Jordan Francke ’13 discovered the Clinton Global Initiative University last semester while perusing the McKeen Center’s weekly Service News email, which updates students on upcoming service and volunteer opportunities. The blurb for CGIU was “just this tiny little paragraph at the bottom,” Francke said, but was enough to spark the neuroscience major’s interest. The application process was competitive, and Francke is the third Bowdoin student to attend the program. CGIU was founded by President Bill Clinton in 2007 to “engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world.”
Following the jump is an edited transcript of the conversation between the Bowdoin Daily Sun and Francke about the upcoming event, from March 30 to April 1, and why he’s so excited to attend.
Bowdoin Daily Sun: What is the Clinton Global Initiative University?
Jordan Francke: CGIU was started by Bill Clinton, I think after his presidency, and it’s a nonprofit organization. CGI is a longstanding organization but the CGIU, the university part of it, is fairly recent. And the idea behind it is bringing about 1,000 students from all over the country, and all over the world actually, to various locations. This year it’s in D.C.; the year before it was in California; and I think the year before that it was in Florida or New Orleans. But it’s only been around for a few years. And one of the requirements for attending CGIU is that you formulate some kind of commitment to action. When you get to the conference you meet with other volunteers who are interested in similar commitments to action. And they’re in all kinds of spheres: there’s public health, environmental justice, hunger and homelessness, poverty, all kinds of things.
BDS: What’s your Commitment to Action?
JF: It was inspired by a video I saw on Facebook about civil unions in the United Kingdom, about the lack of legal connection of LGBT parents to their kids and how that complicates the hospital system in terms of visitation, both the parents visiting the child and the child visiting the parents. And so I started researching Maine hospitals and healthcare centers. There’s about 50 in the state, and I started looking at them, and I was looking at their patient’s bills of rights and visitation policies, and there weren’t many that had inclusive or explicit LGBT clauses. And so my commitment to action was working with Maine hospitals and health centers to create more LGBT-inclusive patient’s bills of rights and visitation policies.
BDS: Are you envisioning that as a future honor’s project or will you be doing that over the summer and getting funding?
JF: It’s kind of tough because when you’re generating a proposal for this commitment of action because you don’t know if it’s going to happen. I’m going to be here probably, if I’m approved, to do research in the neuro department with Prof. [Richard] Thompson this summer, and so I thought it would be a fun side project to work on during the summer when I have free time. Also the fellowship for research is about eight weeks, and it ends mid-summer, and so [my commitment-to-action plan is] something I can work on for the rest of the summer when I have more time.
BDS: Do you get a stipend for going down there ?
FF: I’ve requested some funding through the dean’s office, through the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity and the McKeen Center to help me pay for the flight; the flight’s the biggest expense I’m worried about. And it looks promising. And there’s not a fee for going to it.
BDS: And so 1,000 students were selected out of 4,000 applicants?
JF: Yeah, about that.
BDS: Beyond maybe [getting] ideas for implementing your ideas, what else do you hope to get out of it?
JF: I think what’s really awesome about CGIU is just the incredible power of connections that you can make there. And [while LGBTQ rights] is something I’m interested in, it’s not the only thing. And what’s really awesome about [CGIU] is that it brings people who just have this incredibly diverse body of commitments together to talk. I’m excited about making connections with people who are in this field that I’m pursuing and have similar projects, so we can bounce ideas off each other and make connections that could prove to be useful when I start implementing this project. But I’m also really involved in hunger and homeless initiatives. I’m leading an [Alternative Spring Break trip] to D.C. next month to work with the Pilgrimage, a nonprofit in D.C. that works with hunger and homelessness. I led Alternative Winter Break this winter break with hunger and homelessness. I teach at Portland Adult Education, and refugee resettlement issues are really important to me. Over winter break I went to the Dominican Republic and did a medical mission. It’s really cool to bring all these really passionate individuals together for a weekend.
BDS: Do they make it fairly easy to make those connections?
JF: Yeah, there are several events where we’re all together. And then the way the weekend is set up is there are speakers who come, and a bunch of workshops we can go to [where] we can integrate and mix and intermingle, and then I think you meet with regional commitment advisers or mentors, and that’s when you meet with or become acquainted with the people who have similar commitments to you.
BDS: Do you know who the speakers are?
JF: I know Jon Stewart is one of them. And I think Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are also going to be speaking at it.
BDS: It sounds like you have diverse interests and passions, so what are your longer-term dreams?
JF: They’re still in the process of being solidified. I’m a neuro major and Spanish minor and I’m currently pre-med, so I’m pretty sure that I’m going to go to medical school either one year or two years after Bowdoin. I wanted to take some time off and really figure out what exactly it was that I wanted to do. I could see myself going into public health; or I think anesthesiology is really interesting. The nonprofit sector is super-attractive to me too, though, so I’m conflicted. If there was some way to integrate them all, which I’m sure there is, that would be the ideal situation.
BDS: Will you meet Bill Clinton?
JF: I hope so. [Laughs] I will be competing with 1,000 students for that opportunity. But I will undoubtedly see him and I will try and be aggressive and seek him out to have a conversation.
The Bowdoin Daily Sun will check back with Jordan after he returns from his trip to see whether he met Bill Clinton, and to report on what else he experienced.