Six GW Students Selected for Clinton Global Initiative University

The 2020 CGI U cohort seeks to solve world problems on issues ranging from human rights to education.

CGIU 19-20
From left: Elizabeth Diing Manyang, Diana Aguilera, Zaniya Lewis, Mesoun Hassan and Divya Rath, along with Rachel Onianwah (not pictured), were selected as the 2020 CGI U cohort. (Courtesy photos)
December 09, 2019

The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), which brings together student leaders committed to addressing world issues, selected six George Washington University students for its 2020 program.

The higher education program under former President Bill Clinton’s foundation began in 2007 and incorporates year-round programming and mentorship networks. Students selected for CGI U select commitments to take action across five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.

CGI U hosts an annual student meeting at different universities around the world to bring together students and national youth organizations. GW hosted the student meeting in 2012, which featured plenary and working sessions for participants to work together and find solutions to global issues.

Many of the GW students selected for the 2020 CGI U aim to address problems in education, peace and human rights for women and youth around the world at this year’s meeting at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The 2020 meeting will be held from April 17-19 and will be the first meeting in the program’s history held outside of the U.S.

Amy Cohen, executive director of the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, said that many of those who are selected to participate in CGI U become early leaders in their fields.

“This year's cohort joins a powerful league of GW social innovators who have made CGI U commitments since 2012,” Ms. Cohen said. “We are thrilled that they will represent GW at the CGI U Conference in Edinburgh and have the opportunity to connect with students and industry leaders from around the world.”

Take some time to meet the 2020 CGI U cohort:

Diana Aguilera

Diana Aguilera
Graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration
Commitment Name:
Women’s Experiences
Commitment Focus Area: Peace and Human Rights

“The problem I am working to address is how immigrants can overcome mental health problems and discuss their experiences after migrating. This is important to me because I grew up in El Salvador where sexual violence was seen as normal. Sometimes women are sexually abused during their migration trajectory by coyotes or family members after arriving. Women and girls feel ashamed to talk about this issue in public spaces. They have psychological traumas for the rest of their lives. Moreover, not having a legal status in this country undervalued their rights, and they are not seen as members of our society. My target population are immigrant women and girls who recently arrived in the United States.”


Mesoun Hassam

Mesoun Hassam
First Year, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Commitment Name:
Post Revolution: Sudan’s Sustainable Human Rights System 
Commitment Focus Area: Peace and Human Rights

“There are two things this commitment hopes to solve: first, youth advocacy in Sudan; second, empowering youth to write a Declaration of Peace specifically for Darfur. The main goal of the former is to mobilize Sudan’s youth who are disconnected with the conflict in Darfur in becoming academically, socially and politically involved in initiatives that work in addressing the human rights abuses and humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The second empowers them to write a comprehensive declaration that could be used as an implementable device in the current military council and future Sudanese government. From firsthand experience, I understand where marginalization in Darfur remains and realize that these two things have the most potential for even marginally shifting the functional paradigm of the government.”


Zaniya Lewis

Zaniya Lewis
Senior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Commitment Name:
YesSheCanCampaign: The Climb Is Our Story
Commitment Focus Area: Education

“The issue our project is addressing is the lack of college and career preparation in Washington, D.C., high schools. Our project will be a model for other high schools looking to improve their college and career preparation programs. This issue is important to us because we understand what it is like to not have been properly prepared for college and our careers. We want to ensure that the students learn from our mistakes.”


Elizabeth Diing Manyang

Elizabeth Diing Manyang
Sophomore pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science 
Commitment Name:
Me4Her
Commitment Focus Area: Education

“While growing up, I received many scornful eyes from those against my education. Many girls were encouraged to stay at home and learn how to become good wives. Those that refused to stop attending school either got impregnated or forcefully married off. They were not allowed to make choices due to culturally embedded beliefs. As a result of all these happenings, I felt a moral responsibility to create a platform where girls could hear from women from their own communities who have made it into universities and are succeeding. Sharing stories will help them relate and motivate them to dream beyond the walls in the camp.”


Rachel Onianwah

Rachel Onianwah
Graduate student pursuing a Master of Arts in Political Management, Graduate School of Political Management
Commitment Name:
How Lack of Accessibility Creates Generational Poverty 
Commitment Focus Area: Poverty Alleviation

“Nigeria is a country with over 180 million people and out of that, over 50 percent of the population are experiencing extreme poverty. Over half of the population is experiencing hunger, homelessness and, in totality, a lack of resources in all areas. Being the country with the greatest number of black people in the world and in the heart of Africa, it is Nigeria's duty to be an example to other African countries. It is important to me as I am a child of immigrants from Nigeria. I have lived in Nigeria and have seen the effects of poverty. My target populations are those experiencing extreme poverty in Nigeria. Since corruption is the biggest challenge, we must reformulate the minds of citizens and show them with accessibility and fixing the system, poverty is bound to end. If not in this generation, we can begin to build a foundation for the generations to come.”


Divya Rath

Divya Rath
Sophomore pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Commitment Name:
Global Guru: Education for All
Commitment Focus Area: Education

“In 2019, Divya Rath, a member of the nonprofit organization Global Guru, committed to increasing literacy among children through a community-based tutoring initiative to supplement students’ education. Divya and Global Guru members will tutor students through free online weekly classes (five to seven students per tutor) in subjects of the student’s choice. They will partner with local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, U.S. Dream Academy and local schools to connect with potential students. In 24 months, they expect to increase the number of current volunteer tutors from three to 12-15 and tutor 60-70 students to the point where each student completes in-class assignments that demonstrate mastery over 70 percent of the content learned during previous lessons.”

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