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NDSU students participate in Clinton Global Initiative University

Four teams comprised of seven NDSU students recently participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University. They were among the more than 1,000 students who convened at the 2015 meeting March 6-8 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. 

The event is part of the Clinton Global Initiative, which was established in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

The students pitched ideas, called commitments to action, and underwent a selection process in December.

Autism project featured
Caitlin Johnson’s project, N.D. Autism Parent Outreach Project, was named a featured commitment to action in the Clinton Global Initiative’s education track. The recognition allowed her to exhibit her project to other attendees.

Johnson created the project to provide parents of autistic children with an intervention they can use at home for little to no cost. She uses oral narratives to teach children communication and language skills, as well as incorporate arts and crafts to address sensory processing needs.

“Autism is a scary label if you’re not educated,” Johnson said. “The best thing a parent can do is to educate themselves.”

The first-year doctoral education student from Belcourt, North Dakota, had the same project make the final round of NDSU Innovation Challenge ’15, an annual event that showcases and encourages student innovation.

Math movement recognized
A trio of NDSU students presented a math-based project. Alex Koppy and Robbie Suppa co-founded the Mathematical Enthusiasts Society, a group of math and math education students who volunteer as tutors and create a network of math enthusiasts. The volunteers have been tutoring seventh and eighth graders at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School in Fargo.

Drew Spooner, a senior majoring in marketing from Fargo, joined the group in November to pitch the idea. Spooner attended a Codeathon event prior to the Clinton Global Initiative University. There, he worked with students from Northwestern University, Duke University, the University of Miami and a Microsoft STEM education leader to develop a website for middle school students. The site will allow students to experience a free online discussion board, access to teachers and tutors, and areas of study, games math topics and practice exercises.

The NDSU team won the Codeathon event, which was judged in part by Chelsea Clinton.

“We were able to showcase what’s happening in Fargo,” Spooner said. “It’s a thriving place for entrepreneurs, and we got to share that message with others from across the country and the world.”

Koppy, a senior majoring in mathematics and mathematics education, said the team’s next steps are to further develop the site, add more members to the society and fulfill their commitment to action.

“It was a great experience to see students from 80 other countries that live a life of service in hopes of creating a better tomorrow for every citizen on Earth,” Koppy said.

Other NDSU student projects were a campaign to shift university dining budgets toward community-based food and a micro-loan system to support international students.

The teams were advised and supported by Andrew Mara, associate professor of English; David Wells, professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering; Sherri Nordstrom Stastny, associate professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences; and Paul Brown, senior lecturer of management and marketing.

The Clinton Global Initiative University encouraged students to take action on some of the millennial generation’s biggest concerns, such as the future of energy, the power of big data to address global challenges and peace-building in the Middle East and North Africa.

More information about the initiative is available at

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Last Updated: Friday, May 13, 2022 4:03:55 PM
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