Undergrad attends CGI U and commits to increase college graduation rates


Meghan Krein

Natalie Rudolph, a junior in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, studying elementary education with an emphasis on special education, was invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University’s (CGI U) annual meeting last month in Boston. Each year, CGI U hosts a three-day meeting in which students, university representatives, topic experts and celebrities come together to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. In return, students create commitments to action that address issues on campus, in local communities or around the world.

This year, more than 1,100 student leaders in the world participated. Natalie attended with a team of two other ASU students: Victoria Crynes and Justin Heywood, focusing on education. CGI U has five areas of focus: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. Participants are asked to choose one of these areas in which to make their commitment to action.

“Selecting the area for our commitment to action came seamlessly. As an education major, I am passionate about improving education and increasing college graduation rates.” Of her teammates, Natalie says, “They are strong advocates for equal opportunity to education and closing the achievement gap.”

Tam at CGI U

Natalie (center) and her team at Clinton Global Initiative University.

When vision and action collide

Natalie says she and her teammates plan to propel this commitment into action by starting a club on ASU’s Tempe campus, called Si Se Puede: Latinas Leading the Way. The club’s mission is to increase the number of female Hispanic students who graduate from high school and go on to college. They are partnering with Phoenix Collegiate Academy (a predominantly Hispanic high school) in hopes of motivating its female junior and senior students to go to college through establishing a mentorship program.

The plan is for PCA students to partner with current female ASU students. The mentors and mentees will connect and bond through SAT and ACT preparation, resume writing, ASU campus tours and more. “We are confident that the positive role models acquired through our program is the key to getting these girls — many whom are first-generation students — to go to college and be successful,” Natalie says.

Speaking of role models, Natalie has one: Madeleine Albright, whom she was able to hear speak at CGI U. “Madeleine embodies everything we are trying to accomplish for our girls through our Si Se Puede: Latinas Leading the Way program,” Natalie tells us. “Madeleine comes from a family of immigrants and didn’t let that or being female prevent her from achieving her dreams.”

Preparing oneself for such a monumental event can be stressful. However, Natalie says she felt prepared. “Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College helped prepare me by giving me hands-on experiences. Thus far, I have spent 75 hours interning at Aguilar Elementary, a Title I school, and I’m interning at a special needs private school. So this field experience, combined with my education classes, allowed me to apply what I’ve learned from networking with educational leaders.”

While at the event, Natalie heard about a peer’s commitment to action to develop more programs for special needs children. Because Natalie is studying special education, she was able to share her experiences in the special needs classroom, along with advice and recommendations.

Sun Devils at CGI U

Sun Devils who attended Clinton Global Initiative University.

It’s bigger than a classroom

I want to make it clear that teaching is more than teaching in the classroom. Being a great educator involves advocating for education, fighting for students and implementing change when needed,” she says.

Clearly, this is the mindset of a leader. “I thrive on one-on-one connection,” Natalie tells us, adding, “My mission is to really get to know everyone I meet and show them I truly care.”

It’s no surprise that Natalie works as a community assistant, group fitness instructor, academic mentor and mentor in Barrett Honors College and the Tillman Scholars Program. Oh, and she volunteers with Page Turners, B.L.A.S.T tutoring and Talent Match — all programs that pair college students with elementary school students for tutoring and skill development.

With CGI U behind her, Natalie says she’s excited now more than ever to enter the education field. “I hope to be good and do good.”

We have no doubt she’ll do just that.

Learn more about our undergraduate education programs.