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Q&A with Stanford's Katie Pfeiffer

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This week we caught up with Katie Pfeiffer, director of communications at Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service, our sponsor for the Bone Marrow Donation Challenge.

For folks who might not know, what is the Haas Center for Public Service?

The Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University works with students and faculty who believe in creating a more just and sustainable world. Every day we promote and support service opportunities – from tutoring elementary school students in East Palo Alto to researching the global eradication of polio to designing wind turbines in South Africa – because we've seen that systemic change can start at universities.


Public service – working to make a difference – is a Stanford tradition. Stanford was founded as an act of public service: after the death of their only child, Jane and Leland Stanford sought to transform their personal grief by helping other people’s children. Among the stated purposes, the University was “to promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Since our founding in 1985, we've worked with more than 11,000 passionate students who are fulfilling the dream of the Stanford family.


What is Haas Center’s relationship with 100K Cheeks?

We started a new project this year called the Stanford Commonwealth Challenge. The idea was to inspire students to self-organize and lead a change that contributes to the public good (our common wealth). For our inaugural project, we looked to Jennifer Aaker, the General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Her work to increase the number of bone marrow donors on the national registry – and to eventually create a registry in India – through social media was really powerful, and perfect for our students.


A group of student leaders stepped forward to take on this challenge and are now 100K Cheeks. My Haas Center colleagues and I provide support – from meeting space to advising to seed funding – to get the group off the ground. Our hope is that this small group of students will leverage the intellectual, financial, and human resources at Stanford to do something incredible – this year, they have the potential to save thousands of lives.


What excites you most about this OpenIDEO challenge?

The diversity of ideas! People always say that two minds are better than one, but this is thousands of minds working collaboratively for the greater good. You really don't have to be a doctor or a designer or a nonprofit expert to add to this bone marrow creative brainstorm – everyone has a role. It has been a truly energizing, exciting, and inspiring process!


How can people get involved if they want to help?

Our OpenIDEO challenge is only the start – we really want to get 100K people signed up this year. So in addition to adding your creativity to the ideation process, consider swabbing your own cheek. Or organizing a drive. Or spreading the word. And in April, please look at the winning concepts and see how you can be involved in the implementation! You can learn more about our project at

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