A Commitment to Action: Two Augustana Students Accepted to Clinton Global Initiative University

By Keeley Meier '20 | April 14, 2022
Giselle and Courtney

Augustana students Courtney Chrystal ‘23 and Giselle Mawadri ‘22 were selected to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) — a community of young leaders dedicated to developing innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. 

CGI U connects aspiring leaders, like Chrystal and Mawadri, with experts in business, technology and social impact. Participants are chosen based on the strength of their Commitment to Action — a new, specific and measurable plan to solve a major issue identified on a college campus, within a local community or a pressing national or global challenge. CGI U helps participants formulate their ideas and provides resources, feedback and potential funding to turn ideas into action.

Chrystal and Mawadri were supported by Drs. Matthew Willard, professor of business, and David O’Hara, professor of philosophy, classics and environmental studies, along with Assistant Vice Provost for Student Success & Engagement Billie Streufert. 

“Having two students apply and be accepted, especially for a school our size, is a great affirmation that Augustana students are world change agents,” Chrystal said. 

Chrystal, a government & international affairs major, and Mawadri, a business administration and accounting double major, both knew they could make a difference with their Commitments to Action. 

Chrystal’s action piece is finding ways to integrate trauma care into public health systems, specifically talking circles promoting resilience. She hopes to discover ways to incorporate cultural care into the Indian Health Service to combat intergenerational trauma. This idea is based on research from Drs. Jennifer Gubbels, Beth Boyens and Karla Abbott, AU professors of biology, English and nursing, respectively. 

“Trauma care is something that has had a large place in my life, and I couldn't imagine not having access to it when you need it most,” said Chrystal, a Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, native. “So, as someone that came in to Augie wanting to work in the health care system to leaving as someone who wants to work on the health care system, I think it's important to recognize the role that things like epigenetics and intergenerational trauma play in health outcomes, and how we can integrate treatments and ways to combat that into the actual system itself.”

Chrystal said the decision to apply to CGI U was an easy one, as Augustana has prepared her to transfer all that she learns in the classroom to the world beyond. 

“That's something I think about constantly on this campus,” Chrystal said. “It's something my professors call me to do. It's something that the environment calls me to do. And, to already be at a place where I was able to integrate my studies into a real-world solution meant that the application was that much easier.”

Mawadri, a Kampala, Uganda, native, was inspired to develop solutions for the world’s issues many years ago after watching a TED Talk. 

“What stuck out to me was when the speaker said that entrepreneurship is the one tool in history that could eliminate poverty among millions of people,” Mawadri said. “In 2019, I came across a report that found that women in Uganda were some of the most entrepreneurial in the world, and I can see that, yet, we’re still surrounded by so much poverty and helplessness. So, that cognitive dissonance is the kind of gap I want to fill, and joining programs like CGI U is a way for me to do that.”

Mawadri’s Commitment to Action stemmed from a project she and a few other students submitted to the 2020 Hult Prize competition. The idea revolves around Lake Victoria in East Africa, which has been overrun by water hyacinth — an invasive plant species that limits lake transportation, kills fish and disrupts the fish trade. Water hyacinth, Mawadri said, has caused both economic and social disruption in the area. However, she recently came across research conducted in South Asia showing that the hyacinth has fibrous stems that can be spun into a sustainable fiber for fabric.

“I thought that would be a very interesting solution to apply to the region, especially because, among the women in the area, weaving is a culturally relevant practice,” said Mawadri. “It would be a really good way for them to work, make money, take care of their families and save the lake.”

The program began in March with its welcome week, and will go through October. The CGI U’s annual meeting took place virtually on April 11-13, and was hosted by former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. The meeting will feature conversations with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy. 

It’s this type of opportunity for which Mawadri is most excited.

“Just knowing that I'll always have a community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about the world we live in and are trying to do things to make it a better place is the best thing that I could ever get out of this.”

To learn more about elite scholarship opportunities at Augustana, visit augie.edu/EliteScholarships.

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