Press Releases

President Clinton Announces the Launch of the Clinton Global Initiative University 2013 Commitments “Bracket” Challenge

March 25, 2013

Voting begins March 25 for third annual competition of student ideas and projects from 16 colleges and universities that address some of the world’s most pressing challenges

Stephen Colbert, host and executive producer of ‘The Colbert Report’ on Comedy Central, to interview President Clinton and host closing session of the sixth annual meeting of CGI U on Saturday, April 6

New York, NY – Today, President Bill Clinton announced the launch of the third annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Commitments Challenge, a competition of ideas from college and university students in the form of a “bracket.” This year, more than 1,000 students representing more than 300 universities and 75 countries will be in attendance.

The sixth meeting of CGI U will be held at Washington University in St. Louis from April 5-7, falling on the same weekend as the NCAA “Final Four” men’s and women’s basketball championships.

“While we all pay attention to great student athletes during ‘March Madness,’ our CGI University Commitments Challenge celebrates great student ideas to address some of the world’s most pressing issues,” said President Clinton. “Whether empowering poor families in Nepal to start their own fish farms, launching an annual event for disability rights, or securing engineering apprenticeships for students who’ve dropped out of high school in Kenya, these 16 new CGI U Commitments to Action in our ‘bracket’ competition reflect the passion, potential, and problem solving skills of our next generation of leaders.”

Beginning today, the public can vote for their favorite CGI U 2013 commitment at

Votes will be tallied and posted in real-time, and those not attending CGI U can follow the action at The winning commitment will be announced at the closing plenary session of CGI U, which will feature President Clinton and Stephen Colbert on April 6 at 3:30 p.m. CDT. The session will also feature an interview with President Clinton that will be taped to air in a special CGI U-themed episode of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” during the week of April 8, as well as a Q&A session with students in attendance. 

The 2013 CGI U Commitments Challenge Voting Schedule:

  • The first round of voting will open today and will end Thursday, March 28 at 1:00 p.m. CDT
  • The quarterfinal round of voting will end Monday, April 1 at 1:00 p.m. CDT
  • The semifinal round of voting will end Thursday, April 4 at 1:00 p.m. CDT
  • The final round of voting will end Saturday, April 6 at 1:00 p.m. CDT

The CGI U 2013 program will feature sessions that will examine issues throughout CGI U’s five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health. The meeting will examine critical topics, such as combating prescription drug abuse among young people, what it takes to launch a business as a young entrepreneur, and how to empower the next generation of girls and women around the world. These sessions will allow students to gain further insight into today’s pressing global challenges and acquire the skills needed to make progress on their own Commitments to Action.

The full agenda for CGI U 2013 can be found at

The student commitments being featured in the CGI U 2013 Commitments Challenge include:

Takachar: Turning Urban Waste into Value
Commitment by: Kevin Kung
School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In 2013, Kevin Kung, a member of Engineers without Borders, committed to partner with five urban waste cooperatives that collect waste from 1,500 households in the Kibera slum in Kenya. Through this collaboration, Kung will transform the waste into affordable charcoal briquettes that can be used as cooking fuel.

The Mobile Science Lab: Toys from Trash
Commitment by: Prachiti Dalvi and Pranali Dalvi
School: Duke University

In 2013, Prachiti Dalvi and Pranali Dalvi committed to help primary school students build scientific models and conduct hands-on experiments using local scrap materials through Mobile Science Lab. They hope to make science education more accessible to children in their birth city of Mumbai.

Water Tower Construction and Clean Water Education in More Tomorrow, Belize Commitment by: Cody LaBarber; Zach Bever; Jake Pitts; Courtney Hill
School: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

In 2013, Cody LaBarber, Zach Bever Jake Pitts, and Courtney Hill committed to build a water tower that will provide clean water to the village of More Tomorrow, Belize by the end of the year. After construction is complete, they will train the local residents to properly use and maintain the tower.

The Chester Sound
Commitment by: Kassandra Sparks and Trip Lenahan
School: Swarthmore College

In 2013, Kassandra Sparks and Trip Lenahan committed to create the Chester Sound, a hip-hop music education program that pairs Swarthmore College students with youth from Chester, Pa., a neighboring city that suffers from high rates of poverty and violence. Throughout the semester, college students will bring the youth to Swarthmore’s state of the art recording studio, where they will work together towards the creation of their own album.

Sustainability Village Project
Commitment by: Christophe Fatton; Omar Cossio; Shaquana Jackson; Sandy Mathurin
School: Johnson C. Smith University

In 2013, Christophe Fatton, Omar Cossio, Shaquana Jackson, and Sandy Mathurin committed to introduce sustainable farming techniques at a community garden in Charlotte, N.C. that will serve as an agricultural model for communities in Haiti. Fatton, the group leader and a Haitian citizen, hopes the project will help his home country recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Compost Methods to Improve Soil Fertility
Commitment by: Glenda Alfaro
School: Mount Hood Community College

In 2013, Glenda Alfaro committed to replenish nutrient-poor soil and stimulate agricultural production through composting in Jardins de la Nueva, El Salvador. In November 2013, she will distribute composting bins to 12 families and teach them the basic procedures for composting at home, bringing her knowledge of environmental technology to her native country.

Education Re-engineered
Commitment by: Beatrice Mwonga and Halima Olapade
School: Drexel University

In 2013, Beatrice Mwonga and Halima Olapade committed to connect high school dropouts in Kenya with apprenticeships at local companies, with the goal of matching five young people and five companies in the first year. Born and raised in Africa, both Mwonga and Olapade believe that offering young people apprenticeships will help offset the growing income divide across the continent.

Commitment by: Davier Rodriguez
School: Arizona State University

In 2013, Davier Rodriguez committed to establish a national network of allies that will support undocumented students, offering a four-hour ally certification course that breaks down preconceived notions of undocumented students and educates participants on federal, state, and local challenges. As a first-generation college student and the son of Cuban immigrants, he hopes to increase access and support for undocumented students in Arizona.

Commitment by: Donnel Baird
School: Columbia University

In 2013, Donnel Baird committed to market and finance energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofits to 1,000 churches, charter schools, small businesses, and other non-profits in American inner cities, and hire local low-income unemployed residents to do the job. Baird’s program will address both the threat of climate change and high unemployment rates in inner cities.

Commitment by: Maria Claudia Sarta Herrera, Jessica Troiano, and Elizabeth Kelly
School: New York University

In 2013, Maria Claudia Sarta Herrera, Jessica Troiano, and Elizabeth Kelly committed to create an all-natural beverage company, UPleaft, to generate income for farmers in Colombia and give consumers a healthier alternative to traditional high-sugar soft drinks. The company will establish partnerships with urban and rural smallholder farmers to create a sustainable income source. Additionally, they hope to mobilize members of the community to train farmers in eco-friendly farming, harvesting, and processing techniques, as well as provide them with access to financial services.

Disability Rights as Human Rights
Commitment by: Kristin Duquette, Sean Snyder, and Charley Wedeen
School: Trinity College

In 2013, Kristin Duquette, Sean Snyder, and Charley Wedeen committed to develop “Disability Rights as Human Rights,” a program that will promote a broader understanding of disabled experiences. The group plans to launch a program called “A Day in a Wheelchair,” asking able-bodied students to use wheelchairs for 12-48 hour periods, and expect the program to spark a discussion regarding rights for those with disabilities.

Plan D
Commitment by: Salman Hirani and Zishan Hirani
School: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

In 2013, Salman Hirani and Zishan Hirani committed to create Plan D, a dermatological pathology app that analyzes abnormal growths, moles, and discolorations on the skin. Using this information, they will compare images to a database of clinically diagnosed skin malignancies and provide users with a breakdown of potential diagnoses, as well as a list of local physicians.

KHE Project
Commitment by: Emily Santos, Krupa Desai, and Henry Osman
School: Washington University in St. Louis

In 2013, Emily Santos, Krupa Desai, Henry Osman committed to create the KHE Project, a text-message based hotline to address the ongoing issue of gender violence in South Africa. Specifically, the KHE Project will connect victims of rape and sexual assault with counseling resources and educational materials, while preserving the anonymity of its users and taking advantage of the widespread use of mobile phones in South Africa.

Sustainable Engineering Solutions
Commitment by: Malini Kannan, Kyle Wilson, and Brian Li Kam Wah
School: University of California, San Diego

In 2013, Malini Kannan, Kyle Wilson, and Brian Li Kam Wah, a team of engineering students from UC San Diego, committed to work with faculty and partner organizations to provide rural residents in the Philippines with locally-sourced engineering solutions to improve their quality of life. Specifically, they will create portable ceramic water filters to increase access to potable water, design a charging circuit that will allow residents to use a solar panel and battery powered LEDs, and construct hurricane straps that will increase safety and eliminate damage done to local homes by typhoons. 

Renewable Energy for Development and Sustainability
Commitment by: Daniel Sopdie, Aseya Kakar, and Linda Nkosi
School: Wartburg College

In 2013, Daniel Sopdie, Aseya Kakar, and Linda Nkosi committed to build a biogas digester that converts animal and plant waste into gas for a refugee camp in Mpaka, Swaziland. By creating an alternative gas that can be used for cooking, heating, and lighting, the group hopes to improve daily standards of living, increase the capacity of the youth to learn, and enable the Mpaka community to be more sustainable through the reduction of deforestation.

Sustainable Fish Farming Project
Commitment by: Kanchan Amatya
School: University of Oklahoma

In 2013, Kanchan Amatya committed to create the Sustainable Fish Farming Project, a microfinance initiative that will provide 500 families in Nepal with funding to start their own fish farms. By providing loans to villagers at a five percent interest rate, partnering with local NGOs to provide trainings on fish farming techniques, and using existing ponds and rice paddies in the region, Amatya hopes to build an enterprise that will bring both financial and nutritional stability to Nepal.

View and share session webcasts from CGI U 2013 by visiting: Follow us on Twitter at @CGIU and @ClintonGlobal or on Facebook at for meeting news and highlights. The event hashtag is #CGIU.

Press registration is now open to members of the media. To apply, please complete the form at:

The deadline to apply for press credentials is Tuesday, April 2 at 5 p.m. ET. Journalists may apply for credentials on-site, but pre-registered media will be given priority. For questions about press registration, please email [email protected].  


About CGI U
The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) brings together college students to address global challenges with practical, innovative solutions. CGI U participants do more than simply discuss problems – they take concrete steps to solve them by creating action plans, building relationships, participating in hands-on workshops, and following up with CGI U as they complete their projects. Previous CGI U meetings have taken place at Tulane University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Miami, the University of California at San Diego, and the George Washington University, and have convened more than 4,500 students from nearly 750 schools, more than 130 countries, and all 50 states. To learn more, visit

About the Clinton Global Initiative
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date, CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments, which are already improving the lives of nearly 400 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $73.5 billion.

About Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University is counted among the world’s leaders in teaching and research, and it draws students and faculty to St. Louis from all 50 states and more than 120 nations. The total student body is nearly 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students.  The approximately 3,400 faculty teach in seven schools: Arts & Sciences, Brown School, Olin Business School, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, School of Engineering & Applied Science, School of Law and School of Medicine. Twenty-three Nobel laureates have been associated with Washington University, with nine doing the major portion of their pioneering research there. The university offers more than 90 programs and almost 1,500 courses leading to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in a broad spectrum of traditional and interdisciplinary fields, with additional opportunities for minor concentrations and individualized programs.

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