2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

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Child of the World

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Tonya Muro

Doctoral Student in International and Transcultural Studies.

While other children were planning to be firefighters or veterinarians, Tonya Muro was dreaming different dreams. "Even when I was four years old, I wanted to be at the United Nations," she said. "My first stuffed animal was named "U.N.'"

Muro, a doctoral student in International and Transcultural Studies, isn't at the U.N. yet, but her passion about issues facing the broader world has brought her another great honor-a Fulbright award to study the effects of "edutainment" (entertainment for educational purposes) on the AIDS crisis in Tanzania.

"I was completely shocked when I got it," Muro said. "My reaction was: Wow! OK, now I have to learn Swahili.'"

Muro first visited Africa in 2002, as a teacher and a master's student at TC. While she was there, an AIDS activist challenged everyone in her program to do something to fight the pandemic sweeping across the continent. It struck a chord with her.

Later, she went to Tanzania and worked with single mothers and children whose families had been ravaged by the virus. There she found the Health Information Project (HIP), which seeks to use sometimes provocative edutainment (e.g., unusually frank classroom videos in the style of TV programs) to get people talking about the disease.

"The cultural issues surrounding AIDS in Tanzania are still surrounded by the Three S's-Stigma, Silence, and Shame," Muro said. HIP tries to cut through those, and her study will seek to determine whether such approaches are effective, or whether they might have hidden costs in conservative areas like rural Tanzania.

Muro, who is half-Mexican, enjoys one unexpected advantage in her work in Tanzania. "I've been helped because it turns out that my last name-Muro-is a very common name among the Chagga tribe. When they hear my name, some of the children are amazed. They ask "Are you Chagga?' I tell them that we are all children of the world."

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