Students to develop their ideas for social change
By Kathy Hovis
Alex Herazy ’25, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, knows what the college application process is like for a first-generation student, so he’s been helping other first-gen friends from his high school with applications and scholarships. Now, he’d like to reach even more first-gen students, and has an idea to create a set of videos to explain the process.
“Videos from the College Board or Common App can help students navigate part of the process, but they often feel overwhelmed and confused by information overload, and the technical jargon can be unfamiliar, especially to first-gen students,” he said. “My videos would be more engaging and resonate with students. They also harness the power of a first-gen hearing another first-gen student talk about college.”
Herazy is one of 10 Cornell students who will be heading to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. in March for Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) 2023 Annual Meeting, where he’ll meet hundreds of other students who are taking action on pressing challenges facing their campuses, communities and the world. They will talk about their projects, meet others working in similar areas and learn from experts on ways to move forward with their ideas.
CGI U, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, brings these students together for three days with global experts in business, public service and social impact to develop innovative solutions to global challenges. After the March meeting, students participate in a yearlong curriculum that helps them formulate their ideas and provides resources, feedback, tools and potential funding streams to help move from idea into action.
Since former President Bill Clinton founded the initiative in 2007, it has included more than 11,800 university students from more than 160 countries, all 50 states and 1,800 institutions of higher education. Cornell’s program is managed by staff from Entrepreneurship at Cornell.
“This year’s group is very engaged, with incredible initiatives,” said Natalee Nelson, program assistant for Entrepreneurship at Cornell and CGI U campus representative for Cornell. “I’m so excited to see where their entrepreneurial journeys lead.”
Firehiwot Gurara ’20 M.S. ‘22, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering in Cornell Engineering, will travel to the conference to move forward with her plans for Leveraging Induction for Development (LIFT), an organization that will build affordable and efficient induction stoves for middle to low-income households in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“My grandmother owned cows and was famous for selling cow dung used to bake injera and bread,” she said. “The average Ethiopian family, including my own, still relies on wood-based biomass for cooking. I believe that integrating the expansion of electricity infrastructure with electric cooking is critical to mitigate 63,000 annual deaths from indoor air pollution, carbon emission and deforestation.”
Osaiyekemwen Ogbemudia ’25, a student in Cornell Engineering, has spent years working with her mother, who is a pharmacist in her hometown of Brooklyn. During that time, she’s noticed that many high-risk and elderly patients have problems staying on track with their medications because of transportation or communication issues. Her platform, BetterRxperience, would help facilitate better interactions between patients and their pharmacists and offer a streamlined medication reminder system for patients.
“I know I can learn how to lead from the CGI U program not only through instruction, but also from like-minded peers with wide-ranging leadership experience,” Ogbemudia said.
Other Cornell students chosen for CGI U include: Joshua Dong ’26 (Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management); Arrizka Faida, MPA ’23; Ilham Nugraha, MPA ’23; Christiani Sagala, MBA ’24; Joanne Hu ‘24, (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences); Julia Sun ’25 (Cornell Engineering); Pranav Nair ’26 (Dyson School) and Michael Stefanko ’22 (ILR School).
Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.