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“We can’t make a perfect world, but we can build a better one”: Bill Clinton inspires UCL’s global citizens in California

By Rachel P Corcoran, on 29 April 2016

UCL students Naomi Poyser, Mujavid Bukhari and Francisco Cordoba Ortalora at CGI UThree UCL students were selected from amongst hundreds of applicants to travel to San Francisco and attend the ninth Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI-U) conference at the University of California, Berkeley.

UCL is one of just two UK university members of CGI-U and students representing the faculties of Arts & Humanities, Engineering and the Institute of Education joined more than 1,200 others from over 70 universities and 45 countries to take part.

All had made a ‘commitment to action’ – a project to improve an aspect of a community based locally or overseas, in the fields of education, environment, poverty, peace, human rights or health.

Founded by former US President Bill Clinton – pictured below with the Global Engagement Office’s Programme Manager Rachel Corcoran – CGI-U builds on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges.

UCL students can apply for funding to develop their projects via CGI-U’s Innovation Fund, even if they did not attend the conference.

“Don’t waste inspiration”

Rachel Corcoran with Bill Clinton at CGI-UNaomi Poyser, final year undergraduate in Greek & Latin and Student Enterprise Ambassador at UCL Advances, built Greenseed, an app to encourage users to share tips and advice on growing their own food.

Her favourite part of the conference was a panel discussion chaired by Clinton, with the founders of Pinterest, Khan Academy, MuslimGirl.net and Cady Coleman, a NASA astronaut.

“This discussion blew me away; the panel members were all so charismatic and had great insight to share from their amazing and varied experiences, and Bill Clinton kept the discussion exciting and impactful,” she said.

“From the founder of Pinterest I learnt to view failure as a stepping stone, from the founder of MuslimGirl the importance of writing your own narrative, and from the astronaut how to put things in perspective. My favourite lesson was from Salman Khan, who told us ‘don’t waste inspiration’ – advice I have been sticking to since being back.”

Preparation for global careers

UCL students Naomi Poyser and Francisco Cordoba Ortalora at CGI-UFrancisco Cordoba Ortalora, studying an MA in Lifelong Learning Policy & Management, created Diaspora Colombia, a mentoring programme and e-learning platform that empowers young Colombian leaders from disadvantaged backgrounds to engage in world-class education.

Francisco said during the conference he learned strategies to expand his programme’s reach through partnerships, as well as the importance of not losing sight of his true goal. He particularly liked meeting NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, adding: “She shared with us all her struggles to achieve success and how to keep motivated along the way.”

The delegates also picked up practical advice. After developing Scoodle, a system enabling students to search and instantly book lessons with tutors in any subject, first-year Computer Science student Mujavid Bukhari said attending CGI-U helped him learn about increasing organisational capacity and fundraising from leaders in the field.

While in San Francisco, Mujavid attended Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Entrepreneurship Summit and said: “I’m now just waiting for exams to finish so that I can really get started developing Scoodle.”

The students spoke of the value in networking with like-minded peers. Naomi added: “Meeting students from all around the world who are all working towards addressing world problems was incredible and gave me so much hope and motivation. I met people who I will definitely be staying in touch with, and who I could potentially collaborate with in the future.

“Bill Clinton’s closing comment that “we can’t make a perfect world, but we can make a better one” really touched me and has inspired me more than ever to carry out my commitment.”