Archive for the ‘Heard on Campus’ Category

President Obama tweets about Stanford Professor Jon Krosnick’s poll on climate change

November 15th, 2013
Barack Obama on computer

President Barack Obama (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Staff members at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment were pleasantly surprised to discover that @BarackObama tweeted last Wednesday, “A majority of Americans support limiting carbon pollution from power plants to combat climate change. Learn more: http://OFA.BO/Ek6P1V.”

That link takes you to a story that USA Today ran Wednesday about Stanford Professor JON KROSNICK’s new analysis of public opinion about climate change in nearly two dozen surveys. He concluded that, despite intense debate in Congress on global warming, a majority in every state polled wants limits on greenhouse gas emissions and believes the United States should take action on global warming.

By Friday afternoon, that tweet by @BarackObama, which has close to 40 million Twitter followers, had been retweeted 541 times and “favorited” 465 times – impressive numbers in the social media world.
Predictably, the conversation on Twitter soon became a battle between believers in and deniers of climate change. For example, Galen Bodenhausen (@GVBodenhausen), a Chicago-based psychology and marketing professor, tweeted, “New survey: Reassuringly, a ‘vast majority’ of Americans back #climate science | includes Jon Krosnick.” Taking a very different viewpoint was Tom Nelson (@tan123), “Carbon dioxide doesn’t cause bad weather.”

By late Friday, the climate change brouhaha had died down, and Organizing for Action was tweeting about affordable health care, a steel factory tour and ending LGBT discrimination.

—TERRY NAGEL, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment


Haas Center and Stanford Bookstore collaboration seeks gently used laptops

November 7th, 2013 Amat Amat

A laptop donation program inspired by a Stanford alum makes it possible for high school seniors at Mission High School in San Francisco to have a laptop when they head off to college.

The recipients are participants in the Athletic Scholars Advancement Program (ASAP), an independent, nonprofit, year-round program, which aims to get more low-income students into college and help them succeed once they are there. ASAP currently serves 350 Mission High students involved in athletics, either as players or supporters.

In a partnership with the Stanford Bookstore and the Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford community members can now drop off laptops that are no more than five years old at the Bookstore. As an added incentive, the Bookstore is offering donors a discount on the donor’s next purchase.

Since it was founded in 2004, ASAP has helped more than 800 students attend summer enrichment programs on college campuses. Most ASAP students are from low-income backgrounds, and 60 percent are English-language learners. Ninety-seven percent are the first in their families to attend college.

The donation program was launched in 2011, when ASAP Executive Director LIZ BUTLER STEYER, ’86, ’91, learned that teacher laptops at her daughter’s private school were given away after three years. Steyer approached the school about contributing the computers to ASAP, and the program received its first eight laptops.

Two years later, VIVIAN WONG, ’12, working as a Stanford Public Interest Network fellow at ASAP, was asked to find a stable source of computers. Wong and Steyer thought of their alma mater and approached JEFF DEUTSCH, Stanford Bookstore’s director of stores, about institutionalizing the donation program to help low-income college students and, at same time, reduce e-waste.

Mission High School seniors who wish to receive a donated laptop apply by writing an essay on how it will contribute to their college success. Once they have a donated laptop, it is theirs to keep. Wong described one student who emphasized in her essay how having a laptop would make it easier for her to stay in touch with her support network as she adjusts to her new college life thousands of miles away in Pennsylvania.

ERIC GUTHERTZ, Mission High’s principal, emphasizes that for his students, college “acceptance and enrollment are only half the battle.” While he praises ASAP for its phenomenal work in creating a college-bound culture at Mission High School, he adds that the laptop donation program means that students are equipped with “the technology needed to access the full college academic experience.”

Any laptop donated to the program must be privately owned, five years old or younger, in working condition and Internet-capable. Donating a laptop is completely free and tax-deductible. Since all data must be wiped from the device before it is donated, donors can download the free DBAN software to wipe the laptop memory.

For more information about donating a laptop, contact SHELLEY HUGHES at or (650) 329-1217, ext. 375.

—LAURA MONKMAN, Haas Center for Public Service


Steering clear of counterfeit game tickets

November 5th, 2013

(Image credit:

With high-profile sporting events across the country being targeted with counterfeit tickets, Stanford’s Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation urges care and consideration for fans wishing to purchase tickets on the secondary market for Thursday’s Pac-12 football game against Oregon.

The only way to guarantee the validity of a ticket is to purchase it directly through Stanford’s ticket office or through an authorized reseller such as StubHub. All tickets are scanned at entrance points to the Stadium and counterfeit tickets will not work.

“We want to remind fans to be careful when buying tickets on the secondary market. Unfortunately, counterfeit tickets are a reality, both on websites and in-person near venues,” said KURT SVOBODA, senior assistant athletic director for communications. “Fans who purchase tickets from a secondary source are taking a chance. We would like to encourage fans to only buy tickets from authorized ticket agencies.”

While limited, official standing-room-only tickets still remain on, the department is monitoring many well-known secondary market websites and inventory is higher than normal as the second-ranked Oregon Ducks visit Stanford for a top-five game.

Scalping is legal in California but it is illegal at venues, such as in front of Stanford Stadium. Additionally, any in-person transaction, other than through Stanford’s ticket office, involves a ticket that cannot be verified as genuine. Fans should be wary of individuals offering tickets for sale on or around the Stanford campus before the game.

Individuals who encounter scalpers on campus, or those who believe they may be a victim of counterfeiting, should contact the Stanford Sheriff Department at (650) 723-9633.

This item first appeared on the Athletics website.


Stanford historian wins prize for work at intersection of history, technology

November 4th, 2013

Historian Thomas Mullaney has been awarded the Abbott Payson Usher Prize by the Society for the History of Technology for his research and writing on the Chinese typewriter.

THOMAS MULLANEY, associate professor of history at Stanford, has been awarded the Abbott Payson Usher Prize by the Society for the History of Technology.

The annual prize, established in 1961, honors scholarly work in history and technology and was awarded to Mullaney for his article “The Moveable Typewriter: How Chinese Typists Developed Predictive Text during the Height of Maoism.” Published in the October 2012 issue of Technology and Culture, the article explores how the Chinese typewriter was a precursor to predictive text technology.

Fittingly, Mullaney was in Shanghai when he received an email announcing the award, which he says caught him completely by surprise.

“I am deeply honored and thankful to the committee for selecting my work,” said Mullaney, who became fascinated with the Chinese typewriter five years ago while writing a paper about now-obsolete Chinese characters.

The original Chinese typewriter, with close to 2,500 characters, was often mocked for being cumbersome and slow. However, as Mullaney learned, the demands placed on typists during the Maoist regime to more efficiently produce propaganda materials led to a reconfiguration of how the type was organized.

Mullaney came to realize that the new machines were capable of something like an early version of predictive text by using “natural-language clusters” – groups of characters found in commonly used phrases.

The search for information about this technological advance took Mullaney to archives and collections in China.

“I had compiled a great many materials that described and made reference to a new experimental technique of laying out the characters on a Chinese typewriter,” Mullaney said. But it wasn’t until he discovered two original Chinese machines in a small private collection in Switzerland that the project really coalesced.

Finding those typewriters “confirmed my working theory unmistakably,” Mullaney said.

“To see people write about what I call ‘predictive text’ Chinese typewriters was one thing,” Mullaney recalled, “but to see them up close – to touch them, to spend countless hours analyzing the photographs, trying to reconstruct the logic by which they were made – the memory of that still takes my breath away.”

—VERONICA MARIAN, The Humanities at Stanford

“You Can Play” video designed to create a safe space for all athletes

October 29th, 2013

As a basketball player, TONI KOKENIS witnessed firsthand how toxic the culture of varsity sports can be for gay, lesbian and transgender athletes. Kokenis recounted instances where athletes have used the word “gay” as a synonym for stupid or uncool or as a way to characterize their opponents as inferior.

“People will say it in a joking manner, but we need to create an atmosphere where everyone understands that’s not OK,” Kokenis told TRES PITTMAN, who wrote an article about Kokenis’ experience for the Clayman Institute’s Gender News.

To help create a more open environment for athletes at Stanford, Kokenis and three colleagues founded Stanford Athletes and Allies Together (StAAT), which works to ensure that there is a safe space to discuss issues about gender identity, gender expression and sexual nonconformity as they relate to athletes.

In its first year, StAAT has hosted several group meetings to discuss current events on campus and athlete-specific issues.  They also collaborated with Safe and Open Spaces at Stanford (SOSAS) to host a panel at the monthly coaches meeting where LGBT athletes spoke to coaches about how to be strong allies. Working with those in power, Kokenis said, is the most important and effective way to ensure that their message receives the attention and credit it deserves.

The culmination of the organization’s first year has been its You Can Play video, a public service announcement created to convey the group’s message that “if you can play, you can play.” The video features 30 coaches and athletes, including Athletic Director BERNARD MUIR and head basketball coach TARA VANDERVEER. Kokenis said that the diversity of the group, with almost every varsity sport represented, conveys the solidarity behind StAAT and its ethic of acceptance.

Read Pittman’s story on the Gender News website.



Stanford Live, San Francisco Opera present simulcast of Verdi’s ‘Falstaff’

October 11th, 2013

Falstaff_at_Frost_Oct_2013Stanford Live and San Francisco Opera will team up for an evening of music under the stars with a live simulcast of Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff at Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheater tonight at 8 p.m. Through state-of-the-art high-definition technology, Verdi’s comic masterpiece will be projected to a large video screen. The simulcast is free but advance registration is encouraged to get the best viewing and picnicking spots. Registration is available on the San Francisco Opera website.

Based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, Verdi’s final opera is a wise, wistful comedy about a self-deluded old man who vainly attempts to seduce two women at once.

San Francisco Opera Music Director NICOLA LUISOTTI leads a cast that features Welsh bass-baritone BRYN TERFEL, whose performance on Tuesday’s opening night has been described as “brilliant” and “everything that makes Falstaff irresistible.” The ensemble also includes soprano AINHOA ARTETA as Alice Ford, contralto MEREDITH ARWADY as Dame Quickly, Italian baritone FABIO CAPITANUCCI, making his company debut as Ford, tenor FRANCESCO DEMURO as Fenton and soprano HEIDI STOBER as Nannetta.

Sung in Italian, the performance will feature English subtitles on the amphitheater’s screen.

At the Falstaff simulcast, a selection of refreshments will be on sale and picnicking is welcome. To provide for everyone’s viewing comfort, lawn chairs, large coolers, strollers, wagons, umbrellas, barbecue grills and pets are not permitted, and all items are subject to search. Frost Amphitheater is also a non-smoking venue.

Beginning tonight at 6 p.m., registered patrons can enter the amphitheater with printed copies of their confirmation. Gates open for general entry at 7 p.m.

Frost Amphitheater is located at the corner of Galvez Street and Campus Drive. The main entrance is on Lasuen Street, off Campus Drive. Parking on the Stanford campus in metered and lettered parking zones is free on weekdays after 4 p.m. and on weekends at all times. The closest parking zones to Frost can be found in the Galvez Lot and on Lasuen Street, Museum Way, Roth Way and the Oval.  Visit the Stanford Live website for maps and directions.

—ROBERT CABLE, Stanford Live

Science rapper explains Nobel discovery

October 8th, 2013

If there was Nobel prize for “Best Brainy Hip Hop Video,” it would probably go to TOM MCFADDEN, a former lecturer for Stanford’s Program in Human Biology. In the music video “Synaptic Cleft,” his student rap group explains how neurons in the brain communicate with one another across gaps called synapses – breaking down the discovery made by the newly announced winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, Thomas Südhof, MD.

McFadden, who is an eighth-grade science teacher now, uses music videos to help get kids hooked on science. In his blog, he recently wrote:

“I used to make science raps for my students at Stanford. Now I help kids of all ages make science history battle raps. By bringing music, history, humor and video into science, I’m hoping to get students as fired up about the material as I am.”

(According to the credits on YouTube, “Synaptic Cleft” was directed and edited by JAKE WACHTEL,’09.)

Many of his raps have become monster hits among science nerds. In fact, JOHN TIERNEY of the New York Times was so impressed that he wrote about them in his blog entry “Rappin’ for Science.”

To watch other science videos from McFadden, visit his webpage.

—KRIS NEWBY, Stanford Center for Clinical and Translational Research and Education, for the SCOPE blog

Eight to be inducted into the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame tonight

October 4th, 2013

VGFDUJIWENDHHOQ.20131003205759Eight new members of the Stanford University Athletic Hall of Fame will be inducted tonight, Oct. 4.

The inductees will be LAUREN FLESHMAN, ’03 (women’s track & field); JEFFREY HAMMONDS, ’92 (baseball); KEITH JONES, ’84 (men’s basketball); GLYN MILBURN, ’92 (football); ANTHONY MOSSE, ’88 (men’s swimming); OLYMPIA SCOTT, ’98 (women’s basketball); LOGAN TOM, ’03 (women’s volleyball); and BRENDA VILLA, ’03 (women’s water polo).

All of the inductees will be honored at a private reception this evening and introduced at halftime of Stanford’s football game against Washington tomorrow, Oct. 5. Kickoff for that game is 7:30 p.m.

Read more about the individuals in the 2013 Hall of Fame class.

Scott Reiss: Cardinal’s new announcer at the mic

October 1st, 2013
Scott Reiss

Scott Reiss

SCOTT REISS spent a year after completing a master’s degree in sociology at Stanford trying to land a “real” job in broadcasting. With the odds looking bleak, he enrolled for one unit of credit in community college in Panama City, Fla. And that’s how he got the biggest break of his life.

As a student at Gulf Coast Community College, he was eligible to work for free at the local Fox TV affiliate as an intern—he begged his way in front of cameras as a volunteer. Today, he has almost two decades of diverse experience to bring to his newest gig, play-by-play announcer for Cardinal football and men’s basketball.

As a kid in Los Angeles, Reiss, ’93, MA ’94, absorbed both inspiration and professionalism by listening to legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. In part, that means he’s on guard against sounding like a cheerleader—“It goes against my nature to say, ‘we this, we that.’” Even so, it’s complicated for him. “I do love Stanford, and I’m sure it will bleed through in my calls.”

Reiss, highly visible to local fans in recent years as an anchor for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, is in rapid-preparation mode. He succeeds the busy DAVE FLEMMING, ’98, MA ’98, who confirmed in July he would vacate the Stanford role amid juggling his work for the San Francisco Giants and cable sports networks. Stanford unveiled its selection of Reiss in August.

First and foremost, said Reiss, he’s thinking, “How am I going to call the best possible game?” But even more, “How am I going to reach the Stanford audience? There is a gravity to this because of the Stanford community. This is not a generic sports audience.”

Reiss did play-by-play for KZSU (90.1 FM) as a student. After Panama City gave him enough experience to be genuinely employable, Reiss found TV work in Utica, N.Y., where the blizzard season stretched from “Halloween to Mother’s Day,” he says. Then it was on to Santa Maria, Calif., where he went from weekend sports anchor to station sports director within a year.  In late 2000, he went national, heading to Bristol, Conn., as an anchor for the ESPNews network. He stayed eight years, getting married along the way, and had a smattering of TV and radio play-by-play assignments while polishing his craft as an anchor.

“There is no experience for a broadcaster like working for ESPN,” said Reiss, who served as an occasional anchor on SportsCenter, ESPN’s flagship show. “The talent level, the resources—it is unparalleled. … If I had some semblance of raw abilities when I got there, ESPN transformed that and made me 100 percent comfortable in my broadcast skin.”

Delighted at the opportunity to return to California, Reiss joined Comcast SportsNet in late 2008 and settled in as a familiar on-screen personality for college and pro news. But like so many high-profile anchors before him, Reiss couldn’t resist the lure of testing himself to the maximum in the fabled crucible of a live radio booth. Now 42 with two young sons, his signature moments are beckoning: He aims to imprint his voice on the most auspicious era in Stanford football history.

“Every time I have been fortunate to call a game,” Reiss said, “my reaction was, ‘Man, that was a lot of fun.’ I think I have a knack for it, but it’s mostly an untapped skill. I would like to know how good I can be.”

—MIKE ANTONUCCI, Stanford magazine

Stanford scholar goes inside the NSA

September 27th, 2013


AMY ZEGART, co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), and nine other national security and intelligence scholars were invited Monday, Sept. 23, to the headquarters of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md., for unprecedented talks with high-ranking officials. They discussed cybersecurity, the plummeting public trust in the agency, its relationship with Congress and how to rebuild the agency’s reputation and rethink its program operations.

Participants were first taken to the black granite wall carved with the names of 171 military and civilian cryptologists who have died in service.

Amy Zegart

Amy Zegart

“I think they wanted us to know that this is an organization of people, not some robots trolling through your emails,” said Zegart, author of the book Spying Blind, which examines why U.S. intelligence agencies failed to adapt to the terrorist threat before the 9/11 attacks.

The scholars were then taken to a windowless conference room for several hours of what Zegart called remarkably frank and free-ranging talks about the agency and its tactics.

The NSA is one of the world’s most secret intelligence-gathering organizations. Its methods have come under intense scrutiny with a series of damaging leaks about its operations. Former NSA contractor EDWARD SNOWDEN and national intelligence reporters have revealed tactics that have left many Americans cold and questioning the legality and necessity of the agency’s methods. From monitoring emails and phone calls to secretly cracking encryption codes that protect personal email as well as financial and medical records and Internet chats – the revelations just keep coming. Civil liberty organizations and Internet privacy advocates at Stanford are outraged, while some foreign governments are accusing Washington of Big Brother tactics run amok.

Read a Q&A with Zegart about those perceptions and the briefing at NSA headquarters on the CISAC website.

—BETH DUFF-BROWN, communications and editorial manager for CISAC