Four Stanford undergraduates have received prestigious scholarships to work full-time at TeachAIDS this summer. Each year, Stanford University expands its educational opportunities beyond the classroom by financing innovative research and immersive internship experiences for a handful of outstanding students.

While those awarded represent diverse interests and skill sets, each individual arrives at TeachAIDS with a commitment to create exceptional health education and improve learning outcomes. This unifying passion drives the team through projects that range from establishing partner relationships to working on critical research studies.

Coordinating one of these studies is Human Biology major Christine Chen ‘17, who received an Undergraduate Advising and Research Major Grant. Christine joined TeachAIDS last summer, dedicating her entire fall quarter to full-time work in the Palo Alto office. This summer, Christine is designing a study for her honors thesis which will help inform a major initiative at TeachAIDS.

“Working with the range of multidisciplinary experts at TeachAIDS has been inspiring and an incredible learning experience,” Christine said. “Everyone works together to best understand how to tackle challenging problems from many angles.”

The other three full-time TeachAIDS interns received fellowship grants from Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service, which funds special summer service opportunities that span various disciplines.

“This has been a transformative opportunity for me,” said Katie Schneider ‘18, a Product Design major. “By the end of the summer, I will have conducted around two hundred in-depth interviews.”

Recipient of the Cardinal Course Fellowship, Katie is part of a larger team conducting qualitative research to best understand the challenges and motivations of youth in the U.S.

Ridhima Mishra ‘20 and Courtney Gao ‘20 both received the Haas Center’s Spirituality, Service and Social Change Fellowship, which provides an opportunity to reframe their service for local communities within a spiritual context. Ridhima plans to study Symbolic Systems and Courtney plans to study Human Biology. Both hope to attend medical school after their undergraduate studies.

“I first heard about TeachAIDS in my Global Health class taught by Senior Dean Michele Barry. I was inspired by their proven model to provide the highest quality education materials to the entire world, and that too for free,” Ridhima said. “Having worked with TeachAIDS for nearly a year now, I am humbled by the dedication all the volunteers have to making this vision a reality.”


Made with Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchliff Pearson is a book about those who make possible the impossible: developing invaluable, world-class content — and sharing it for free. Released on May 5, this publication features TeachAIDS for creating free but valuable content for the world.

The free distribution of TeachAIDS materials is made possible by Creative Commons, an organization that helps individuals and organizations legally share their creations with the public. TeachAIDS owns an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license through Creative Commons, so anyone can distribute unchanged copies of the materials for noncommercial purposes, no questions asked.

Of course, delivering free TeachAIDS education worldwide would be impossible without monetary donations from corporate sponsors. But the magic of TeachAIDS really takes root within the staggering amounts of time, energy and commitment from our hundreds of volunteers from all corners of the globe.

Varied in background as well as expertise, dozens of leading interdisciplinary experts from institutions like Stanford University, programmers and design experts from tech giants, McKinsey consultants, dozens of celebrities, recording studios and animators have selflessly donated their time to TeachAIDS since it was founded in late-2009. More than 100 carefully selected Stanford students have served as TeachAIDS volunteers, some of whom were fully funded by their university to do so. TeachAIDS office space is even nestled within some of the most sought-after real estate in the country; its previous office location is located on the most expensive US street for office space in 2015, according to CNBC.

The diverse talents and resources that elevate TeachAIDS are only unified by their high esteem in their respective fields, and their dedication to providing free, quality education to those who need it most. Without this outpouring of generosity, TeachAIDS never could have generated materials for the countries that need them the most, the ones without the resources to sponsor us. And without a Creative Commons license, TeachAIDS materials never could have reached them as easily. Thus, both Creative Commons and our volunteers allow us to embrace the paradox that we are: a purveyor of high-quality education that asks nothing from its students.

Highlighted alongside TeachAIDS in Made with Creative Commons, the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is another oxymoronic example of high quality service at no cost to those served. Also harnessing the synergy between volunteer contributions and Creative Commons licensing, the Wikimedia Foundation has entrenched itself within the forefront of open access innovation with Wikipedia. Upheld by 75,000 volunteers improving articles monthly, Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that can be modified, expanded and accessed by all internet users. Neither TeachAIDS nor Wikipedia could create content without the selfless dedication of its supporters, and neither could scale to the audiences they reach without Creative Commons.

The open-access online academic journal Public Library of Science (PLOS) demonstrates yet another way to make the most of a Creative Commons license. Instead of charging readers a subscription fee as other journals do, PLOS charges the content funders and institutes of origin to publish their work on a forum accessible to all, multiplying their own opportunities for citations. Every month, 2 million scholars, scientists and clinicians can be found on PLOS. PLOS ONE, their trailblazing open-access peer-reviewed mega journal, is the biggest journal in the world.

While each has a unique method and a singular vision, these organizations all empower those they serve by holding their creations to the highest standards. They redefine not only how we learn, but how we understand what we’re worth.

Thank you, Creative Commons, for making these impossible dreams into irreplaceable realities.

Other books that feature TeachAIDS include Insight Out by Tina Seelig, The Startup Star by Matt Cook and Jon Zhang, and Health Communication in the New Media Landscape.

Sixty Stanford students and Bay Area judges came together for presentations at Google Headquarters in Mountain View yesterday for the Stanford class Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems. Culminating weeks of research and development, these presentations capture TeachAIDS’s annual commitment to engaging graduate and undergraduate students alike in real-world social entrepreneurship experiences.

Guided by the TeachAIDS teaching team, the groups of three to four students each took on a challenge: strategizing the creation and circulation of a new TeachAIDS curriculum for a country in need. To begin exploring the endless possibilities of entrepreneurship, students engaged with guest lecturers from exemplary social initiatives. Representatives from Google, Shape Security, Aravind Eye Care, PharmaJet and the Emergency Management and Research Institute shared their visions, stories and reflections with students.

“This course will teach you critical skills applicable to any entrepreneurial endeavor, including the fundamentals of scaling up and of interacting with various stakeholders,” said Kendall Costello ‘20. Kendall plans to study Symbolic Systems.

The students also learned storytelling techniques from Doug Scott, the founder and creative director of Advocate Creative, an internationally award-winning creative marketing agency that builds brands for premier nonprofit organizations.

“Often, students immerse themselves in data and procedures while forgetting about a critical aspect: communication,” said Sandro Luna ‘18, who studies Human Biology. “The emphasis on communication helped tie all the lessons together."

The opportunity to apply these lessons arose when teams of three to four students each took on a challenge: strategizing the creation and dissemination of a new TeachAIDS curriculum within a country assigned to them.

The students’ research centered around the context of the HIV epidemic in their target country, the barriers to circulating effective health education, and the best implementation pathways they could use. Collecting dozens of interviews with stakeholders from all over the world, students synthesized diverse perspectives ranging from Stanford professors to ministry of education officials, from foreign citizens to health communication consultants.

To prepare for their final presentations at Google HQ, students presented sections of their research to scholars and industry experts, representing organizations like Amazon, Coursera and Gilead Sciences.

“We ourselves were given the chance to engage hands-on with the organization,” said Mia Hoover ‘18, who studies English.  “I have come away from this experience with a much greater appreciation for the diversity of and within the countries struggling with AIDS and a better understanding of how important cultural sensitivity is in implementing global projects.”

Students at the final presentation session received feedback from multidisciplinary experts including Dr. Laura Hubbard, Associate Director of Stanford’s Center for African Studies.

“I was impressed by students’ willingness to truly listen to hard questions and not rely on easy answers, but to grapple with nuance and complexity on their feet,” Dr. Hubbard said. “The curious and open engagement by students across disciplines, in teams, is not just critical, but transformative.”
Tenth grade students engaging in TeachAIDS materials as part of HIV prevention workshop in Guyana

After her freshman year at Stanford, Riasoya Jodah returned to her home in Guyana with a desire to make a difference. She spent the summer working at Georgetown Public Hospital as a recipient of the Halper International Fellowship from Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service.

As an assistant in the pediatric surgery department, Ria performed pre- and post-operative tasks and observed surgeries in the operating room. She also worked with Baby Heart, an international team that trains local doctors to perform cardiac surgeries. Ria took initiative to spread HIV education to young people outside her daily work after discovering TeachAIDS through a friend. She chose to engage with high school students in Mahaica, a rural region north of her hometown in Georgetown, because of her previous experience with the region and her potential to impact attitudes there.

“I had spent weekends growing up on a family farm in Mahaica, and knew that topics like HIV and AIDS were taboo in the culture there, but early marriages and teenage pregnancies were not uncommon,” Ria explained about her reasons for choosing this region. She described the people of Mahaica as “one big family” where neighbors know each other well and care deeply about community well-being. The close-knit nature of the region makes it easy to forge connections, but difficult to discuss taboo subjects like HIV and AIDS.

Ria worked with a group of 20 tenth-grade students at Bygeval Secondary School using a projector to screen the Indian English TeachAIDS animation for the group. Before showing the video, Ria led the class in a game called Cross the Line (from the TeachAIDS Educator Handbook) during which students crossed an invisible line in the center of the classroom if they agreed with different statements.

“The questions progressed from very light questions like ‘cross the line if you wear glasses’ to ‘cross the line if you would share a room with someone who is infected with HIV/AIDS’ and finally to ‘cross the line if you are afraid of HIV/AIDS.’ Some misconceptions were identified and everyone in the room got a bit more comfortable with each other and the idea of talking about AIDS,” Ria explained. She noted that the students had several misconceptions about HIV, including that you could get HIV from sleeping in the same room or sharing food with an infected individual.

After the game, the class viewed the animation and engaged in a discussion facilitated by Ria. She noted that the students responded positively to the animation, which features celebrities Amitabh Bachchan and Imran Khan, because many people in Mahaica watch Indian films and are familiar with these actors’ work.

Ria said the experience made her aware of the difficulties surrounding HIV education in Guyana. According to UNAIDS, HIV prevalence in Guyana has decreased due to increased government attention since the early 2000s, but stigma and misinformation still impede access to care. Sustained attention is needed to address these barriers and continue to decrease HIV prevalence, currently at 1.5 percent.

“I was initially worried that the students would be too shy, and the material would be too basic, but I realised that there are still large general misconceptions about HIV/AIDS which can go unaddressed. TeachAIDS helped to create a comfortable learning environment where students were not only able to learn, but they were able to relate to the idea of HIV/AIDS,” Ria said.

We applaud Ria’s efforts along with others such as Jocelyn Friedman, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, also educating children in Guyana on HIV prevention efforts. It is such leadership efforts which inspires others to take action and empower one another.

The 2016 class of of Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems delivered their final presentations Google's Mountain View campus

"If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes." - Albert Einstein

As the major case study in Dr. Piya Sorcar’s Stanford University course entitled Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems, TeachAIDS is currently featured on the Stanford University Centre for African Studies (CAS) Website. Along with the Haas Center, The Tech Museum, and several other organizations, CAS is a generous supporter of the class, and TeachAIDS is honored to partner with this important institution to develop and deliver an annual course that offers students insight into the strategies behind some of the most successful social ventures in the world.

Based on the premise that students have the passion and skills needed to make meaningful contributions to the fields of social entrepreneurship and global health, but sometimes lack the tools to apply their skills, a key theme of the course is learning to ask the right questions.  Consistent with Einstein’s lauded approach of thoroughly understanding the problem before developing a solution, students are supported to reflect on community needs, cultural contexts, evidence based design and continuous evaluation. “No single size fits all when it comes to health solutions… Dr. Sorcar taught me to look beyond the technical specs and focus on the needs of the people we serve,” noted a 2016 class member with a background in Electrical Engineering.

The course, now in it’s fourth year, has more than 150 alumni. Class participants have included undergraduate and graduate students from backgrounds as diverse as engineering, human biology, business and international relations – all with a formidable drive to change the world and a passion for social entrepreneurship.  A 2015 education graduate student alumni neatly summed the alignment between the aims of the course and the goals of its students, lauding Dr. Sorcar’s success in “tapping into and advancing the idealism of Stanford students to address persistent problems in health and education across the globe”.

The course culminates in a group project in which students evaluate a social venture that has won Silicon Valley’s prestigious Tech Award, The Tech Museum’s signature program that honors laureates who have found ways to utilize technologies benefiting humanity. The findings of these projects are presented to an evaluated by a panel of multidisciplinary experts, including representatives of major technology organizations, the Stanford Medical School, philanthropic organizations and international NGOs. A 2016 class participant majoring Human Biology recounted being “pushed to challenge ‘easy’ ways of categorizing the world, and instead embrace how messy, complicated, and tangled the world is –and then find a way to make my own sense of it,”, observing that the class reflects the real world in that success is possible only through hard work, determination and thoroughly understanding problems before identifying a solution.

TeachAIDS joins CAS in congratulating the 2016 class of Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems. You brought with you the passion, ideas and creativity needed to change the world for the better. We hope you left with the skills and tools you need to make these dreams a reality. As you embark on the next steps of your journey, we hope you will join us in drawing inspiration from Albert Einstein: only through asking the right questions can you find the right solution.

The Centre for African Studies' feature on Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems can be found here.

Photo: The 2016 class of Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems delivered their final presentations Google's Mountain View campus