Northeastern students tackle global challenges at Clinton Global Initiative

This year's group attending CGIU includes 5 University Scholars: Brandon Chung, Siddhi Doshi, Carson Markle, Nikin Tharan, and Deborah Vasquez.


This weekend the largest ever con­tin­gent of North­eastern stu­dents will attend the Clinton Global Ini­tia­tive Uni­ver­sity con­fer­ence, which is being held in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area.

Fif­teen North­eastern stu­dents rep­re­senting seven projects were accepted to the con­fer­ence, which will con­vene more than 1,000 col­lege stu­dents to dis­cuss and develop inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to pressing global challenges.

The con­fer­ence, which is part of the Clinton Global Ini­tia­tive, will be hosted by Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton. Stu­dents will have the chance to net­work, exchange ideas with like-​​minded peers about their work, and attend var­ious events and workshops.

We spoke with three stu­dents who will be attending the con­fer­ence, with a par­tic­ular focus on their inno­v­a­tive projects and what the con­fer­ence means to them.


VISM is an online plat­form that con­nects col­lege stu­dents with local non­profit orga­ni­za­tions looking for skills-​​based volunteers.

Stu­dents want an oppor­tu­nity where they can use what they have learned in class,” said Deb­orah Vasquez, SSH’20, one of three stu­dents trav­eling to CGI U on behalf of VISM.

In addi­tion to the skills-​​based oppor­tu­ni­ties, a key facet of this pro­gram is flex­i­bility, Vasquez explained. Many of the vol­un­teer oppor­tu­ni­ties would be remote, she said, allowing stu­dents to com­plete the tasks from vir­tu­ally anywhere.

The group has met with numerous non­profit orga­ni­za­tions, sur­veyed about 80 stu­dents, and will lead a focus group next week to help deter­mine best prac­tices moving forward.

Mindi Chen, DMSB’17, the founder of VISM, is not going to the con­fer­ence. Vasquez will be trav­eling to CGIU with Carson Markle, DMSB’20, and Brandon Chung, CCIS’20.

Just to be there with other stu­dents who want to make the same social impact that you want to make, and having those con­nec­tions in the future, is going to be really helpful,” Vasquez said.

GOALS for Strong Finan­cial Futures

While on co-​​op in Mil­waukee, Wis­consin, last fall, Nadav David, DMSB’17, vol­un­teered at a local youth empow­er­ment orga­ni­za­tion that uses finan­cial lit­eracy to help area stu­dents reach their per­sonal and finan­cial goals.

Inspired by the pro­gram, he and busi­ness partner Miranda Beggin, DMSB’17, began working to launch a sim­ilar pro­gram in Boston called GOALS for Strong Finan­cial Futures.

The pair hopes to take a three-​​phase approach to helping under­served high school stu­dents in the Boston area: The plan is to assist the stu­dents with iden­ti­fying per­sonal goals; team up with local com­mu­nity banks to teach the stu­dents finan­cial lit­eracy; and then develop intern­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties for the stu­dents at local businesses.

The per­sonal goals were a huge part in grounding the stu­dents and making the pro­gram engaging,” David said of the Mil­waukee orga­ni­za­tion. “You make it so it is worth it for the stu­dents, and they’re not only learning some­thing but also applying it in their own lives.”

When he arrives at CGI U, David will be looking to meet people from var­ious edu­ca­tional and pro­fes­sional back­grounds, including those with tech­nical exper­tise, whom he said will bring a dif­ferent per­spec­tive to the social impact con­ver­sa­tion. He and Beggin are cur­rently working on growing part­ner­ships with local busi­nesses, but are in need of stu­dent volunteers.

Early child­hood devel­op­ment in the Dominican Republic

Vanessa Cohen, S’18, first learned about an oppor­tu­nity to work in early child­hood devel­op­ment in the Dominican Republic through Northeastern’s Social Enter­prise Insti­tute.

Even­tu­ally, she took a lead­er­ship role in a project that looks to pro­vide tools and new learning expe­ri­ences aimed at increasing the edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties for dis­ad­van­taged Haitian chil­dren living in the Caribbean nation.

Our main goal is to improve and enhance their cur­riculum,” Cohen explained. “The stu­dents just have the basics. When you teach them what a plant is, they want the whole plant expe­ri­ence. I want them to see how it works, not just what it is.”

Last month, Cohen trav­eled to the Dominican Republic as part of Northeastern’s Alter­na­tive Spring Break pro­gram and met with teachers to learn more about their needs. And she sees CGI U as a unique oppor­tu­nity to gen­erate more ideas.

It doesn’t matter at what point your project is,” Cohen said, noting that her project part­ners, Lara Nuchowicz, DMSB’17, and Izzaaz Hishamudin, SSH’16, will be accom­pa­nying her to the con­fer­ence. “I feel that the main point of the con­fer­ence is to improve and take your project to the next level.”

Written by Joe O’Connell.