Michael Sturtz at TEDxSTanford: ‘Did you take no for an answer or did you go for it?’

August 29th, 2014

MICHAEL STURTZ is known for revolutionizing hands-on learning. He is a lecturer in Stanford’s Mechanical Engineering Design Group. As director of the Stanford d.school’s ReDesigning Theater project, Sturtz applies design thinking to disrupt traditional ideas of theater and explore the integration of new technologies into live performance.  At the 2014 TEDxStanford event, Sturtz gave a talk on harnessing your creativity. At the beginning of the talk he asked the audience to come up with the “most amazing,”  “spectacular,” or “crazy, ridiculous” idea they could.  By the end of the talk, he asked: “When you’re done on this planet and you have one question asked to of you, do you want it to be ‘Did you take no for an answer or did you go for it?’”

Erik Jensen argues for the power of legal education in Kurdistan

August 27th, 2014
Erik Jensen, professor of the practice of law at the Stanford Law School (photo: Linda Cicero)

Erik Jensen, professor of the practice of law at the Stanford Law School (photo: Linda Cicero)

Three years ago in Erbil, ERIK JENSEN, professor of the practice of law and director of the Rule of Law Program, was sitting in the kitchen of Barham Salih, the former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the founder of American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS). Together with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and ELI SUGARMAN (SLS JD ’09), they toasted a partnership between Stanford Law School and the American University of Iraq, Sulimaniya to develop a law program known as the Iraq Legal Education Initiative (ILEI).

Last spring, the first law course at AUIS was finally offered.

Jensen says the partnership is strong, and includes support from DAWN DEKLE, president of AUIS and SLS JD ’99. Two additional courses are scheduled to be rolled out this coming academic year—but funding is now in question.

In a piece in Stanford Lawyer, Jensen says Dekle recently emailed him about the current state of affairs in Kurdistan generally and at AUIS specifically. The situation in Kurdistan is improving with U.S. air support. However, because the KRG has had to direct all of its liquid funds to the Peshmerga to fight the Islamic State invasion and to the escalating refugee crisis, it cannot make its annual contribution to AUIS. AUIS has to dramatically slash its budget. The first step is to cut courses not absolutely required for students to graduate. The two ILEI classes are on the chopping block unless $10,000 ($5,000 per class) can be raised.

Read more in Stanford Lawyer.

Stanford’s CFO talks about his wellness regimen

August 27th, 2014
Randy Livingston (Photo by Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News)

Randy Livingston (Photo by Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News)













RANDY LIVINGSTON, vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer, recently talked to the BeWell Program about the role fitness plays in his busy life, and how he sticks to his goals for wellness.

What do you do for exercise?

I like a variety of different activities. Cycling is my primary cardio exercise. I try to get out on the road 2-3 times per week, and a bit more often in the summertime. My typical ride is 15-35 miles including some hills.

I also try to get to the gym to lift weights twice per week, and I walk between meetings on campus, with our dog at home, and I hike in the local hills and Sierra.

I enjoy golf, despite my high handicap! In the winter, I ski about 20 days per year, both alpine and cross-country.

What motivates you?

A few years ago, the BeWell program provided free copies of the book, Younger Next Year, that described the medical benefits of exercise for a wide range of diseases —  cardiovascular, cancer and neurological. I was already a regular exerciser, but after reading the book I became more of a zealot. I truly believe that regular exercise is the best medicine for good health. My grandmother and uncle both died of Alzheimer’s disease and my mother is showing early signs, so I’m worried about being predestined for it. I’ve heard Dr. Frank Longo, chair of the Department of Neurology, recommend exercise as the best current remedy to stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s.

In addition, exercise is fun for me. We live in the best place in the world for cycling, with an incredible range of beautiful rides and perfect weather most of the year. We also have the blessing of tons of open space all over the Bay Area, with a wide variety of great hikes.

There are a limited number of hours in the day. How do you make time for work and wellness?

I schedule time for exercise, just like any other activity on my calendar. If I don’t schedule it, the time gets chewed up with meetings or email. Specifically, I do an early morning bike ride one or two mornings a week before work. Often, I’ll work on a presentation or discussion in my head during a ride. During the spring and summer, I commute to work once or twice a week on my bike. I also try to stop by the gym on the way home once per week. And I get some kind of vigorous exercise each day on the weekends. When I exercise, I have more energy at work and need less sleep, so I don’t really feel like I’m sacrificing work time for exercise.

What is your biggest barrier to wellness?

I love to eat and I have a huge sweet tooth, and I have a hard time resisting dessert. Fortunately, I can pretty much eat as much as I want, and I weigh about the same as when I graduated high school. I’m not sure if it’s because of the amount of exercise I get or my microbiome, and I don’t want to do the experiment of stopping exercise to find out. Stanford Medicine published an article recently on research led by Dr. URI LADABAUM  indicating that obesity is more a function of lack of exercise than diet. I’m an adherent of that view.

What would you say is the key to your success?

Making exercise a habit is key. When I go a couple of days without exercise, I miss the endorphin high — and that motivates me to get out and do something. I also get a lot of support from my wife and friends. My wife and I often come to campus Saturday mornings to walk our dog and then go to the gym together. I have 20-30 cycling friends that ride together every Sunday morning. The social interaction is a big part of my motivation to keep doing it.

… any closing thoughts?

Stanford makes it so easy to get regular exercise with our incredible facilities, HIP and BeWell programs, and campus. I’m disappointed when I see fellow employees driving carts between meetings on campus, as they are forgoing an easy exercise opportunity. With the advent of mobile devices, I can even catch up on email as I walk across campus.

Remembering Stanford alumus Njoroge Mungai

August 25th, 2014
Photo ot Njoroge Mungai

Njoroge Mungai (Photo by Karen Ande)

NJOROGE MUNGAI, MD, one Kenya’s elder statesmen and a 1957 graduate of Stanford School of Medicine, died earlier this month at the age of 88.  RUTHANN RICHTER, director of media relations in the medical school, wrote the following remembrance for the SCOPE blog.

“On a visit to Kenya in 2005, I spent an extraordinary afternoon with Njoroge Mungai, MD, one of the country’s elder statesmen and a 1957 graduate of Stanford medical school. It was one of the most memorable experiences of that trip, so it was with bittersweet sentiment that I learned over the weekend that Mungai had passed on at the age of 88.

Mungai was one of the founders of modern Kenya and served the young East African country in many leadership capacities, including ministers of defense, foreign affairs, health and environment and natural resources. He helped establish the nation’s regional health care system, as well as its first medical school, which is based at the University of Nairobi.

I met Mungai on a trip to Kenya with my longtime friend and documentary photographer Karen Ande, in which we were interviewing families and children affected by AIDS. We had just spent several days with orphaned teens who were taking care of young siblings in a gritty slum neighborhood of Nairobi.

We then headed to the outskirts of the capital city to Mungai’s 45-acre estate, where he was growing roses for export. We were greeted in the expansive foyer by a stuffed lion as Mungai, a slim dapper man in a grey suit, arrived from a side door, his cane quietly tapping the floor.

We had expected perhaps an hour of his time for an interview for Stanford Medicine magazine, but it stretched well into the afternoon. After drinks on the patio, he invited us to a sumptuous buffet in a room peppered with photos of him with some of the world’s great leaders of the time.

With the air and caution of a diplomat, he told us stories of his life – from his humble beginnings as the son of a cook to his schooling in South Africa and the United States and his leadership in the revolution that led to the establishment of the Kenyan nation in 1963.

A cousin of the first Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta, Mungai was particularly proud of his role in helping Kenya maintain a neutral stance while the world powers were creating chaos in neighboring countries in their eagerness to carve out their positions in Africa. He was also proud of his work in bringing the United Nations Environment Program to Kenya, the only country outside the West where the world organization has a presence.

We left him in the fading light of day with four dozen beautiful roses, a gift from a very gracious man.”

— BY RUTHANN RICHTER, Stanford School of Medicine

Iranian poet’s death sparks Stanford recollections

August 22nd, 2014
Iranian poet Simin Behbahani attends a meeting on women's rights, in Tehran, Iran.

Iranian poet Simin Behbahani in a 2007 photo (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

When Iranian poet SIMIN BEHBAHANI died on Aug. 19 at age 87, it rekindled fond remembrances of her numerous visits to the Stanford campus.

An icon of the Iranian literary community, Behbahani was dubbed the “lioness of Iran.” Her poems are quoted like aphorisms and proverbs in her country.

ABBAS MILANI, director of the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, said Behbahani visited Stanford several times.

“Hers was a voice of poetic innovation and political independence that defied constraints and broke cultural barriers,” he said.

In 2008, Behbahani won Stanford’s Bita Prize for Literature and Freedom, a $10,000 award that supports teaching, research and scholarship related to Iran and Persian heritage.

“When we launched the Bita Prize,” Milani said, “there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she, more than any other living Iranian artist, deserved to be its first recipient.”

He recalled the “gracefully defiant dignity of her character, her relentless defense of artistic freedom and the power and poignancy of her poetry.” It left an “enduring impact,” Milani said, on all at Stanford who heard Behbahani talk or read her poetry.

In her work – she began writing at age 12 – Behbahani explored Persian verse forms. She focused on the traditional ghazal form, which she elevated to new lyrical heights – but with a modern voice and perspective, Milani said.

A leading dissident, she won numerous awards for her struggle for freedom of expression in Iran, and was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature. The Iranian government once barred her from leaving the country.

Milani said on her first visit to Stanford, Behbahani read in Persian her prose poem about the “unrealized dreams” of the 1979 revolution in Iran and the problems of censorship.

“When she finished,” Milani said, “George P. Shultz [now the Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution], who was in the audience, came to the podium and said, ‘Though I speak no Persian, I was moved to tears by the sincerity and power of your voice.’”

Milani said that particular prose poem will soon be published in a collection of essays he has edited with Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.


The Cantor gives the devil his due

August 20th, 2014
Jerome Witkin's The Devil as a Tailor

The Devil as a Tailor, by Jerome Witkin, is part of the Cantor Center’s exhibition “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Jackson Pollock’s important painting Lucifer is coming to the university as part of the Anderson Collection at Stanford University. In preparation, the Cantor Arts Center has opened “Sympathy for the Devil: Satan, Sin and the Underworld.”

The 40-work exhibition, which opened Wednesday, explores the visual history of the devil and his realm. Based upon the collections at Stanford and augmented by several loans, the exhibition traces the dominant Western tradition over approximately four centuries. A variety of prints, drawings, sculptures and paintings – including works by Albrecht Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius, Jacques Callot, Gustav Doré, Max Beckmann and Jerome Witkin – reveal how artists visualized Satan and his infernal realm and drew inspiration from religious sources and accounts by Homer, Dante, Virgil and Milton.

“As the keepers of the Rodin Sculpture Garden’s Gates of Hell, we thought it would be interesting to explore the visual history of the devil and his realm,” says BERNARD BARRYTE, the Cantor’s curator of European art. “We found that artists have had great freedom in their depictions of the devil. The Old Testament and the Christian gospels offered little specificity – only that he was a powerful, deceiving adversary of God.”

Learn more about the exhibition, which closes in December, on the Cantor website.

Windhover contemplative center nearing completion

August 20th, 2014

Joe Oliveira, son of the late artist and art professor Nathan Oliveira, works with Jeanette Smith-Laws, director of Student Unions and Operations and architect Kent Chiang during the installation of four of his father’s paintings in Windhover, a new contemplation center on campus. (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

Windhover, a sanctuary for quiet contemplation, is nearing completion on the west side of campus on Santa Teresa Street.

The center was designed around four large abstract paintings inspired by birds in flight – known as the “Windhover” series – created by the late Nathan Oliveira, an internationally acclaimed artist who taught at Stanford for more than three decades.

Oliveira, who died in 2010, long dreamed of creating a campus center to house the paintings and to provide a quiet place where members of the Stanford community could rest in quiet reflection.

In a 2002 interview with Stanford Magazine, Oliveira said: “I’ve always thought if I had wings, I could fly. Well, I do have wings in my mind … and these paintings are like a catalyst that can take you where you want your mind to fly.”

Oliveira created the paintings over a 25-year span in his studio in the Stanford hills. He was a familiar sight walking among the foothills around Stanford’s Dish, scanning the sky for kestrels and red-tailed hawks.

“These painting were born in the hills around Stanford,” said Joe Oliveira, the artist’s son and agent.

Last week, art installers mounted the paintings on the walls – each painting has its own room – under Joe Oliveira’s watchful eye.

“My dad would be so pleased, so enthusiastically happy to see this,” he said, standing in the room with the largest painting – a diptych that combines a bird’s wings with horizons and views of planetary elements.

Oliveira said everything about the building’s design contributes to the calming nature of the space, including the use of filtered light and natural-colored, rammed-earth walls – an ancient building method his father had envisioned for the center.

The landscaped grounds around Windhover feature a granite labyrinth, trees young and old, and a small reflecting pool. The center’s floor-to-ceiling windows offer visitors glimpses of the paintings from the outside.

Windhover will open to the Stanford community in mid-September. Stanford IDs are required to enter. A formal dedication will be held in early October.

KATHLEEN J. SULLIVAN, Stanford News Service

Cardinal football preview

August 19th, 2014

Fans watch Cardinal football’s live scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 16. (Photo: Shirley Pefley/Stanfordphoto.com)

It’s not often that Cardinal fans get to watch the football team practice, so when the opportunity arose on Saturday, many of the gridiron faithful flocked to the Dan Elliott Practice Fields to catch a live scrimmage. After the practice, the student-athletes joined the community for the annual Fall Sports Open House at Stanford Stadium. Members of the women’s volleyball and field hockey teams and both men’s and women’s soccer teams were on hand to sign autographs and run drills and contests with young fans. Check out go.stanford.com for insight on the scrimmage from Coach David Shaw and several players.

Stanford Engineering student wins international competition for efforts to miniaturize ultrasound device

August 18th, 2014
Henry Samueli, co-founder, chairman of the board and chief technical officer of Broadcom, with  Stanford graduate student Jonathon Spaulding

Henry Samueli, co-founder, chairman of the board and chief technical officer of Broadcom, with Stanford graduate student Jonathon Spaulding

A Stanford Engineering student won the $10,000 first place prize at the third annual Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition.

JONATHON SPAULDING, a Stanford doctoral  candidate in electrical engineering, hopes to build smaller, cheaper and more efficient handheld ultrasound systems.

“Imagine having these devices in every doctor’s office, or taking ultrasound scanners into the field where imaging technology is limited,” Spaulding said, adding that he is continuing work in hopes of developing a hardware prototype the size of a common flash drive.

He entered the international competition at the urging of his adviser,

BORIS MURMANN associate professor of electrical engineering.

“I have not in my PhD career entered any kind of research competition before,” Spaulding said.

He credited  YONINA ELDAR, a professor of electrical engineering at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, for laying the mathematical foundations for the approach he used in his research. Spaulding said his research seeks to provide a “hardware proof of concept for her work.”

Spaulding won after a round of three-minute presentations and poster sessions judged by engineers from Broadcom, a U.S. semiconductor company.  The graduate-level engineering competition, held at the beginning of the Broadcom Foundation’s annual Technical Conference, invited a dozen students to present their research to a panel of judges. The judges rated the competitors on their presentation skills, the quality and level of the science involved and the applicability of the projects in the real world. Second and third place prizes were awarded to students from Israel and Belgium, respectively.

 —AUBREY HANSON,  Stanford Engineering

Anat Admati: ‘I need you to help me scream.’

August 14th, 2014

ANAT ADMATI is the coauthor of The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It. She says policymakers have failed to protect the public and reduce the harm inflicted by a reckless financial system. Admati believes that explaining the issues to a broad audience is essential for bringing about policy change. That was her goal when she gave a talk at the 2014 TEDxStanford.