A few days after mingling with Chelsea Clinton, Ph.D. student Meicen Sun resumes her normal doctoral student life as she walks into the Penn Bookstore.

A distinguished activist, Sun attended the Clinton Global Initiative University, or CGI U, in Arizona this past weekend. Besides giving attendees the opportunity to spot celebrities such as Jimmy Kimmel, the conference pledged to develop each young leaders’ projects which take action on global challenges.

Sun’s “Commitment to Action” project centers on the international criminal prosecution of Kenyan state leaders for crimes against humanity. While meeting other inspired leaders at the conference, she discovered a resounding message.

“There was one very direct impression that I got from the conference,” Sun said. “We are not alone.”

Throughout the year, and as a prerequisite of attending the CGI U meeting, students like Sun develop their own Commitments to Action: new initiatives that address specific challenges on campus, in local communities, or around the world. Young leaders like Sun also found encouragement in sharing their ideas with one another.

“I initially wondered if my project fit in — was it too outlandish, too out there?” she said. “But when I got there, I realized that everyone had a really big idea and was taking small, concrete steps. “

CGI U is an annual conference organized by the Clinton Foundation and is hosted by Bill and Chelsea Clinton. The meeting brought together more than 1,100 students to make a difference in CGI U’s five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.

“This year, John McCain and his wife were present, and Jimmy Kimmel was the host for the plenary session,” Sun said. “There were tons of other celebrities and activists and distinguished individuals ... Bill Clinton and Chelsea walked alongside us and helped us with the service as well.”

Sun added that CGI U is not just a leadership event, but a growing community of young leaders who don’t simply talk global issues — they take real, concrete steps toward solving them.

Sun has already seen a great deal of the world before attending the conference. Born and raised in China, she received secondary schooling in Singapore, an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, studied abroad in France for fieldwork and worked for the United Nations in Africa.

Ultimately, Sun’s project goal is to “establish a network of international justice facilitators and also to create an avenue where these victims of justice can express their needs so that their voices can be heard,” she said.

Sun encouraged both Penn undergraduates and graduates to use their knowledge to make a snowballing impact across the globe.

“Another strong feeling that I got was the reassurance I felt in being able to pursue my intellectual inquiries while using my knowledge to make a concrete change in the world,” she said. “And yes, there is a way to do both.”

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