By Joyce Flores
If you were a student at Tulane University in New Orleans, you would be required to take a service learning course before you could earn your bachelor’s degree.
“After Katrina, Tulane significantly increased its commitment to civic engagement by becoming the first major research university in the United States to require public service for graduation itself,” said Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University, in a conference call with former President Bill Clinton Wednesday.
Tulane University is hoping to get more people involved in service learning because they recognize that active, civic engagement builds strong, healthy communities and responsible citizens, states the center for public service at Tulane University’s Web site.
For those reasons, they are teaming-up with the Clinton Global Initiative University for its inaugural meeting March 14-16.
In 2005, Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative, a group committed to brainstorming and implementing solutions to world problems such as education, global health, poverty, energy and climate change.
Members make commitments at the annual convention and fulfill them throughout the year.
This year the initiative launched its university in hopes of getting students and universities involved in solving world issues.
“We are expanding the CGI because young people have proven they are enormously committed to changing the world, and they have enormous power to do so,” Clinton said.
The initiative’s Web site states that the purpose of the meeting is to identify, cultivate and engage college students to make tangible commitments to tackle global issues; challenge universities to organize, research and make service-oriented commitments in targeted areas; introduce and promote CGI’s work and mission to a new, younger audience; and connect students, organizations and university administrators around the world with others working on similar issues.
Clinton said he believes college students can have the biggest impact on global issues by starting to change their immediate environment.
“If all the universities in America were to become carbon neutral, it would reduce America’s greenhouse gas emission by something like 6 or 7 percent,” he added.
He also said he believed that every university in America could have its own nongovermental organization with its own charter to pick projects they want and grow them over time.
“I think this ought to become a part of college life. I think students should think of this as just another part of their education, another part of their development as citizens and another part of the opportunity to learn and the responsibility to leave the world a better place.”
He went on to add that he would like to see colleges brand their nongovermental organizations the way they brand their sports teams as a way to get everybody to participate.
The Clinton Government Initiative University conference will be in New Orleans, and attendees will be expected to participate in some sort of service-learning opportunity such as planting trees or repairing homes in New Orleans.
“CGI U will take place in New Orleans, a city that experienced both the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the national recovery efforts that continue to this day,” the Web site states.
“By hosting the inaugural meeting in New Orleans, we will join the thousands who have chosen to make a difference.”
“It’s important that we focus on these issues because the United States will not be whole again until we make good on our commitment to the people of New Orleans and the whole Gulf Coast area to help them completely recover from Katrina,” Clinton said.
The deadline to apply to attend the conference is Monday.
An application can be found online at http://www.cgiu.org.
For students who are not able to attend the conference, a live Web cast will be streamed on the Web site.
Applicants will be asked to describe a commitment they are interested in making, Clinton said.
The CGI will have its annual meeting Sept. 24-26 in New York.
For more information on the initiative, visit http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org.