NWU Students Among 1,000 Putting Plans into Action at Clinton Global Initiative University

Four Nebraska Wesleyan University students with a passion for activism were in Arizona March 21-23 attending the Seventh Annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU).

Seniors Rebecca Brune and Jessica Adkisson, both of Lincoln, Alex Langley of Tekamah, and junior Bailey Wood, also of Lincoln were among 1,000 college students in the country selected for the conference.

In 2007, Former President Bill Clinton launched CGIU in an effort to further engage innovative students leaders in today’s most pressing global issues, including education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.

Students heard from some of the country’s most influential leaders including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; U.S. Senator John McCain; Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia; activist and author Nikhil Goyal; former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and TV host Jimmy Kimmel. Bill Clinton moderated the entire event.

CGIU encourages students to go beyond discussion of global challenges by requiring students to develop a Commitment to Action, a step-by-step action plan that addresses challenges on campus, in local communities, or around the world.

Brune and Langley are partnering on a project called Youth Women’s Circles Program.

“We are partnering with the YWCA of Lincoln to empower middle school girls in the eighth grade as they make their transition into high school,” said Brune.

Brune and Langley have developed a five-week session that begins this spring. They will lead weekly self-discovery dialogue sessions with a diverse group of young women. Their goal is for each participant to find a deeper sense of self and develop the communication skills and confidence needed to become not only equals in society, but future leaders.

Last year Brune was selected for CGIU, which was held in St. Louis, Mo. At the conference, she and two other NWU students shared their project, “New Life for Old Bags,” which turned plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless.

“CGIU is an invaluable tool for committed young activists,” said Brune. “Like last year, I plan for Alex and I to grow our skills and our passion for openly addressing gender inequality and women’s disempowerment issues, which root in youth communities and grow into human rights issues.”

Throughout the conference students attended open office hours with successful entrepreneurs, activists, journalists, educators, and others who helped flesh out ideas and generate new ones that will make the students’ Commitments To Action even more successful as they return to their campuses to implement their plans.

NWU students Adkisson and Wood are working on a project that addresses sexual violence. Their action plan includes bringing local speakers to campus for dialogues on sexual violence. They have also developed a support group called Undefined, which provides a safe space for victims of sexual abuse to share their stories. The final step in their action plan includes turning written testimonials from victims into sound bites that can be used in a documentary on campus and throughout the Lincoln community.

“While we are at CGIU, Bailey and I will learn about how to better implement our commitment and get our message out to people,” said Adkission. “I am excited to meet others from around the nation and share ideas and learn from them.”

CGIU concludes each year with a Day of Action, which sends 1,000 participants into the local community for a service project. This year students worked alongside a dozen community organizations to transform a previously vacant 15-acre lot in downtown Phoenix into a vibrant and sustainable public space.

This marks the fourth year that NWU students have been selected for the conference.

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For the past four years, NWU students have been selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University.