality and environmental sustainability. By approaching these issues from different perspectives, students from both countries will engage in a cross-cultural dialogue and come up with creative solutions. Those solutions then will be incorporated into experiential learning courses at UAB and universities in Egypt so that American and Egyptian students can turn their ideas into action.

Andrew Milstead, senior finance major in the UAB Collat School of Business and Business Honors student, hopes to bring natural apiaries to the Birmingham area through his project, “Pollinator Sustainability.” During the next two years, organization members will build, distribute and expand apiaries with sustainable pollinator gardens to various locations that have been affected by colony-collapse disorder. Hebee aims to foster shared value within the communities served by increasing the rate of pollination and raising awareness by partnering with the Pollinator Health Task Force established by President Barack Obama in June 2014.

Nicole Ogle, senior sociology major and Experiential Learning Scholar, hopes to help first-generation college students transition from high school to college through a program called “Mentoring for a Change.” Entering an honors program as freshmen can be especially challenging for such students. “Mentoring for a Change” hopes to increase the retention rate of the 15.7 percent of first-generation college students in the UAB Honors College. Providing support for first-generation college students from upperclassmen who are also first-generation college students will create greater cohesion among first-generation college students and the Honors College.

Shejuti Paul, senior neuroscience major in the Early Medical School Acceptance Program and University Honors Program student, will work to foster fellowship among people of different faiths through a commitment called “Better Together, Birmingham.” Through the common goal of meeting the needs of children living in poverty, she would like to involve youth groups to take a more active role in both interfaith work and addressing poverty within their community.

Rebecca Sylvester, sophomore public health major and student in the Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, plans a program called “Stairway to Health” to encourage UAB students, faculty and staff to use stairs rather than elevators by enhancing stairwells across campus with art, words of encouragement and facts about the health benefits of taking the stairs.

Abdullah Tarawneh, sophomore biomedical engineering and computer science major and Science and Technology Honors student, wants to expand educational opportunities to refugee children in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. During the next two years, this commitment will work with key partners to introduce Internet computing with school computer labs, making educational and Internet resources more accessible for long-term residents of a camp that is growing more permanent.

Richard Trieu, sophomore neuroscience major and Science and Technology Honors student, will establish a program called “StartU” to give access to an educational platform that will help develop the skills, environment and resources an individual needs to create his or her own startup and American dream.