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Several Brown students will have the opportunity to engage in social change with former President Bill Clinton and other global leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative University's third annual conference this April.

Based on the model of the Clinton Global Initiative, the university, which encompasses representative communities on college campuses across the nation, is designed to bring people of diverse backgrounds together to discuss and formulate action plans to solve global challenges, according to the initiative's Web site.

The university allows for students as well as non-governmental organizations and college presidents "to be all at the same table," said Keisha Senter, the university's director. "Rarely do you see students and administrators together."

Similar to the global initiative, every student who applies has to propose a commitment to action, Senter said. These commitments are ideas for action plans to solve problems in education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.

Consequently, "everyone there is going to be a doer," and will "come equipped," Senter said.

Clay Wertheimer '10, Ryan Chan '10 and Frieda Kay '12 applied to the university as a group. Their commitment to action was an institute to study climate and energy, which they created about a year and a half ago "looking to create a very interdisciplinary" group, Chan said.

Many freshmen interested in issues of climate change and energy come in lost because there is "no real, single access point" to study those problems, Chan said. The institute's goal is to create such an access point into these issues for both students and faculty.

In addition to encouraging collaboration between students, the institute can also encourage more discussion between professors of different departments and introduce students to faculty members' research, Kay said.

"Students really can be a bridge between faculty members" who otherwise might not be talking, Kay said. "Brown is big enough to be a legitimate research university," she added.

The group aims to bring collaboration, "one of things that makes Brown unique and special," to the institute,  Chan said.

Helen Mou '10 is attending the conference as an individual. In January 2009, Mou co-founded the Sustainability Consulting Partnership, a student-run, student-volunteer consulting organization that helps for-profit and non-profit business partners with their sustainability goals. She proposed the partnership as her commitment to action, and said she hopes that the university will help her start building a network for the group.

Being a dual concentrator in environmental science and economics has "really driven the idea for this organization," Mou said.

Both Chan and Kay also said they were excited to network and meet interesting individuals.

Some of the guests and speakers at the university this year include John Podesta, chief executive officer for the Center for American Progress, actress Mandy Moore and former Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek, Senter said.

Brown has had a relationship with the university in the past. President Ruth Simmons has attended past conferences and has also proposed a commitment to Dillard University in New Orleans, Senter said.

Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library, said he has also maintained a long relationship with the initiative.  He was the former speechwriter for Clinton, and is currently working on a project to digitize Haitian documents as his commitment to the initiative, he added.

"It's encouraging in every way ... that (students) would want to do this," Widmer said. It "deepens our already existing relationship with (the initiative)."


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