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Stanford Faculty Senate hears progress report on curriculum changes, sends off chair

The featured speakers at the final senate meeting of the year were Harry J. Elam Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education, and David Abernethy, chair of the Stanford Emeriti Council. The senate also bid a humorous adieu to departing chair Ray Levitt.

L.A. Cicero Harry Elam speaks to the Faculty Senate.

At the Faculty Senate meeting, Harry Elam, vice provost for undergraduate education, gives a presentation on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2012 Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES).

During the first year of Thinking Matters, freshmen flocked to courses titled Constituting Justice, Technological Visions of Utopia, How Does Your Brain Work?, Bioethical Challenges of New Technology, Media and Message and Evil.

The tidbit was included in the report Harry J. Elam Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education, presented to the Faculty Senate on Thursday.

Much of his presentation focused on the progress the university has made implementing the recommendations of the 2012 Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES), which included Thinking Matters, courses that are meant to help freshmen develop a sense for what constitutes a genuine question or problem and how to address it in a creative and disciplined manner.

Elam said that the university wants to expand the intellectual, cultural and social impact of Stanford by "expanding the frontiers of teaching and learning."

He added that Stanford relied on four distinct principles in making the changes and in its planning for the future:

"Number one, in terms of developing the Stanford journey, is the idea of developing a strong foundation, a strong foundation for liberal education for all of our students," he said.

"Number two, we want to create learning partnerships between faculty and faculty, and faculty and students, that help this process of extending the frontiers of teaching and learning.

"Number three, we want to provide opportunities for students to build educational experiences and capitalize on diverse learning environments, taking stock of the fact that what happens outside of college in terms of learning is as important as what happens inside.

"And finally, we want to foster and deepen connections between students and the world around them as they enter and launch as global citizens into the 21st century."

In addition to Thinking Matters, Elam discussed the university's quest to entice more freshmen into Introductory Seminars. He said 62 percent of freshmen enrolled in Introductory Seminars this year, compared with 59 percent last year. He said students submitted the greatest number of applications in autumn quarter.

"In terms of applications, what it suggests is that we could front load more than we do even now in terms of the fall and that will help get students into IntroSems," he said.

Elam said faculty have submitted 1,326 unique Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing courses for the 2013-14 academic year. The courses will be offered by 69 departments and programs in the schools of Humanities and Sciences, Earth Sciences, Education, Engineering and Medicine.

Under the new Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing breadth requirements, students will be required to complete two courses in aesthetic and interpretive inquiry, two courses in social inquiry, two courses in scientific analysis, one course in formal reasoning, one course in quantitative reasoning, one course in engaging difference, one course in moral and ethical reasoning and one course in creative expression.

Elam said Stanford will open two new integrated living and learning programs for freshmen in the fall: Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture (ITALIC) and Science in the Making: Integrated Learning Environment (SIMILE). The programs, which will be based in Stern Hall, will join the longstanding Structured Liberal Education Program (SLE), which is housed in East Florence Moore Hall.

L.A. CiceroMichelle Elam, Stephen Stedman, David Palumbo-Liu and Susan Holmes

In a humorous tribute, Michelle Elam, Stephen Stedman, David Palumbo-Liu and Susan Holmes present the gift of a gavel to Ray Levitt, outgoing chair of the Faculty Senate.

Elam also discussed new offerings in the Bing Overseas Studies Program, including Summer in Santiago, for students who are unable to take part in the program during the regular academic year; the Community Health in Oaxaca Program; and an additional quarter in Cape Town.

He said the 2013 Faculty Survey on Undergraduate Teaching revealed that 70 percent of respondents were interested in the teaching opportunities offered by senior capstone projects; 67 percent were interested in the opportunities presented by project-based learning; and 62 percent were interested in "flipped" classrooms. (The flipped classroom inverts traditional teaching methods by delivering lectures online outside of class and moving "homework" into the classroom. The approach allows faculty to spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing.)

Elam announced the new VPUE Faculty Scholars Program, a yearlong pilot program that will give newly tenured faculty the opportunity to explore, experiment and take new creative risks in research and teaching. The Faculty Scholars for 2013-14 are:

Report from the Emeriti Council

David B. Abernethy, professor emeritus of political science and chair of the Stanford Emeriti Council, said there are about 900 emeriti of the university, including about 700 faculty and 200 staff.

"Not surprisingly, a large number of these 900 people live on the campus or in the local vicinities," he said. "I assure you that we are not here primarily for the weather. We are here primarily to enjoy the intellectual, the cultural, the athletic and, of course, the medical advantages of which proximity to this university affords us. We are indeed very lucky to be here."

He said the council's primary activity is a quarterly lecture series, "Autobiographical Reflections." He said this year's talks nicely illustrated the different types of interaction between the university and the world outside.

Abernethy noted that Nancy Huddleston Packer (English, creative writing) spoke about creative writing; William J. Perry (management science and engineering, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies) spoke about the atomic devastation he witnessed in Japan and its impact on his life and his life's work; and William F. Miller, provost of Stanford from 1971 to 1979 (computer science, business), spoke about the values of the goals of student Vietnam War protesters who wanted to ban classified research on campus.

Farewell to outgoing senate chair

A small group of professors, led by senate vice chair David Palumbo-Liu, presented a humorous slide presentation to bid farewell to Ray Levitt, professor of civil and environmental engineering and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, who has served as chair since last fall.

The slides featured Levitt's head superimposed on a Stanford football player, a skateboarder and a surfer.

"Ray has very high standards, and quite frankly, we were a little slow on the uptake," said Stephen Stedman, senior fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

"He was very unhappy after our first meeting of the steering committee, and he started the second committee meeting by bringing in his 'what if' analysis of the steering committee, which shows very clearly that if you were to increase the steering committee size by three to five engineers, there would be better cost, duration and quality. And if you simply got rid of all the non-engineering members and replaced them with experienced engineers, we'd have an even better outcome. He then proposed that to the provost [John Etchemendy], and the provost turned to Ray and said, 'You can't do that, Ray.' We felt very empowered by that, so thank you, John."

The full minutes of the June 13 meeting will be available on the Faculty Senate website next week. The minutes also will include the question-and-answer session that followed the presentations.