Assistant Professor Christopher Piech enjoys a quiet moment before the ceremony with Miriam Roland. In the depths of the pandemic with so many schools closed, Piech and 1,000 volunteer teachers launched Code in Place, an introductory online programming course that is free to everyone. (Image credit: Peggy Propp)

At a ceremony on March 1, Stanford honored Assistant Professor Christopher Piech, BA/MA ’11, PhD ’16, and three campus-community partnerships for service to the region and the world.

Stanford President Richard Saller welcomed more than 100 regional leaders and Stanford community members at the el PRADO Hotel in downtown Palo Alto to celebrate those at the heart of engagement work.

Piech received the Miriam Aaron Roland Volunteer Service Prize for launching Code in Place during the pandemic; volunteers instruct the free-to-all online introductory programming course.

Stanford’s Community Partnership Awards honored three partnerships, from fighting summer learning loss for K-8 students in Sunnyvale schools to bringing learning opportunities into San Francisco jails, to making food access part of health care delivery. The partnerships, stretching from San Francisco to Santa Clara County, were applauded as examples of how collaborative efforts can reach greater success.

“Those of you who are receiving a Community Partnership Award today represent people and organizations that have stepped up and come together with the belief that problems have solutions,” said Martin Shell, vice president and chief executive external relations officer.

Miriam Aaron Roland Volunteer Service Prize

Chris Piech, assistant professor (teaching) of computer science and, by courtesy, of education, has been named the 2024 Miriam Aaron Roland Volunteer Service Prize recipient in recognition of his efforts to make computer science education accessible to all.

The Roland Prize was established in 2004 at the Haas Center for Public Service with a gift by Miriam Aaron Roland, ’51. The award recognizes a faculty member who works with students to combine academic scholarship with significant public service contributions.

The shift to virtual classrooms prompted by the pandemic became the catalyst for Piech to found the Code in Place initiative, an introductory online course in programming that is free for all students. The course is taught by thousands of volunteer teachers across the globe, including Stanford students. More than 30,000 students have taken the course since it launched three years ago, and it continues to be in heavy demand for participation among both teachers and students.

“Chris’ work has expanded educational opportunities in multiple dimensions,” said Mehran Sahami, chair of the Computer Science Department. “Students taking the class learn core programming material. Volunteer section leaders get valuable teaching experience. And staff are developing the skills to produce a learning experience at tremendous scale.”

Speaking of what drives his work, Piech said, “I feel like I’m at Stanford to spread learning. I benefited so much from Stanford myself, and I want to make sure that as many people as possible get access to similarly wonderful learning experiences. One of my goals is to perfect the art of my teaching craft and to share it with as many people as I can.”

The Code in Place team will start accepting applications for volunteer teachers in early March 2024.

Read more about Piech’s work to make computer science education more accessible.

Community Partnership Awards

Recognition of the 2024 Community Partnership Award honorees, organized by the Office of Community Engagement, is intended to spotlight people who forge meaningful collaboration between Stanford University and our local communities – partnerships that engage faculty, staff, students, and others in ethical and effective service centered in community needs.

Launched in 2004 by the Office of Public Affairs, the Community Partnerships Awards recognize the best of how community organizations and Stanford come together to benefit the larger community. Nominations are made by campus and community leaders, and the selection committee awards projects that demonstrate excellence in three criteria: meets a need; creatively connects campus and community; and engages students, staff, and/or faculty in service.

The 2024 awardees include:

Graduate students powering the Stanford Jail & Prison Education Project in recent years received the Community Partnership Award with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office on March 1. Since 2017, they have taught classes inside the San Francisco Jail in San Bruno. Mario Gonzales (far left), a former incarcerated student who is now an acting and filmmaking student at Academy of Art University, spoke of how the courses changed his path and became “a source of hope for my future.” (Image credit: Peggy Propp)

San Francisco Sheriff’s Office – Stanford Jail & Prison Education Project

Since 2011, the Stanford Jail & Prison Education Project has engaged more than 40 Stanford graduate students a quarter, representing 30-plus academic disciplines, to design courses and teach hundreds of incarcerated individuals within Bay Area jails and prisons. After prison realignment shifted many to county jails, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office became the central partner in 2017. Courses are designed around a co-learning model ranging from creativity-based classes to seminar series, each informed by the inventiveness of incarcerated students, jail staff, and volunteers. Graduate student leaders are advised by the Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford Criminal Justice Center, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.

Maya Murthy, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley’s vice president of programs and services, and Stanford Medicine’s Janine Bruce talked about the trust and teamwork that has developed between Stanford and Second Harvest in part because of an initiative that began in the Office of Children’s Health Equity in 2012. (Image credit: Peggy Propp)

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley – Stanford Medicine, a Community-Campus Partnership to Address Food Insecurity

In 2012, Stanford Medicine’s Office of Child Health Equity developed a partnership with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, an organization committed to ending hunger in our region. It started as a summer meal program in East Palo Alto. Today, the collaboration has grown in ways that involve students, staff, and faculty in promoting summer meals, connecting community members with food distribution, and creating a referral program for patients in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Redwood City to obtain nutritious food. A cross-collaborative food coalition is reducing silos across Stanford Medicine and facilitating closer relationships between Second Harvest, the hospitals, and researchers.

Janine Bruce, executive director of Stanford Medicine’s Office of Childhood Health Equity called the latter food partnership a “real and honest” relationship, one that was “not possible without the trust built over the years.”

Members of the Sunnyvale School District and Stanford Teacher Education Program received a Community Partnership Award for their 15-year partnership in a program to prevent summer learning loss among K-8 students and provide critical in-classroom experience for Stanford teacher candidates. President Richard Saller greeted Sunnyvale School District Superintendent Michael Gallagher (third from right); Professor Ira Lit (second from right), the faculty director of the teacher program; and Ruth Ann Costanzo (fourth from right), STEP director of clinical work, K-12; and their teams. (Image credit: Peggy Propp)

Sunnyvale School District – Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP) Summer Explorations Program

Research indicates that students who lack academic experiences during the summer sustain learning loss. Since 2010, the Sunnyvale School District has partnered with the Graduate School of Education STEP to offer a summer program for 600 to 800 students annually. The partnership is a reciprocal relationship, affording an academically enriching summer for K-8 students that instills confidence and a learning mindset, and the opportunity for Stanford graduate students to work with an expert teacher-mentor who equips them to hit the ground running in subsequent teaching placements. The partnership has involved more than 9,000 K-8 students, over 1,000 STEP students, and 400 classroom teachers and summer school leaders.