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Be a changemaker: Apply to join one of the nation's most prestigious events on global change

November 01, 2013

Arizona State University was recently selected to host the upcoming Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Annual Meeting on the Tempe campus, March 21-23, 2014.

CGI U will select 1,200 students from around the world to attend, based on their commitments to action – new, specific and measurable initiatives that address social or environmental challenges on campuses, in communities or in different parts of the world.

“This conference is building upon the worldwide movement for social entrepreneurship and change that’s at the core of the millennial generation. ASU is a great place for that because we are a university that prides itself on showing students how to take the resources and opportunities at their disposal and apply them to real-world challenges,” said Kaitlin Fitzgerald, student director of Changemaker Central.

CGI U is looking for students with ideas that relate to one of five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.

Interested in attending? To do so, ASU students must complete this two-step process by Nov. 22:  

1. Submit an application to the ASU Innovation Challenge, a seed funding competition organized by Changemaker Central.

2. Submit an application to CGI U that details your commitment to action. Questions can be emailed to

Applying to both CGI U and the ASU Innovation Challenge (IC) will benefit ASU students with commitments to action in the form of numerous opportunities, such as obtaining seed funding to support their ideas and meeting likeminded peers at information sessions, office hours and workshops.

As part of the IC application process, each team must create a two-page executive summary and 10 PowerPoint slides that explain how funds will be allocated and the product sustained. Teams must also identify a mentor who will provide feedback and support during the development and execution of the idea. Finalists will pitch their idea to a panel of judges who will select the winners. Each finalist is eligible to win up to $10,000. Last year, Changemaker awarded $40,000 in funding. The deadline to apply is Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. local time.

One example of the success that can be achieved via the Innovation Challenge is Nisarg Patel, a Chandler native and a senior majoring in molecular biosciences and biotechnology at the School of Life Sciences, who saw success as a $7,000 winner for his product BLU Biosensors (now HydroGene).

Patel, who has been designated as a campus representative for the upcoming CGI U meeting, launched HydroGene along with his teammates to find inexpensive solutions to common global health challenges. The team developed protein biosensors to detect bacterial contamination in drinking water, and a rapid screening process to prevent distribution of contaminated food.

Presenting the idea at last year’s Innovation Challenge won the HydroGene team valuable funds to continue developing innovative solutions, and a chance for Patel to showcase the idea at the CGI U’s 2012 meeting, held in St. Louis.

“Imagine being in the same room as policymakers, top executives of Fortune 500 companies and thought leaders who are changing the world for the better,” Patel said. “Not only do you learn from the best, but you also have an opportunity to make useful connections.”

According to Patel, the best way to find out if an idea is worth pursuing is to try implementing it. He said that it is okay to fail and try again, and that the learning process itself holds valuable lessons.

Fitzgerald agreed.

“Every student has the potential to win. Don’t shut yourself out because you don’t think you can do it. Everyone is a changemaker, that’s what being a Sun Devil is all about,” said Fitzgerald

For more information, visit the Innovation Challenge website.