It’s not unusual for students to take trips during spring break. Two Towson University students, however, went a bit bigger.
Sophomore Margaret Kay and junior Diana Goldsmith—both Honors College students—traveled to Phoenix over the second weekend of the break for the Clinton Global Initiative University on the campus of Arizona State University. Goldsmith and Kay were among nearly 1,200 students from across the country—including more than 15 from Maryland—who met to address global challenges in areas such as education, poverty, and public health—and to form solutions like building relationships and creating action plans.
Speakers at the event included Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, late-night television talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly.
In an interview before her trip, Kay, a pre-integrated elementary education and special education major, said that her journey to the conference began with her involvement in The Big Event last year, as well as a service learning and civic engagement conference she attended at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“It really drove me to strive to change the culture of the campus to one that embraces community service,” Kay said.
Her idea, which was included with her application, is to alter the K-7 education curriculum to add service learning requirements “and therefore broaden first-year students’ experiences at Towson and allow them to explore their major or explore a hobby they’re interested in,” she said.
Goldsmith, an acting and international studies major, submitted the Honors College Kiva Initiative. Goldsmith is a student director for the Honors College and founded the initiative, which is is a nonprofit that connects donors to underserved micro-finance borrowers in more than 70 countries.
“The idea is you can loan as little as $25 to someone, and with that loan they can start a small business,” Goldsmith said. “That means they’re going to break the cycle of poverty for themselves, for their family. Either they’ll employ their friends and family, or their friends and family will start their own business.”
Towson’s initiative holds meetings every Sunday and, at each meeting, has presenters talk about issues facing a specific country. All the countries the group is focusing on this semester are in the Caribbean and Central America.
So far, Goldsmith said, the group has raised several hundred dollars. The Towson group’s page on Kiva’s website says it has loaned $75. The three loans were to a Pakistani wholesaler, a Tanzanian food market and an American education service.
Goldsmith said she was excited to talk to students and experts nationwide about her ideas and to hear what the guest speakers have to say.
“I’m really glad that Towson decided to be a partner school…and just really proud that Margaret and I are both able to represent Towson in Arizona,” she said.
Honors College Kiva Initiative
The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) brings together college students to address global challenges with practical, innovative solutions. CGI U participants do more than simply discuss problems – they take concrete steps to solve them by creating action plans, building relationships, participating in hands-on workshops, and following up with CGI U as they complete their projects. Since 2008, students have made more than 4,000 Commitments to Action. Previous CGI U meetings have taken place at Tulane University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Miami, the University of California at San Diego, the George Washington University, and Washington University in St. Louis, and have convened more than 5,500 students from over 800 schools, 130 countries, and all 50 states. To learn more, visit cgiu.org.