The 2014-15 fellows

August 7, 2014

The fellowship program helps restless experts grow creative and resilient organizations, to accelerate systems-level impact in their areas of expertise. We’re thrilled to announce the upcoming arrival of eight fellows for the 2014-15 academic year. The early- to mid-career leaders come from sectors including education, health care and product design. This year’s fellows are: David Clifford, Yael Cohen Braun, Jae Rhim Lee, Susan Dix Lyons, Jason Mayden, Tim Shriver, Michael Tubbs and Sam Yen. fellows 2014-2015

The fellows design and scale their own projects by using the resources of the, Stanford and the Silicon Valley community. They participate in an immersive experience during the academic year, which includes a residency period to learn design thinking and organization design, mixed with active periods in the field to prototype new ways of working.

Here are the 2014-15 fellows:

David Clifford, fellow 2014-2015

David builds learning environments. A maker, teacher and advocate for social justice, he was a founding member of East Bay School for Boys, a 6th-8th grade independent school in Berkeley that’s dedicated to nurturing boys to become compassionate, accountable and creative problem-solvers deeply connected to social justice and equity. Before that, David held numerous roles in his 13 years at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco, a “private school with a public purpose” founded in 1895.

He was the technical arts department chair, metal fabrications teacher and a founding member of Lick’s Center for Civic Engagement. David has designed and developed a number of courses, including:

  • The Philanthropy Initiative, a cross-curricular class placing social investment and philanthropy at the core of the student experience;
  • The EBSB Work Pillar, a three-year program using self-knowing, practical skills and the love of learning to compassionately create and communicate with oneʼs environment;
  • Private Skills for a Public Purpose, a service-learning course for metal-fabrications students to design and build school desks and storage for Oakland public schools;
  • Senegal Service Learning Project, an ongoing partnership between high school students and rural villagers with projects including solar lighting, the building of schools desks, playgrounds and classrooms, and
  • Redesigning the Colorblind Mind, a workshop as a POCIS (People of Color in Independent Schools) board member using design thinking to help redesign well-intentioned, progressive school cultures to be more inclusive and equitable to their communities of color.

David is married and has two daughters. His fellowship project centers on his work to launch a co-ed high school in Oakland in 2016.

Photo credit: Roots and Shoots

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Yael Cohen, fellow 2014-2015

Yael made her mother a t-shirt that read “Fuck Cancer” not long after her mom’s first surgery in 2009. She never thought she’d wear it out of the house — but she did, and a movement began. Encouraged by the responses of strangers, Yael launched the charity Fuck Cancer to evangelize early detection, which saved her mom’s life. Fuck Cancer teaches young people how to educate their parents about the disease; 90 percent of cancers are curable if caught in stage one. The charity uses edge, humor and provocative online campaigns to reach Gen C — “generation content” — through social media. Its campaign “The Cancer Talk” has been watched more than 54 million times, and its work has been supported by actors and musicians including Sophia Bush, Adrian Grenier, Ed Sheeran, Sarah McLachlan, Kid Rock and others.

In 2012, Fast Company named Yael one of the magazine’s “100 Most Creative People in Business.” She has shared Fuck Cancer’s mission at events including Summit Series, the Clinton Global Initiative, Big Omaha, TEDWomen and the United Nations Nexus Conference. Born in South Africa and raised in Vancouver, Yael is the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and she and the charity have been featured in media outlets such as CNN, Forbes and MTV.

Yael’s latest project is StandWith, a care management app that coordinates help from friends and family for recovering patients and their caregivers. She will continue working at the intersection of health and technology during her fellowship, to accelerate the impact of human networks for care and disease prevention.

Photo credit: Free Agency

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Jae Rhim Lee, fellow 2014-2015

The first time Jae Rhim went to the National Funeral Director’s Association convention, she put on her most conservative black outfit and got an all-access pass — but still got kicked out of a workshop on formaldehyde. Several years later, she was invited by the same group to present The Infinity Burial Project, her proposal for postmortem alternatives that challenge cultural death denial. Such is the nature of Jae Rhim’s provocative approach, which includes the MIT FEMA Trailer project she launched after helping the City of New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina.

Jae Rhim is a visual artist and researcher who designs unorthodox relationships between the mind/body/self and the built and natural environment. To develop her Mushroom Death Suit for The Infinity Burial Project, she cultivated a mushroom that decomposes and remediates toxins in human bodies. The suit was made to address the more than 200 environmental toxins that bodies release into the soil after burial and to reject the industry-standard use of formaldehyde embalming fluid. When her TED talk on the suit brought widespread attention, including a mention on “The Colbert Report”, Jae Rhim was inspired to expand her work beyond art and cultural provocation to social venture. She will spend her fellowship year prototyping alternatives to the funeral industry, to promote “death care” and the natural acceptance of our inevitable end.

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Susan Dix Lyons, fellow 2014-2015

Susan grew up hearing her grandfather tell stories of his friend in Nicaragua, a newspaper editor named Pedro Joaquín Chamorro who wrote stories denouncing the repressive Somoza regime. Pedro was imprisoned and tortured several times, before he was assassinated by an unknown gunman in 1978. Like her grandfather, Susan became a journalist. She later traveled to Nicaragua to cover the 1990 election, when Pedro’s widow, Violeta, was elected president, bringing with her an age of peace and reconciliation.

But Susan’s relationship with the country and its people was only beginning. In 2006, she was invited to volunteer on a housing project in an impoverished village. While there, she saw the awful conditions at a local hospital and was determined to help, but knew she couldn’t do it alone from California, where she lives with her husband and three children. So, 29 years after Pedro Chamorro was killed, Susan asked his daughter Cristiana to partner with her on a healthcare project. Over the next several years, Susan and a dedicated team raised money, designed, built and opened Clinica Verde, a sustainably designed patient-centered clinic for the poor in Boaco, Nicaragua. In its first two years, the clinic has served more than 28,000 patients. It has extended its reach into community healthcare, cultivated a demonstration farm for hands-on workshops to teach nutrition, and is working to open an in-house laboratory. Earlier this year, Susan was honored by the Dalai Lama as an Unsung Hero of Compassion. She now plans to scale Clinica Verde’s preventative model to underserved communities in the United States, the project she will undertake as a fellow.

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Jason Maydent, fellow, 2014-2015

Jason grew up on the South Side of Chicago in the 1990s, when Michael Jordan and the Bulls ruled the NBA. Since 4th grade, Jason dreamed of designing Air Jordan basketball shoes. He majored in industrial design at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Mich., became the first design intern at the Jordan Brand at Nike, and worked with the company for more than 13 years.

As the senior design innovation lead for Jordan Brand, Jason created strategic footwear platforms for athletes including Chris Paul, Derek Jeter, Carmelo Anthony and, of course, MJ. During this time, Jason designed the 2009 Air Jordans. After earning a Master’s degree in management as a Sloan Fellow at Stanford, he returned to Nike as its global director of innovation for digital sport, the team that designed the FuelBand. He then served as the senior global design director for the Jordan Brand for two years, until he left Nike in November to take on a personal challenge. Jason is a husband and father of two children, and when his nine-year-old son was experiencing rapid weight gain due to food allergies and intolerances, Jason saw first-hand its psychological effects. At the, he will continue his new work combatting childhood obesity, with a focus on consumption behavior and family play.

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Tim Shriver, fellow 2014-2015

Tim has been involved with Special Olympics all his life, but he didn’t realize growing up that it represented a significant departure from many societal standards. “Every time I went to a Special Olympics event,” Tim says, “I walked out of a world where human value was determined by test scores and appearances … (and) into a world where the human spirit reigned supreme.” Tim is a Dream Director with The Future Project, a national movement that empowers high school students to declare their dreams and put them in action.

At the NYC Lab School the past two years, he used his skills for organizing and inspiring youth-led movements to give students a sense of ownership over their education. The roots of this work come from his involvement with Special Olympics and his experience as co-founder of Spread the Word to End the Word, a national initiative Tim helped launch six years ago as a sophomore at Yale University. The movement is a global campaign to stop the casual and pejorative use of the word “retard.” The initiative now has nearly 500,000 pledges and holds more than 2,000 events annually at schools, college campuses and community centers. The Future Project is coming to several San Francisco public schools this fall, and Tim will use his fellowship to prototype a model for its future expansion.

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Michael Tubbs, fellow 2014-2015

Two years ago, at age 22, Michael was elected to the City Council in his hometown of Stockton, Calif., with more than 60 percent of the vote. Born to a teenaged mother and an incarcerated father, Michael graduated from Stanford in 2012 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and received the university’s highest distinction, the Dinkelspiel Award. As an undergrad, he interned at Google and The White House, and founded The Phoenix Scholars program, which helps low-income high school students become the first in their families to go to college.

He returned home to help reinvent Stockton, a bankrupt city that ranks in the top 10 nationally in unemployment and violent crime. His campaign and election is the subject of a documentary, True Son, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. In addition to serving on the City Council, Michael has taught low-income youth at Aspire Langston Hughes Academy since 2012. As a fellow, he will build on his plans to launch a school in Stockton for young men of color, and to create a model for more schools nationwide.

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Sam Yen, fellow 2014-2015

Sam is now the chief design officer at SAP, but growing up in San Francisco he wanted to be an astronaut. Reality set in when he had to get glasses, but Sam’s passion for space continued through his formal education. He received Aerospace degrees from Cornell and Stanford (MS), and worked at NASA Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

While at Stanford, Sam took a course on design thinking that changed his life. He switched departments and completed a PhD in Design Theory and Methodology, focusing on successful practices of innovation teams, then went on to found his own enterprise software company. In 2004, SAP founder Hasso Plattner met David Kelley, founder of IDEO and the Hasso wanted to introduce and accelerate design thinking at SAP, and Sam was brought in as one of the first external members of the team. He went on to found the SAP AppHaus, an innovation group that builds highly-desirable experiences to enrich the way people work and live. Sam is married and has two kids, and is a longtime collaborator with the He brings deep experience in spreading design thinking to individuals, teams and organizations, and will continue this mission as a fellow.

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  1. Chaitanya Bist

    Many congratulations to newly admitted fellows! Looking forward to getting inspired by these new disruptive change makers.
    Good wishes to all from India. :)
    Chaitanya Bist

  2. Katherine Barg Ed.D

    I still want to hear more about bringing this type of work to the underprivileged schools and students – particularly those of immigrants….still has a bit of an elitist ring to me – am I wrong? Let me know…

    • Emi Kolawole

      Hi, Katherine! We actually have teams working with a number of different types of schools. I’d encourage you to check out the work of our K12 Lab Network at to find out more. We are always looking to expand our network of those interested in applying design thinking to K12 education. If you’re interested, I highly suggest reaching out to the K12 Lab Network team. Cheers!

  3. Elidia Tafoya

    Congratulations to all the progressive thinkers!

    I am interested in childhood obesity, and will look forward to hearing about the d. school’s influence and outcome of the project.

  4. Danny Mathews

    Some great new fellows with some amazing visions!

    I hope the resources offered can help make the changes they are aiming for. Great to see such dedicated and motivated younger fellows making waves.

    Good luck and congratulations to all!

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