Record number of UCF students attend Clinton Global Initiative University

The University of Central Florida achieved a university record of seventeen admittances to Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U). The distinguished few included one of Sustainability Initiatives' own, Hannah Hollinger, who attended in representation of the Composting Cycling project with IDEAS for UCF. Now equipped with CGI U knowledge, we sat down and asked her some questions about her experience.

Q: What is the mission of Clinton Global Initiative University?

HH: Being surrounded by other ambitious individuals, trying to make a difference in the world, was a refreshing environment to be in this past weekend. The challenges of the focus areas – education, environment and climate change, poverty alleviation, peace and human rights, and public health – seemed daunting for one individual to consider. However, CGI U went above my expectations to get attendees motivated in carrying out their commitments. The motivation level improved as the weekend went on. I spoke with students from around the world – Afghanistan, Greece, Poland, Canada, and Australia – who held likeminded ideas. Plenary sessions allowed me to hear the struggles of successful individuals, like Congressman John Lewis who lived through the Civil Rights Movement, NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman who hurdled recent space exploration and Maysoon Zayid who became America’s first Muslim female comedian. Through this universal and mutual drive, the mission was clear; we are not alone in making a difference in these grand issues.

Q: Why did you apply?

HH: I originally applied as a means to gain additional guidance and insight pertaining to my commitment. I served as a representative, in partnership with IDEAS for UCF, for a commitment dubbed Compost Cycling. In an effort to reach climate neutrality at UCF, I aim to develop an organic waste composting effort using bicycle-powered collection. The futuristic vision of this project scales to utilize all organic food waste produced in campus dining halls and consistently produce enough compost to satisfy the demand for, educate the community on sustainable agricultural methods/healthy and organic food, and ultimately encourage a zero-waste campus. This initiative supports the global challenges of decreasing waste quantity, accessing local produce, and maintaining healthy soil.

Q: What was your takeaway?

HH: While I did achieve the anticipated insight in my CGI U experience, I also gained feelings of optimism in topics that tend to be rather dismal. The two simulations that I attended, “Expanding the Circular Economy” and “Investing in a Food Secure Future,” were not directed towards mere coaching on how to go about a project but rather inspiration to push on.

Ultimately, I realized that it only takes one person to make a change. This fact was recognizable when presenters connected to the attendee’s commonplaceness like Salman Khan, Founder and CEO of Khan Academy, who found his success while tutoring his cousins and Alejandro Velez, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Back to the Roots, who stubbed on his passion while experimenting with coffee grounds and mushrooms in his fraternity house. In addition, I learned that there is not one formula to achieve success and every individual finds success differently. With every endeavor, there will be unintended consequences and the best way to deal is by embracing them. Sitting here today, CGI U left me with a positive vigor and sense of community that I did not have before attending. I now recognize that individuals internationally are equally as motivated in what may sometimes seem to be a partial effort, such as in my focus of environment and climate change.

Q: On your experience, would you recommend others apply?

HH: I would absolutely recommend others to apply to this opportunity. CGI U provides a space to create mission driven partnerships to allow cooperative leverage rather than competitive. CGI U provides bountiful insights from successful individuals who have overcome difficult struggles.