Archive for August, 2012

Washington Monthly ranks Stanford high for its contributions to the public good

August 30th, 2012

Washington MonthlyIt seems every college ranking has a different twist to offer.

Washington Monthly purports to measure the contributions of colleges and universities nationwide to the public good. And, according to the magazine, Stanford ranks No. 3 among national universities—behind the University of California-San Diego and Texas A&M.

Washington Monthly’s methodology claims to measure a college’s contributions in three categories: social mobility—recruiting and graduating low-income students; research—producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs; and service—encouraging students to give something back to their country.

The stats suggest that Stanford does particularly well in the research category. That category is based on five measurements: “the total amount of an institution’s research spending (from the Center for Measuring University Performance and the National Science Foundation); the number of science and engineering PhDs awarded by the university; the number of undergraduate alumni who have gone on to receive a PhD in any subject, relative to the size of the school; the number of faculty receiving prestigious awards, relative to the number of full-time faculty; and the number of faculty in the National Academies, relative to the number of full-time faculty.”

In explaining their intent, the editors of Washington Monthly take a swipe at U.S. News & World Report’s rankings, claiming that the magazine “rewards colleges for spending more money, raising prices and shutting out all but the most privileged students.”

They add, in an essay introducing the rankings, “There’s nothing wrong with rankings per se—colleges need outside scrutiny and students need information to make choices in a complicated market. But rankings that push individual colleges to heedlessly raise prices help precipitate a collective crisis that threatens to undermine institutions that are vital to the nation’s future prosperity and civic life.”

Instead, the editors say they are posing a different question: What are colleges doing for the country?

Visit the Washington Monthly website to learn more.





Newly aquired book includes original Manet etching

August 29th, 2012

There’s a new cat at the Art and Architecture Library in the Cummings Art Building—and it’s well over 100 years old.

The 1869 cat is featured in an original etching by the famous French artist ÉDOUARD MANET (1832-1883). The feline is hidden away between the pages of a newly acquired book, the deluxe edition of an 1870 art classic called Les Chats, by JULES-FRANÇOIS-FÉLIX HUSSON, who used the pen name “Champfleury.” The etching is an aquatint that uses a powdered rosin to create a muted gray-blue background. Manet made the plate by hand, etching fine lines with a needle.

“Le Chat et Les Fleurs” is described as one of Manet’s most subtle combinations of the complex and simple. According to the late art historian Jean C. Harris, the etching shows the traces of Japanese influence, with its flatness of spatial arrangement and the “rather freely drawn and widely spaced strokes to describe the flowers,” which “help to animate the surface and to relieve the monotony of the uniform aquatinting.”

The etching had been sold separately as a stand-alone work prior to this edition. The new acquisition recalls a time when it was much more common for books to include original artwork, including engravings, etchings, lithographs and even paintings. Too often nowadays, they are razored out and sold separately, but this etching is presented as the author and artist intended. Les Chats is one of well over 1,000 such books at the Art and Architecture Library, which now has about 150,000 books on site.

Cat-lover and assistant art librarian ANNA FISHAUT discovered the book while shopping online at a favorite London rare books store and had to have it, “because it is one of the great artists’ books and because I have a penchant for cats.”

It’s not the only new cat in town—from the same British dealer, the library acquired a 1918 limited-edition book of original woodcuts from the Omega Workshops, affiliated with LEONARD and VIRGINIA WOOLF’s Hogarth Press. It includes woodcuts from ROGER FRY, VANESSA BELL, DUNCAN GRANT—and a cat by French artist SIMON BUSSY.

—CYNTHIA HAVEN, Stanford University Libraries



What scholar athletes do during their summer break

August 27th, 2012

Stanford football players JORDAN PRATT and BRENT SEALS had plenty on their plates this summer preparing for the 2012 season. Almost the entire team stuck around for summer conditioning to get a jump on the season opener against San Jose State.

Pratt, a sophomore wide receiver from Monmouth, Ore., and Seals, a junior safety from Chino Hills, Calif., were workout regulars. But like many teammates, they also made time to work nonpaying summer internships.

Pratt spent the summer on campus in the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building working in a lab and tracking changes in the climate and atmosphere with NOAH DIFFENBAUGH, assistant professor of environmental Earth system science, at the Woods Institute for the Environment. Pratt, who did not see action on the field as a freshman, received the Greg Piers Award for outstanding contributions to the scout team.

At 27, Pratt is the oldest player on the Cardinal team, and he’s married. Prior to arriving on the Farm, he spent eight seasons pitching in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, advancing to Triple A in 2010. All told, he recorded a 21-19 record in 185 appearances.

Seals, who is majoring in economics, spent the summer working for Golden Gate Capital, a private equity firm. Each morning, he would take the train to San Francisco and learn the ins and outs of the business by shadowing senior analysts. Late in the afternoon, he would return home and prepare for voluntary team workouts.

Seals played in four games as a freshman but did not see action in 2011. A standout in football and track at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, Calif., he was a National Achievement Scholarship and AP Scholar Award recipient and a member of the National Honor Society and California Scholastic Federation.

Watch them in action on and off the field:

Chueh named one of world’s top innovators under 35

August 23rd, 2012
William Chueh

William Chueh

Technology Review has named WILLIAM CHUEH, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, to its annual TR35 list of 35 top innovators under age 35.

Chueh was honored for developing a technology using heat that is otherwise wasted to boost the efficiency of solar fuel production. Most current approaches to solar energy rely on the photovoltaic effect, first converting light to electricity and then to fuel.

By contrast, Chueh’s method uses heat from concentrated sunlight to convert water intro hydrogen or water and carbon dioxide into methane—fuels that can be stored and transported. Increased chemical reaction rates at elevated temperatures enhance the solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency significantly.

Also recognized by Technology Review were Stanford alumni, including CHRISTINA FAN, REN NG, SHANNON MILLER, LEILA TAKAYAMA and ZHENG WANG.

The TR35 list recognizes the world’s top young innovators, spanning biotechnology, computer and electronics hardware and software, energy, the Web and nanotechnology, among other emerging fields.

Read the School of Engineering article about Chueh and the Technology Review article.

Powerhouse in the pool: Roy Perkins to compete in Paralympics 2012

August 22nd, 2012

Roy Perkins competed in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. He’s preparing to compete in London next week. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

It’s difficult to believe that ROY PERKINS, ’13, was once terrified of putting his face in the water and didn’t learn to swim until he was 12. Now he’s preparing to compete in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events, 50-meter backstroke and 50-meter butterfly at the 2012 Paralympics, which begin next week. Born without hands or feet, Perkins comes to the Games a powerhouse: In Beijing he won his category’s gold in the 50-meter butterfly as well as bronze in the 100-meter freestyle.

Stanford magazine caught up the Earth systems major before he headed to London.

Read SAM SCOTT‘s interview on the Stanford magazine website.

Rice admitted to the Augusta National Golf Club

August 21st, 2012

When she’s not wearing a Cardinal blazer, Professor Condoleezza Rice may don a green golf Masters jacket. Photo: Dani Vernon/Stanford Athletics

For the first time in its 80-year history, the Augusta National Golf Club will have women as members. One of them is former U.S. Secretary of State CONDOLEEZZA RICE.

“I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf. I also have an immense respect for the Masters Tournament and its commitment to grow the game of golf, particularly with youth, here in the United States and throughout the world,” said Rice, a professor of business and of political science and a fellow at the Hoover Institution. “Golf is a wonderful source of enjoyment for me, and I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to grow my love for this great game.”

Rice is one of two women who will be admitted to the club. The other is DARLA MOORE,  a partner with Rainwater Inc., a private investment firm.

Poet Eavan Boland wins PEN award for essay collection

August 20th, 2012

EAVAN BOLAND, director of Stanford’s Creative Writing program and one of Ireland’s leading poets, has won a 2012 PEN Award for creative nonfiction with her acclaimed collection of essays, A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet, published last year by W.W. Norton.

PEN Center USA will fete three honorees and give 11 awards in particular genres at its annual awards festival on Oct. 22 in Beverly Hills. Grove/Atlantic Press publisher and Stanford alumnus MORGAN ENTREKIN will receive the Award of Honor, JOYCE CAROL OATES will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, and CBS correspondent LARA LOGAN will receive the Freedom to Write Award.

In addition to Boland’s award for creative nonfiction, the other genre awards are given for poetry, fiction, research nonfiction, children’s literature, graphic literature, journalism, translation, drama, teleplay and screenplay.  (ANNIE MUMOLO and KRISTEN WIIG will receive the screenplay award for the feature film Bridesmaids.)

“I’m really honored to get the award. And especially from PEN, which is an institution that does so much to advocate for writers,” Boland wrote in an email from Vermont.

Boland has published 10 volumes of poetry – most recently New Collected Poems (2008) and Domestic Violence (2007), and an earlier collected volume, An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1967-87 (1996). She has received the Lannan Award for Poetry and an American Ireland Fund Literary Award. She has published a previous volume of prose, Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time. She came to Stanford in 1995.

A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet traces Boland’s own development as a poet, and also offers insights into the work of SYLVIA PLATH, GWENDOLYN BROOKS, ADRIENNE RICH, ELIZABETH BISHOP and the German poet ELIZABETH LANGÄSSER.

Irish author COLM TÓIBÍN named it a “favorite book” – calling it “urgent and wise” – in the Irish Times last year. Britain’s Poetry Review called her “one of the finest and boldest poets of the last half century.”

Boland balances two worlds: free-spirited California and Ireland, a land of historical persecution and occupation, with its “painful memory of a poetry whose archive was its audience,” she said in an Academy of American Poets interview.

“I sought out American poetry because of that powerful, inclusive diversity,” she said. “I always remember I’m an Irish poet there, but at the same time some part of my sense of poetry feels very confirmed by the American achievement.”

In a PBS NewsHour interview last year, Boland said, “I’m really fortunate to be at Stanford. I go home every 10 weeks, but Stanford, apart from being just a wonderful university, is … part of a great conversation.”

The PEN Center USA, founded in 1943, has more than 800 writers including poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists, television and screenwriters, critics, historians, editors, journalists and translators. Incorporated as a nonprofit in 1981, it strives to protect the rights of writers around the world, to stimulate interest in the written word, and to “foster a vital literary community among the diverse writers living in the western United States.”  Among the organization’s activities are public literary events, a mentorship project, literary awards and international human rights campaigns on behalf of censored or imprisoned writers.

— BY CYNTHIA HAVEN, English Department



Sierra magazine says Stanford is among the nation’s greenest universities

August 16th, 2012

SIERRA magazine has ranked Stanford among the 10 greenest universities in the nation. According to the magazine’s website, the ranking of “Cool Schools” is a collaborative effort among the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Endowments Institute and the Princeton Review.

Specifically, Stanford ranked third, following the University of California-Davis and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The survey ranking is based on scores in 11 categories, ranging from education/research to waste. Stanford did particularly well in transportation, water, food, planning and innovation, according to the magazine publishers.

Stanford sustainability officials are admittedly puzzled by some of the ranking methodology, but nevertheless pleased that the university’s efforts are nationally recognized.

FAHMIDA AHMED, head of the Office of Sustainability, said Sierra used data from a recent report from AASHE, added in data from its own June survey and assigned a weight to each category.

Sierra says this about Stanford:

“At Stanford, hungry students can pick from more than 20 courses about domestic and global food systems. Dining halls and campus farming workshops harvest ingredients—including barley for beer—from their own organic gardens.”

The magazine’s website features the photograph below by LINDA CICERO of the Stanford News Service of a student in Principals and Practices of Sustainable Agriculture taking a compost pile’s temperature.

Sierra photograph of Stanford sustainability

A Stanford student takes the temperature of a compost pile.

Congratulations to Stanford’s Olympic athletes

August 15th, 2012

Fifteen Stanford athletes – past and present – came home from London with 16 Olympic medals.

Twelve Stanford athletes brought home gold, in beach volleyball, women’s rowing, women’s soccer, men’s tennis and women’s water polo.

There were two silver medals, both in women’s volleyball, and two bronze, in men’s mixed doubles tennis and men’s synchronized diving from the 3-meter springboard.

For day-to-day coverage of Stanford athletes in London, visit the Stanford Athletics’ Olympic website.





On video: ‘Plato, democracy and me’; ‘The positive effects of stress’

August 14th, 2012

During TEDxStanford in May, philosophy Professor KENNETH TAYLOR offered the audience a few challenges that put their beliefs to the test. During TED@Vancouver in June, FIRDAUS DHABHAR, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, gave a primer on how to maximize the positive aspects of stress. Watch and learn.