Carnegie Mellon University


November 13, 2017

EST&P student, Ashwin Balaji Participates in the 10th Annual Clinton Global Initiative University

EST&P student, Ashwin Balaji recently participated in the 10th Annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) held at Northeastern University from October 13-14, 2017. One Thousand college students from around the world presented their ‘Commitments to Action’ that tackled climate change, the refugee crisis, sexual assault on campus, the opioid epidemic and other issues that face the current generation.

Ashwin presented his work on ‘Solar Kiosks for underprivileged households’, a project that he has worked on with current EST&P students Nathan Cheng, Vasudevan Nambeesan, Akshay Patil, and Civil & Environmental Engineering alumnus, Luke Dennin ('17). The Commitment to Action focuses on providing energy access to rural neighborhoods while providing a platform for community residents to alleviate a host of social issues pertaining to the target community. Ashwin’s work was greeted with enthusiasm from professionals and fellow commitment makers in attendance, and he was offered to work with a manufacturer who had similar projects in India!

During the conference, the commitment makers were treated to a host of incredible panel discussions on a variety of topics ranging from the ongoing migrant crisis to climate change. Panelists included distinguished dignitaries such as the former Secretary of State Madeline Albright (heading the panel on the migrant crisis), former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (heading the panel on the rampant opioid crisis) and Olympic medalist and activist Ibtihaj Muhammad (who spoke about the importance of empowering women). The conference also included working sessions where students could learn about fundraising tactics, marketing campaigns using social media and using technology to amplify the impact of a social cause. The talks concluded with a fireside chat between Chelsea Clinton, President Bill Clinton and Congressman John Kennedy III. President Clinton echoed a familiar message when it came to climate change, emphasizing on its importance and how venturing into clean energy will lead to a positive impact on the employment front (he even mentioned that the Pittsburgh area now has 13,000 jobs in solar power alone).

The final day of CGI U 2017 concluded with the ‘Day of Action’ – a day where the conference attendees give back to the local community. Ashwin participated in a community project where he helped select and stock books in a local children’s library while fellow conference attendees participated in similar projects such as stocking food items for the needy and helping the local artists in painting work. Overall, this conference proved that there are plenty of talented people in the world who are working tirelessly on issues that plague the current generation. According to Ashwin, the main takeaway from the conference was that one is never too young to work towards making a positive difference in this world. Any student, with a passion for social entrepreneurship should definitely consider attending CGI U to network and gain valuable insights toward implementing social causes.