MHC Sends 14 Changemakers to Conference

Amelia Pinal ’16 wants more community-health workers in Springfield. Celine Mudahakana ’17 wants to help Rwandan children affected by HIV/AIDS earn money by weaving. Lisa Dias ’16 wants to increase literacy in Tanzania. These are not just idealistic daydreams; the women behind the ideas have concrete plans to address some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Fourteen Mount Holyoke students head to Arizona today, joining more than 1,000 student leaders at a conference that will equip them to put their change-the-world projects into action.

The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) is hosting this year’s conference of global changemakers March 21–23 at Arizona State University. Each participant arrives with a “commitment to action” focused on one of CGI U’s five main areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health.

Over three days, they’ll learn from experts and one another, building the practical skills and knowledge to take action on their commitments. In addition to networking events, the program includes plenary sessions featuring leaders from the public and private sectors, among them former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator John McCain; women’s rights activist Manal al-Sharif; Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia; President Bill Clinton, founding chairman of the Clinton Global Initiative; and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.

See live video of the conference sessions

Celine Mudahakana ’17 was also selected to showcase her project at the conference’s CGI U Exchange

Mudahakana plans to help relieve the poverty among Rwandan youth, particularly those from CHABHA (Children Affected by HIV/AIDS), by expanding Weaving for Peace, which she organized in 2013 with her high school weaving teacher. The two brought looms and taught weaving to CHABHA students, enabling them to generate income for themselves. This summer, Mudahakana will return to Rwanda to help the young weavers design new products and promote them to local and international markets.

“The number of our students invited to the global convening, and the variety of innovative and inspiring projects they have proposed, is nothing less than remarkable,” says the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives’ Director of International Experiential Learning Kirk Lange. “But the most impressive aspect is the commitment of MHC students to be leaders for positive social and environmental change, in contexts stretching from the Pioneer Valley to seven countries around the world.”

The Clinton Global Initiative University program is built on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges. Mount Holyoke provided $10,000 to enable the MHC students selected by CGI U to attend the conference. The McCulloch Center coordinated student applications, offering information and advising sessions last fall.