By: Lauren Hutton ’21 and Celine Turkyilmaz ’21
Recognizing students who are both leaders and social entrepreneurs, the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) has named Christina Weiler ’21 and Danny Liu ’23 as Class of 2021 fellows. The higher education branch of the Clinton Foundation offers fellows mentorship, a social impact curriculum, funding, and networking opportunities as part of a year-long program.
A mathematical economics major from China, Liu applied to the program based on his work with Fireside, the company he cofounded to transform college applications into a social, peer-to-peer process. Fireside allows prospective students to meet virtually with current students at a given university to learn about the school and ask questions. The platform is especially helpful to international students who may not be able to visit their prospective schools and often opt to spend tens of thousands of dollars on counselors for the application process.
“Going to high school in China, you don’t really know what college is going to be like overseas. A lot of people and families opt into these third-party college counselors just because there’s so much uncertainty,” Liu said. “We want to bridge that gap for people.”
While Liu acknowledges the business currently caters to students and families able to pay for international schooling, he hopes to make the service available at a price attainable to everybody, including domestic students who aren’t able to visit prospective schools. He also hopes CGI U will help advance the company to where they want to go next: providing the service for free to underprivileged schools.
Liu has done everything from building the website to reaching out to testing schools with only the help of his cofounder, McGill student Owen Bai, and they are looking forward to increased mentorship through CGI U. Participants apply to the program with a Commitment to Action plan, and Liu describes his as a commitment to bring people closer together.
“We genuinely believe that the world would be a better place if high school students could talk to a future version of themselves and have these options,” Liu says.
Christina Weiler ’21, an environmental economics major from New York, N.Y., aims to innovate strategies to increase sustainability awareness and enable environmental justice. As the co-president of Students for Environmental Action and a committee member on the University’s Sustainability Council, Weiler has dedicated a majority of her Colgate experience to engaging in advocacy and encouraging commitment to sustainable practices.
For Weiler, being a CGI U fellow grants the ability to connect with other entrepreneurs also developing projects to minimize environmental and social harms in local communities. “I love learning about the creative approaches that people have taken to solve problems ranging from plastic pollution to urban food insecurity to gender violence,” she said.
Colgate joined the CGI U network at the start of 2021, making Weiler and Liu Colgate’s first CGI U fellows.
“Being part of CGI U is very exciting for Colgate and a natural fit, given the many mission-driven students who seek to make a positive impact on the world through TIA ventures, student organizations, and volunteerism,” Thought Into Action (TIA) Director Carolyn Strobel said.
Weiler attributes her selection as a fellow to Strobel, who initially informed her of the opportunity. She also noted the impact of her experience in TIA. “In my application, I described the problem I was interested in helping to solve — a plan of action in collaboration with the community — and the resources I would need,” she said. “Being a part of TIA for four years prepared me well to pitch my ideas. To anyone with a project idea in social or environmental impact: Go for it and apply.”
Since 2008, more than 10,000 students around the world have joined CGI U with Commitments to Action. As Colgate’s first fellows, Weiler and Liu entered a global community of social entrepreneurs.
“Christina and Danny bring passion, drive, and creativity to their entrepreneurial efforts as they seek to tackle important societal challenges,” Strobel said. “I am impressed by their commitment to making a difference in the world and effecting positive change in areas they care passionately about. I am excited to see how their efforts advance through their participation in CGI U.”