Student Initiative — The Effective Altruism Group

Meet Yashvardhan Sharma from the Class of 2025 | Written by Andi Bucescu | Nov 30, 2022

Yashvardhan Sharma is a second-year student from India, majoring in Computer Science and Economics at Minerva. He has always had a passion for achieving the greater good: “from dreaming to join the army in primary school to currently training to be an economist to work on developmental issues, I have always sought opportunities to make the world a better place.” This is what led him to become involved with Effective Altruism (EA) in 2021, and to then share this knowledge with his peers through the Effective Altruism student initiative at Minerva.

“Effective Altruism aims to identify the world’s most pressing problems in the world and the best solutions to them. EA brings together a community that aims to use those findings to do good in the real world.

Effective Altruism has been life-changing for me to find high-impact opportunities. By leading Minerva EA, I want to help my peers find better ways to create social impact. I fundamentally believe that most Minerva students want to make a difference in the world today and Minerva EA can be an excellent resource on how to make that happen.”

Currently, the club is running Introductory Effective Altruism programs for Minerva students across multiple platforms. This program is known as the Arete Fellowship, a common introductory course used across universities to familiarize students with EA. The club runs this program:

  • In-person in Taipei, led by Yashvardhan;
  • Online for students in San Francisco and Buenos Aires, led by Emma Stoks, the Vice President of Minerva EA.

Minerva EA Meetup in Buenos Airea.jpeg

Effective Altruism group meeting in Buenos Aires

“More than 100 students have joined Minerva EA already, and I hope that in the near future we can expand to more advanced EA fellowships, fund social impact projects by Minerva students, and so much more.”

Yashvardhan has continued his involvement with EA outside of Minerva as well. “I was accepted to attend the Effective Altruism Global conference in London in April 2022, primarily because of my role in founding and leading Minerva EA.

I had the unique opportunity to interact with experts in different fields, connect with other students who lead different university EA groups, and learn more in-depth about different causes and how I could personally contribute to large-scale projects.”

After the conference, he spent his summer learning about the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Safety and setting up an organization that aims to reduce potential risks posed by AI by advancing AI alignment research. The organization works on ensuring that AI systems have values that are compatible with human values and that they act in ways that are beneficial to humans.

His work over the summer focused primarily on talent acquisition in India, a country that “has a large number of highly skilled researchers in this field, [but] lacks opportunities for them to learn and work on the alignment problem”.

“My main takeaways from this experience were the significance of networking in a professional setting and discovering possible high-impact opportunities in AI Safety. Additionally, I have primarily had an interest in effective altruism due to my background in economics and my curiosity about using it to work on economic problems such as alleviating poverty. However, this summer, I was really able to engage deeply with topics beyond EA and have been learning more about them.”

After sharing his interests with peers at Minerva and contributing to professional development for both himself and his classmates, Yashvardhan has a piece of advice to future Minerva students considering starting up their own community initiative: “Minerva student initiatives are an excellent way to go deeper into your passions and create meaningful relationships with your fellow classmates. It can be a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun which makes it all worth it. So, I would highly encourage you to go for it.”

If you were inspired by Yashvardhan’s story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, start your Minerva application today.