Students, College Make Commitment to Be ‘Doers’

March 7, 2008

It isn’t often that one receives an invitation from former President William J. Clinton. Mary Baldwin University did. And we’re not about to pass it up. Students wasted no time responding to Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox’s call for participants in the Clinton Global Initiative’s most recent endeavor, CGI University (CGI U). The program’s inaugural conference March 14–16 will encourage college students to tackle global issues in innovative ways that take action and make a difference.

Robyn Stegman '09, seventh from left, during her stay in a Buddhist monastery in India. The nuns who operate Dhamma Moli girls school are also pictured.CGI is not an organization for talkers. It is an organization designed for doers. To apply for the program, students needed to describe a commitment to action, the steps they would take, and how they will measure progress toward the commitment. Eager Mary Baldwin students met with Heather Ward, director of international programs, and decided to pool their energy and resources toward a common commitment. Students will support Dhamma Moli girls’ school in Kathmandu, Nepal by raising money for the school, sending winter clothing for students, sending books and school supplies, and raising awareness of human trafficking. In the longer view, the partnership could include Mary Baldwin students volunteering or teaching at the school and bringing Dhamma Moli students to the Staunton campus, Ward said. Find out more about the school at www.dhammamoli.org.

The Mary Baldwin group’s commitment was generated from the study abroad experience of CGI U participant Robyn Stegman ’09. Stegman, an international relations major, spent the fall 2007 semester in a Burmese monastery as part of a Buddhist studies program through Antioch University in Ohio. Among many amazing experiences there, she became an ordained Buddhist nun for a week, and the nuns who founded Dhamma Moli were her spiritual guides through that intense process. The highly valued Buddhist bond Stegman formed with the women makes giving back to their school even more meaningful.

“I can’t express how happy I am that Dhamma Moli is the focus of the project,” said Stegman, who is minoring in peace and conflict resolution at Mary Baldwin. “It is tangible because it will directly help the small number of girls at the school, but it will also reach beyond that, helping educate people about human trafficking not only in Nepal, but in many other areas.”

CGI U participant Yenny Caceres ’11 is thrilled at the prospect of being in the presence of former President Bill Clinton, and she is working on an individual commitment in addition to being passionate about the Mary Baldwin group pledge.

Already, we see connections with other activities at Mary Baldwin: The September 2006 visit of human rights activist Sanjana Das of India addressed similar issues of the buying and selling of women and children in Asia. Alumna Mary Morrison ’95 introduced many students, faculty, and staff at Mary Baldwin to the worldwide work of the Clinton Global Initiative when she spoke about her role in that organization for the college’s Founders Day. Now, those two spheres connect in a student-initiated project intended to change the world, or at the very least, a niche of it.

Originally published inThe Cupolain March 2008.

Read students’ reflections on attending the conference in the April issue ofThe Cupolaat go.marybaldwin.edu/cupola.