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

Twenty-seven students will represent UAB at the Clinton Global Initiative University from Oct. 13-15 at Northeastern University.

Written by: Tiffany Westry

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cgi streamTwenty-seven University of Alabama at Birmingham students will present innovative solutions to issues in their communities and around the globe at the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative University meeting from Oct. 13-15 at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

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. More than 1,100 students from around the world will gather at the annual meeting to network with their peers, meet with topic experts, identify potential partners and learn skills to support advancing their ideas into action. Through the CGI University Network and other opportunities, more than $750,000 in funding will be available to select CGI U 2017 students to move their ideas forward.

“This is the fourth year that UAB students have attended the Clinton Global Initiative University,” said Amy Badham, UAB’s director of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research. “CGIU empowers students to see themselves as instruments of change to address the major global issues of our times, and then to take concrete steps toward their solutions.”

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.

“We are proud of the innovative solutions UAB students are presenting to address global issues,” said Suzanne Austin, Ph.D., senior vice provost and senior international officer. “Students from diverse disciplines across our campus have long been involved in domestic and international initiatives, and CGIU offers them an opportunity to network and learn ways to advance their ideas.” 

The 27 students represent seven schools and 15 fields of study; 17 participants are students in the UAB Honors College.

The students have made 12 Commitments to Action in four of the focus areas:


Joseph Lucker, senior in biochemistry, Tina Tian, senior in neuroscience, and Joanna Schmidt, junior in physics, plan to develop an education outreach division in an effort to instill an interest in math in more students in the Birmingham area. The group will encourage students at Title I middle schools in the Birmingham area who are not on a school-sponsored math team to participate in a middle school math tournament at UAB.

Wynton Sims, junior majoring in biochemistry, will create an initiative targeting high-ability African-Americans to stimulate interest in STEM careers. A key feature will be a mentoring program connecting African-American professionals, graduate students and undergraduate students with high school students. Ultimately, Sims hopes to increase minority representation in science and medicine, thus working to reduce the widespread health disparities that exist in the African-American community. This project will be in collaboration with UAB HealthSmart and the director of Student Support Services for Birmingham City Schools.

Trevor Holden, sophomore in biology, will establish the STEM Bridge Program, a mentoring program to help under-represented high school students succeed in STEM fields in college. The program aims to stimulate the students’ academic understanding in STEM, and give them other tools needed for earning a degree by pairing STEM undergraduates and faculty with high school students as mentors. Holden is partnering with UAB Honors College leadership for this project.

Environment and Climate Change

Bezawit Eyob, a senior majoring in English, and Isabella Mak, senior in neuroscience, want to partner with UAB Sustainability, campus restaurants and dining facilities to develop and implement waste reduction initiatives through their “ReduceIt” project. One initiative to reduce the use of receipt paper would include the adoption of an e-receipt system, and placement of recycling bins at registers will reduce paper usage, cost, waste and contact with harmful chemicals as a result that impact everyday consumers globally by starting locally.

Abigail Franks, sophomore in political science, graduate student Sara Harper and Megan Richard, sophomore in public health, would like to integrate more solar energy on campus by installing a pavilion on one of UAB’s green spaces on campus to provide a space where students can charge their electronics and study. This commitment will aspire to push Alabama toward cleaner energy use. The project would be in partnership with UAB Sustainability, the Green Initiative club and the Institute for the Visual Arts. The team hopes their project will increase awareness and usage of solar energy.

Peace and Human Rights

Jordan Giddens, a senior majoring in finance, proposes a program to increase resources for male sexual assault victims in Birmingham. The program would provide new resources that help male sexual assault victims pursue criminal charges, form support groups with other victims in the area, and gain access to appropriate therapy to help them cope with trauma. Giddens would also partner with the Change Project to launch a social media awareness campaign to destigmatize current social biases against male sexual assault victims.

Sarah Dib, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in business administration, and Aseel Dib, a senior majoring neuroscience, are working to provide medical aid to refugees of Jordan. In March of 2017, a group of 12 health care professionals including physicians, nurses and volunteers delivered medical aid and supplies to the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. The group hopes to raise local awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis and establish partnerships with medical professionals and organizations in Jordan in order to continue efforts to provide medical aid.

Roman Johnson, a Ph.D. student studying medical sociology, is working to improve human relationships by shedding light on how racism impacts how we perceive each other. This summer, Johnson traveled to Morocco to study Arabic and discuss colorism in Moroccan culture. He conducted Saturday academies to facilitate discussion about racism in Moroccan society and how it parallels what happens in the United States.

Public Health

Edna Teiko-Awere, sophomore in biology, Tina Cao, sophomore in chemistry, and Aleena George, sophomore in engineering, established BroX, a nonprofit organization that provides monthly subscription boxes that contain facts and tips, healthy snacks, and exercise plans to maintain healthy mental state for college freshmen at UAB, Birmingham-Southern College and Samford University. In partnership with campus organizations such as Active Minds and the Student Health and Wellness Center at UAB, BroX seeks to raise awareness about mental health and to educate college freshmen about resources available on campus.

Trung Huynh, junior in biology, Gaurav Agrawal, senior in engineering, and Angelin Ponraj, senior in biomedicine, will prepare and distribute diabetic-friendly meals composed of low-costing dehydrated foods and provide education outreach to individuals with diabetes in rural parts of Alabama. The team plans to partner with the UAB Department of Biotechnology and mobile health clinic. The team hopes to improve the lifestyles of individuals with diabetes in rural, low-income areas as well as to increase their overall knowledge of diabetes.

Michelle Kung, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in business administration, proposes “Active Alabama,” a community-based program aimed to increase physical activity among college students in the Birmingham area. The goal is to promote awareness of the negative impacts of being sedentary as well as create an environment conducive to exercise.

Olivia Battle, Bethany Mades and Michael Burson, graduates of the UAB School of Nursing, have committed to decreasing the high number of 911 calls made by patients experiencing hypoglycemic episodes by creating educational materials for patients. In collaboration with Birmingham Fire and Rescue Services, the initiative aims to assist paramedics in educating patients who refuse medical transport following treatment for hypoglycemia. They hope to reduce future preventable hypoglycemic episodes by half by February 2018.

Laken Grissom, a senior majoring in public health, proposes the Logan Foundation, a harm-reduction program for those with opioid abuse disorders. The goal is to reduce substance abuse prevalence, as well as HIV and hepatitis prevalence. This program will provide intravenous drug users the opportunity to participate in needle exchange, educational sessions, HIV and hepatitis testing, and individual counseling sessions. This program will also help facilitate entering into rehabilitation programs. The project would partner with the Metro Bus System, UAB and UAB’s 1917 Clinic.

Natalie Voss, junior in psychology, and Danielle Madsen, senior in public health, proposes Girl Talk at UAB, an organization to educate women at UAB about reproductive health options via website discussion boards and in-person Girl Talks. The organization’s goal is to empower women and destigmatize women’s health education in the South.