What’s your commitment? How to become an effective change-maker.

Having a goal to change the world for the better is great. But what's more important, says Chelsea Clinton, is having a plan to make it happen.

Chelsea Clinton: So here at CGI U we bring together a group of student activists and change makers every year to help them think about how to maximize the work that they’re already doing or the work that they feel called to do, whether that is tackling a challenge on their campus or in their local community or around the world. And we also hope that here at CGI U that we help foster a community of changemakers so that they can trade ideas, share ideas, learn from each other, help each other get better and support each other when those inevitable challenges come as kind of the rubber meets the road and the hard work of making a positive difference in the world may be just a little bit harder some days than others. 

One of the areas that we really focus on here at CGI U is to try to be a platform and a resource for our CGI U students and alums. 

We think that’s really important because we want the CGI U students not only to hopefully kind of feel more empowered and affirmed but themselves to then help democratize what they’ve learned through the CGI U process to other students, other friends, the younger siblings or the kids that they may themselves mentor now or in the future. 

And so what does that mean. 

Well helping CGI U students understand better and hopefully feel more connected and empowered to do what they themselves are doing but also to really understand why at CGI U we ask them to make a specific commitment to action. Why we ask them to articulate how they’ll measure progress against that commitment to action; Why we do think it’s really important that it be something new and not redundant or repetitive to something that someone else may already be trying to do to tackle that problem kind of in that space in that place at this moment in time. 

Because we hope if students understand better not only how to kind of do the work that they feel called to do but also why we focus on what we do here at CGI U they’ll be able to help support more people to be more effective change-makers today and in the future. 

I think that millennials and Gen Z often get a bad rap as being kind of disinterested, disengaged, disincentivized, more curious about what’s popping up on Instagram than the headline of the day. 

And we’ve heard critiques like that kind of for time immemorial. And yet thankfully for time immemorial young people have said no. I mean we’re not going to be defined by kind of your stigma of us. We’re going to be defined by kind of what we stand up for, what we fight for or what we do, what we push forward. 

And I certainly think all the students here at CGI U not only provide a robust case for optimism every year and every day, and the work that they do that I think really repudiate that. 

And so I think then the challenges for business leaders today or for kind of NGO leaders today or for people in government today is to recognize that maybe young people are communicating in a different way but they have profoundly valuable things to not only say but they’re doing valuable work today and we’ll all be better off if we have the humility and the openness to listen to learn alongside them and to support so many of them that are making a really very real important difference already and will do so even more in the future.

As an activist, public health professor, mom, author, and Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton sure is pretty busy. Here, she explains to us that there is a divide between wanting to make the world a better place and actually having a direction and a unique goal to make it happen. In order to help others both see and meet their goals, the Clinton Foundation launched Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) to give mentorship to those looking to make positive change. This video, part one in a series, is a great introduction to CGI U and to Chelsea's overall worldview. You can find out more about CGI U right here.

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Why birds fly south for the winter—and more about bird migration

What do we see from watching birds move across the country?

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  • A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
  • The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
  • Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.


The migration of birds — and we didn't even used to know that birds migrated; we assumed they hibernated; the modern understanding of bird migration was established when a white stork landed in a German village with an arrow from Central Africa through its neck in 1822 — draws us in the direction of having an understanding of the world. A bird is here and then travels somewhere else. Where does it go? It's a variation on the poetic refrain from The Catcher in the Rye. Where do the ducks go? How many are out there? What might it encounter along the way?

While there is a yearly bird count conducted every Christmas by amateur bird watchers across the country done in conjunction with The Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently released the results of a study that actually go some way towards answering heretofore abstract questions: every fall, as per cloud computing and 143 weather radar stations, four billion birds migrate into the United States from Canada and four billion more head south to the tropics.

In other words: the birds who went three to four times further than the birds staying in the U.S. faired better than the birds who stayed in the U.S. Why?

Part of the answer could be very well be what you might hear from a conservationist — only with numbers to back it up: the U.S. isn't built for birds. As Ken Rosenberg, the other co-author of the study, notes: "Birds wintering in the U.S. may have more habitat disturbances and more buildings to crash into, and they might not be adapted for that."

The other option is that birds lay more offspring in the U.S. than those who fly south for the winter.

What does observing eight billion birds mean in practice? To give myself a counterpoint to those numbers, I drove out to the Joppa Flats Education Center in Northern Massachusetts. The Center is a building that sits at the entrance to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and overlooks the Merrimack River, which is what I climbed the stairs up to the observation deck to see.

Once there, I paused. I took a breath. I listened. I looked out into the distance. Tiny flecks Of Bonaparte's Gulls drew small white lines across the length of the river and the wave of the grass toward a nearby city. What appeared to be flecks of double-crested cormorants made their way to the sea. A telescope downstairs enabled me to watch small gull-like birds make their way along the edges of the river, quietly pecking away at food just beneath the surface of the water. This was the experience of watching maybe half a dozen birds over fifteen-to-twenty minutes, which only served to drive home the scale of birds studied.

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Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

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  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

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It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.