UAB students propose innovative solutions to global issues at Clinton Global Initiative University

Twenty-one students who have established themselves as leaders and innovators will travel to California in April for additional mentoring and support for their projects.
As the year draws to a close, UAB News looks back at some of the top stories of 2016. See them all here.

clinton scholars 2016 webThe University of Alabama at Birmingham will be represented by 21 students at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) from April 1-3 at the University of California, Berkeley.

Former President Bill Clinton launched CGI U in 2007 to engage student leaders in developing innovative solutions to campus, community or global challenges. More than 1,000 students will gather at the annual meeting to expand their networks, meet with topic experts and learn skills to support advancing their ideas into action.

“The annual meeting offers our students an opportunity to engage with a community of people from around the world,” said Libba Vaughan, UAB’s director of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research. “Students pitch their ideas and learn valuable fundraising and networking skills to further support the development of their commitments into action. It’s inspiring to see students with such passion and specific plans for making positive changes in the world.”

UAB Senior Vice Provost Suzanne Austin, Ph.D., recognizes the students’ dedication to develop projects with both local and global reach. “We have 21 exceptional students from various disciplines with the common goal of making a difference. They are already leaders and innovators, but CGI U provides a great platform for them to receive additional mentoring and support.”

The 21 students represent four schools and 12 fields of study. Fifteen participants are students in the UAB Honors College, and two of the three graduate students are Honors College graduates.

To apply to CGI U, a student or a group of students must develop a Commitment to Action with specific and measurable steps to address challenges in one of five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, or public health.

UAB students have made 12 commitments to action in four of the focus areas:


  • Rohit Borah, senior in political science and fifth-year Master of Public Health, proposes “Nurture International” to bring modernized, dynamic health education and literacy to children in low-income areas. Low socioeconomic status is a risk factor for a multitude of health disorders. Nurture will work with local entities in Birmingham, Alabama, to offer seminars, workshops and classes on topics that include nutrition, mental health and general personal welfare.
  • Gerardo Hernandez-Moreno, junior in biomedical engineering, and JaVarus Humphries, junior in neuroscience, plan to develop a network of unbiased medical professionals to offer a safe place for inner-city youth to confide as well as learn about sexual exigency and disease. They hope their “Spreading Awareness” project will challenge the stigmatization of sexual education.
  • Public health graduate students Neha Kaushik and Sagar Kaushik, along with Esha Kaushik, senior in psychology, are supporting the education and medical aid of women in underprivileged areas of India through the nonprofit organization “One Life at a Time.” Through the charity, young women will have the opportunity to receive an all-expenses-paid high school education with an option for a college education.
  • Rebecca Massey, junior biology major, plans to utilize the UAB student organization “Pre-Med Partners” to pair pre-med student mentors with underprivileged high school students from Birmingham City Schools. Monthly workshops will cover topics such as resume building and study skills. The goal is to help high school students get accepted into college pre-med programs and prepare them to become successful pre-med students.      

Poverty Alleviation

  • Ramon Jeter, junior in public health, introduces aquaponic farming in his “Hometown Grown Project” as an opportunity for impoverished communities in Alabama’s Black Belt to increase the availability of and access to healthy foods. The aim is to reduce the number of households lacking food security while engaging the community in the promotion of self-sufficiency and healthy food alternatives.

Peace and Human Rights

  • Anisha Das, senior in neuroscience, plans to bridge the technology gap and promote a closer community with her “Building Bridges” project. She will enlist UAB student volunteers to serve as personalized computer skills tutors for residents of Highland Manor Assisted Living.
  • Aseel Dib, senior in chemistry, and Mallack Jaber, senior in neuroscience, will work with student organizations at UAB to engage in dialogue about issues of Islamaphobia and xenophobia toward Middle Eastern populations in Birmingham, Alabama. Applying a religious and ethnic lens to the multifaceted nature of discrimination, they plan to engage students suffering from stereotypes and students perpetuating stereotypes. They hope to implement solutions that challenge negative perceptions and stereotypes with their project, “Breaking Stereotypes: The Middle-east.”

Public Health

  • Gaurav Agrawal, junior in biomedical engineering, Christlin Ponraj, graduate student in biotechnology, and Angelin Ponraj, sophomore in biomedical sciences, are planning a project that will provide early diabetes detection for Alabama residents. Their “Integrated Latrine Technology for Early Disease Detection” project utilizes a color indication change in toilet water to make users aware of a potential diabetes diagnosis and the need to seek further testing and treatment.
  • Seth Borgstede, junior in public health, plans to combat death by dehydration for children under the age of 5 in Pemba, Mozambique. Promoting hydration and basic health practices, his “Mobile Development” project will use existing local technology to disseminate a transcultural video via Bluetooth to demonstrate how to make an electrolyte-filled drink using local resources.
  • Armand Fernandez, junior in health-related programs, wants to establish a fast, free and discreet condom-delivery service to UAB students living in residence halls. The “UAB Condom SEXpress” would implement a sexual health-educated peer delivery system that serves beyond the hours of health centers and convenience stores. This project will work in collaboration with student health organizations to educate residential students and give them access to condoms and sexual health information.
  • Aileen Jong, senior in philosophy, Michelle Nguyen, senior in neuroscience, and Clara Wan, senior in biology, seek to use “Camions of Care at UAB” to promote menstrual hygiene management to raise awareness and serve the Birmingham community. Camions of Care at UAB is a local chapter of the national organization that provides women in need with essential menstrual hygiene products.
  • Seniors in public health Sean McMahon and Aarin Palomares, also a fifth-year Master of Public Health student, plan to use “Project Pad” to decrease infection rates associated with lack of sanitary feminine hygiene products and create economic opportunity for women who are refugees in a nongovernmental camp in Turkey. Local and international community partners will develop a curriculum to teach proper feminine hygiene and implement Loving Humanity’s model to create economic opportunity.