CGI U@Duke Stories: Valuable feedback from CGI U Annual Meeting

Yitaek Hwang is a junior at Duke, double-majoring in Biomedical/Medical Engineering & Electrical/Computer Engineering.

At the Clinton Global Initiative University 2015 annual meeting held in Miami, I had a chance to interact with more than a thousand social entrepreneurs and global leaders to share and build on our respective Commitments to Action. My commitment is to address the vision crisis in India and Southeast Asia by designing low-cost, adjustable glasses that can facilitate the distribution process in developing countries and provide glasses to 700 million who need them. CGIU provided tremendous opportunities to connect with fellow students with similar commitments and mentors with experience, including CGIU Exchange (an exhibition featuring the commitments), a chance to participate in the Commitments Challenge (crowdfunding competition), and the honor of being featured on the CGIU blog. The most valuable experience during the program, however, was CGIU Lead.

CGIU Lead is a selective program for CGIU student participants. Those who are invited to participate in CGI U Lead are mentored by special guests invited by the Clinton Global Initiative University to attend the annual meeting and share their expertise with students. This year fifteen mentors from various industries ranging from nonprofits, media, environment protection, research, education, and design decided to collaborate with student leaders to grow their ventures. This eclectic mixture of experience, skillset, and affiliations was extremely valuable in approaching our individual commitments holistically.

Upon our arrival at the annual meeting, each CGI U Lead student is matched with his or her specific mentor. But everyone is encouraged to reach out to other mentors with relevant experience in the field. For example, my personal mentor was Tony Wang from Three W International. He provided tremendously helpful advice about how to grow a student-led startup company, leverage networks to reach out to manufacturers, and polish my business plan. I also had a chance to work with Jason Rissman from OpenIDEO to get professional feedback on our glasses design, and Olivia Khalili from Yahoo for Good promised to help us find other means of funding.

The luncheon for CGI U Lead students, hosted by Chelsea Clinton, also allowed for unexpected opportunities to network with others interested in similar focus areas, even if it was not directly related to their CGIU Commitment. I had a chance to connect with students working on gender equality and human rights issues in Tanzania who had been matched with a mentor addressing diabetes in African countries. As a DukeEngage Engineering World Health in Tanzania alum, I was intrigued by how leaders in the public health sector and human rights were working together. A common theme encouraged during the program was both the intra- and inter-collaboration among students and mentors.

Although the official mentorship period will end in September, I anticipate successful, continued partnerships with some of the mentors I met at CGI Lead. The opportunity to work closely with industry leaders and receive guidance on my commitment was extremely valuable.