Plenary Session

The American Home Front: Creating Change in Our Own Communities

The United States is no stranger to inadequate education, limited access to health care, or skyrocketing carbon emissions. Although the economic landscape is vastly different in the U.S. than it is in many developing nations, there are currently 46 million Americans who are uninsured, and 37.3 million who are living in poverty. How can America’s universities channel their capacity for innovation and public service as a force for positive change on the domestic front? This panel will provide effective, creative ways that students and universities can make a tangible difference in their local communities - without taking a 14-hour plane trip or starting a satellite campus overseas.

Poverty Alleviation Working Session

Poverty at Home: Turning Challenge into Opportunity

Four in 10 Americans will experience poverty in their lifetimes. Today, one in seven Americans fall below the poverty line, a number that will likely increase given the current recession. Unemployment is over 15 percent in many Rust Belt cities, and over 25 percent in Imperial County, California, one of the regions hardest hit by the collapse of the housing market. The recent spike in home foreclosures has increased homelessness on a national scale, while the increasing costs of health care are leaving millions more uninsured. From the Mexico/U.S. border to the Mississippi Delta, from the hills of Appalachia to countless Native American communities, poverty in America is persistent and growing. With shrinking endowments, budget cuts, and hiring freezes, America’s colleges and universities have certainly not been spared from the ongoing recession. This panel will explore how students, universities and Americans young and old are addressing the challenges of both entrenched and recent poverty in the U.S., and how those hardest hit are finding creative solutions to the economic downturn.

Plenary Session

The Future of Water

Many of the planet’s most urgent crises – and most promising solutions – are tied to a single substance: water. Access to clean water is a critical ingredient for economic empowerment, food security, public health, and even political stability. Yet a global water crisis is already underway. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 billion people do not have access to clean water. Furthermore, every year water-related diseases are responsible for more than 3.5 million deaths, 98 percent of which occur in the developing world. With water consumption far outpacing population growth around the globe, many believe that water will become the oil of the 21st century: increasingly scarce and increasingly expensive. This panel will highlight innovative ways that students and universities can take action to create sustainable water, sanitation, and food systems around the world.

Poverty Alleviation Working Session

Agents of Change: Alleviating Poverty through Social Entrepreneurship

When it comes to poverty alleviation, people around the world are increasingly looking to social entrepreneurship to guide their efforts. From the Grameen Bank to the hundreds of student-led startups on campus, social entrepreneurs are identifying problems and developing innovative, market-based solutions to address them. The U.S. government has pledged over $50 million each year to fund the innovative work of social entrepreneurs, and other sectors are following suit. Sites such as Twitter and Facebook are helping to generate excitement around outside-the-box poverty alleviation efforts and enabling many to “go viral.” This panel will highlight the work of leading social entrepreneurs both on campus and in the community, and will explore the skills they have and the tools they use to successfully pursue promising solutions to nearly every facet of poverty.

Closing Plenary

Moving Forward in Haiti

Michele Norris will host a conversation with President Clinton and other guests on the recovery and reconstruction efforts underway in Haiti, and how students and the university community can get involved.