CSUN Students Selected to Attend Prestigious Clinton Global Initiative

Jesse Knepper and Nicole Wilson

Jesse Knepper M.P.A. ’07 (Public Administration) and Nicole Wilson ’05 (Political Science), two of 12 CSUN students attending the prestigious Clinton Global Initiative University conference April 1-3. Photo by Lee Choo.

California State University, Northridge students Jesse Knepper M.P.A. ’07 (Public Administration) and Nicole Wilson ’05 (Political Science) believe their plan can improve remedial math programs for traditionally underserved students at CSUN, ultimately impacting graduation rates for African-American and Latino students at the university and throughout the country.

Wilson, a CSUN graduate student in educational administration, and Knepper, a doctoral student in educational leadership, are both employees in the Tseng College. They teamed up to develop a unique peer-to-peer mentoring program for students in CSUN’s developmental math program.

“We were both interested in remedial education and in social learning,” Wilson said. “This is an opportunity to leave my imprint on the university, which has left its imprint on me.”

Knepper said the peer-to-peer mentoring seemed like a model that could work.

“My passion in life is to see students succeed — students of color and students with disabilities,” Knepper added.

Because of their innovative thinking, the duo and 10 other CSUN students participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University conference, April 1-3 at the University of California, Berkeley.

The initiative, established in 2005 by then-President Clinton, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. The Clinton Global Initiative University was launched in 2007 as a way of engaging the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world.

This is the first year CSUN students have applied to participate in this prestigious conference, and eight projects were accepted. One of its participants, Frida Herrera, was chosen as one of the winners of the Project Resolution Social Venture Challenge. Herrera, a nutrition and dietetics major, showed great excitement about sharing her project, Let’s Grow Healthy, at the conference.

“I want to teach kids where their food comes from and why it’s so important to eat fresh produce,” said Herrera, who has expanded on an existing CSUN program to include the development of gardens at five schools in Canoga Park within a 15-month period. “This is pretty inspiring and exciting.”

College students from around the world are invited to create their own “commitments to action” that address issues on campus, in their local communities or globally. They must come up with detailed plans on how they will take concrete steps toward problem-solving in one of the five identified areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.

“We have students for whom the goals for the Clinton Global Initiative resonate and are committed to improving the world in which we live,” said Elizabeth Say, dean of CSUN’s College of Humanities, who is heading CSUN’s participation in the initiative. “They will represent us very well.”

Spanish and linguistics professor Kenneth Luna, who is CSUN’s campus mentor for the initiative, said he is proud of the students selected. He said about 30 students applied to participate, and of those, 12 students with eight projects were selected.

“It’s just been wonderful seeing these students take regionally focused, local problems and develop solutions that could be used globally,” Luna said. “This is really empowering for the students.”

The accepted action plans ranged from the expansion of a peer-education program dedicated to raising awareness about suicide and depression, to a water-conservation program that monitors water consumption and a mobile application that democratizes education by crowdsourcing.

César de Jerónimo Diaz, a kinesiology major, and graduate students Esteban Campos and Nicole Mayo have proposed taking CSUN’s “100 Citizens” program mobile and expanding it to other CSU campuses.

The proposal expands CSUN’s exercise program to include nutrition and an educational component to reduce the prevalence of diabetes.

“This opportunity is exciting,” Diaz said. “It’s helped me learn to think outside the box.”

The other proposals accepted into the program are: Evelyn and Samuel Cubias’Eliminating Diabetes Complications and Death, Nathan Hoffman’s Economic Water Usage During the California Drought, Michelle Shirtcliff’s Mental Health Awareness at the High School Level, Evelyn Tenorio’s The Blues Project Initiative and Teofilo Zosa’s Learn, Teach Learn.