Even as the national economy recovers, employment metrics show that U.S. manufacturing still has a long recovery ahead. The trend of manufacturing abroad is slowly reversing, however, and Jessie Cragg, an AAS fashion design student at Parsons The New School for Design, wants to help. Cragg and her roommate, Laurel McEuen, a graduate student in Parsons’ History of Decorative Arts and Design program, are launching Texi, a handbag company whose goods will be designed and produced entirely in the United States. The duo submitted the idea as a proposal for this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), an organization founded by President Bill Clinton that encourages young leaders to take action on the world’s most pressing issues.
Each year, CGI U hosts a conference at which students, advocacy groups, experts, and entrepreneurs discuss and develop creative solutions to global problems. The conference, which is designed to connect participants with potential partners, includes planning sessions and events that provide opportunities for collaborating and sharing knowledge. This year’s conference, to be held in early April at Washington University in St. Louis, will be attended by 1,200 social entrepreneurs and activists. Cragg and McEuen are among the 12 New School students selected to take part.
“CGI U is an opportunity to network with the best and the brightest from around the world—you can’t put a price on that,” said Pam Klein, associate dean of Student Affairs at Parsons, who helped organize The New School’s participation in CGI U.
Networking and collaboration are also what Cragg is most looking forward to. “I want to learn from people in the field about what manufacturing means in the United States and what it means to be a social entrepreneur,” she said. “In my internships, I noticed that many companies outsource their production. I want to find out how to reverse that and keep New York the center of fashion.”
CGI U asks students to develop Commitments to Action, innovative initiatives with measurable outcomes that address social and environmental problems. As a member of the organization’s network, Parsons has supported the students (six from The New School for Public Engagement, four from Parsons, and two from Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts) with seed money for their commitments, as well as travel stipends.
That CGI U accepted nearly all the New Schoolers who applied is no surprise to Klein. “The New School provides a great base from which to apply to things like CGI U. With its focus on social and civic engagement and faculty of practitioners invested in supporting ideas, the university does an excellent job preparing our students for such national competitions.”
Some of the students were motivated to apply by their participation in this year’s New School New Challenge, a contest calling for students to develop socially innovative projects. One is Ally Dommu, a graduate student at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. As a project manager for New Challenge, Dommu found her Commitment to Action in the work she was already doing. “My interest is in the backbone of social innovation projects,” she said. “I want to help identify the needs of social entrepreneurs, particularly women, and support them through different means.”
Read more about the Clinton Global Initiative.