By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
In a successful foray toward making new connections, Noah Wolfe, Aly Halbakken and Tim McGill found themselves in the same University of Chicago auditorium with Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton and celebrity nun Sister Jean.
The Grand Canyon University Honors College sponsored the trio at Clinton Global Initiative University 2018 to help them build networks for their nonprofit Novella, a startup dedicated to increasing profits for impoverished farmers in Bagua, Peru by eliminating the middleman -- via training locals to be pilots and building an airstrip adjacent to their farms.
Over the three-day conference, which ended Sunday, the trio listened to plenary speakers, such as the Clintons, and attended smaller presentations along with nearly 1,000 students from countries all over the world. The students made Commitments to Action (CTA) in five targeted areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation and Public Health.
“It was really, really cool because there were a lot of student groups working on a lot of different initiatives,’’ Wolfe said. “One group was working on coffee in Vietnam, some people were working on farming initiatives over in Africa, and some people were working on water issues. So while the initiatives are different than ours, we met people working with a similar model, helping underprivileged communities and reinvesting in those communities.
"A lot of what they were working on has to do with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), Homeland Security, nonprofit tracking and data the government wants. There are a lot of companies and people you can bring in to help you accomplish the behind-the-curtains paper work, but they are elusive, so it was really, really nice to meet people who could provide input and clarity with our structure.’’
Because their missions align, the trio made a concerted effort to meet representatives from The Resolution Project.
“We were able to get face time with them, and that was really cool,’’ Wolfe said of a group that provides mentoring and funding to young entrepreneurs. “They are really big on deadlines; they coach you through achieving those deadlines.’’
Among other key contacts who yielded savvy advice: the director of partnerships at Snapchat, the head of brand philosophy at Patagonia, a representative from Headspace, partners who overfund management from MasterCard and McKinsey and Company, the executive director of the Obama Foundation and the chief executive officer of the Albert Einstein Foundation.
“The people at this conference were so inspiring and so eager in supporting our project,’’ Halbakkan said. “My perspective expanded about the world and the global impact that is possible. I especially enjoyed the breakout sessions with speakers from Patagonia and Headspace. They provided a lot of knowledge on how to create a meaningful project.
"A theme from this weekend was ‘Optimism is a moral choice.’ We have the power to believe this world can be a better place.’’
Along with seeing a snippet of the Windy City, McGill enjoyed the added bonus of visiting his mother, his grandparents and his aunt on Sunday evening.
Upon their return to Phoenix, the Honors College trio possessed deeper understandings from listening and learning as well as a pocketful of business cards, including contacts who might help them in their roles as student leaders of the Associated Students of GCU.
“Some of the connections had nothing to do with Novella, but we looked into them from an ASGCU student standpoint and an international student standpoint,’’ Wolfe said. “Our priority is GCU students."
Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected]