UCSD Students Present Projects at Clinton Global Initiative

This past weekend, 42 UCSD students presented their projects at the Clinton Global Initiative University hosted at UC Berkeley. The number of UCSD students who attended the conference was higher than it has been since UCSD hosted the conference in 2011, when the university’s own students’ attendance was at its highest.

The CGI U conference serves as a space for students, university representatives and topic experts to come together and work collaboratively on innovative solutions in five areas of pressing global issues: education, the environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health. Each of the 16 teams developed “Commitments to Action,” based on their research projects, that describe specific and measurable initiatives that their work addresses in line with the five global issues.

Ryan Crawford, who is the program coordinator in the Center for Student Involvement Community Service and who is the University Network Campus Liaison for the CGI U, explained his personal role in supporting the students and how the university supports student projects.

“UCSD is committing $10,000 to fund student projects,” Crawford told the UCSD Guardian. “This year we had 42 people accepted to attend the meeting. That’s one of the top universities sending the most amount of people. It’s a gathering of 1,200 people around the world; over 60 different countries are represented at the meeting. My involvement personally is that … I interface with our students to make sure they’re finding resources to attend the meeting, but more importantly to help them fulfill their Commitment to Action.”

A team consisting of Warren College junior Yajur Maker, Revelle College freshman Haley Sherburne and Warren sophomore Julie Yip created a low-cost diagnostic platform for detecting disease more efficiently in low-income areas such as Tijuana, Mexico.

Yip, who became involved with the project through the student organization Engineering World Health, felt that the event helped her team better understand future prospects for the project. 

“Overall, [it was] very much a good learning experiencing,” Yip told the Guardian. “In terms of the project it was good to get feedback. There were a lot of questions that made us think about a commercial perspective.”

Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Gabriella Bastos, Revelle senior John Bogich and Muir College junior Ismael Ramirez submitted a Commitment to Action based on a project that has been in the works for the past few years.

Dubbed a “closed-loop ecosystem,” the team aims to create a sustainable, closed-loop and scalable controlled greenhouse that can guarantee food for any community regardless of resources or weather. This is through the use of renewable energy techniques like hydroponic growing and atmospheric water generators to produce food, thereby reducing food waste and addressing climate change.

Several aspects of the project have been pursued in Roger’s Garden, the community garden in Revelle and in various places across campus. These include solar panels installed in the gardens themselves, working with Price Center restaurants to gather their food waste for compost and continuing the growth of fresh vegetables and fruits in the community garden.

Bastos expressed her desire to implement the project beyond UCSD’s own campus and into less privileged communities, such as Tijuana and San Diego border communities.

Bogich felt encouraged by the diversity of student perspectives at the conference.

“CGI definitely opened my eyes to some of the amazing work that is being done by inspiring young people all over the globe,” Bogich said. “It was a great place to cross-pollinate with minds from different educational and cultural backgrounds.”

For Bastos, the focus on peer-to-peer interactions made the experience more motivating.

“What CGI U did is it definitely made me more excited; I don’t want to be cliched, but it did inspire me,” Bastos told the Guardian. “You’re around students your age — that’s the big emphasis I like to put — it’s the age similarity. Because a lot of the time you can go to these conferences and watch Ted Talks but those are older adults. If you’re really passionate about something you can manage to balance your time … [and] you can find a way to make your passions a reality.”