Archive for the ‘Great reads’ Category

Man on a mission: Working to help veterans who have lost limbs

July 14th, 2014


DAN BERSCHINSKI lost both of his legs in 2009 when he stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Afghanistan. His immediate thought, the West Point graduate told CBS news, was that his life was over, but soon came to realize that a whole new chapter had begun.

“Look, I was an officer,” he told JACQUELINE GENOVESE, assistant director of the Arts, Humanities, and Medicine Program in the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, who interviewed Berschinski for the School of Medicine’s SCOPE blog.

“I couldn’t sit there feeling sorry for myself. My soldiers were still in Afghanistan, still getting killed. And the hospital was full of guys with injuries as bad or worse than mine.”

In January, Dan Berschinski (MBA ’15) introduced Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former leader of the Joint Special Operations Command who also led all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, when the retired military leader visited the Graduate School of Business.

In January, Dan Berschinski (MBA ’15) introduced Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former leader of the Joint Special Operations Command who also led all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, when the retired military leader visited the Graduate School of Business.

Now an MBA student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, he is learning how to develop a company he started, Two-Six Industries, which distributes manufactured products to military bases, into a thriving enterprise that employs other veteran amputees.

Genovese writes that the fact that Berschinski is able to walk on his prosthetic legs is a stunning achievement.

“Let’s just say that nobody with my injury has ever walked out of Walter Reed,” the Army veteran told her.

“Berschinski’s right prosthetic leg attaches to his hip – there was nothing left of his leg to salvage. On his left side, he must force the portion of his thigh that is left into a sleeve…Berschinski is quick to point out that he feels lucky. Pointing to his left hand, which is missing a finger and is marked by a large portion of a skin graft.

“The use of IEDs and the length of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that there are veteran amputees in numbers not seen since the Civil War. But in a society where only less than 1 percent of the population participated in those wars, these veterans are somewhat invisible. Berschinski is out to change that by raising the visibility of veterans who have lost limbs. In addition, he wants to shine light on civilian amputees, particularly children, who often cannot afford prosthetics. He serves on the board of the Amputee Coalition, using what he describes as this ‘new change in my life’ to help others who he believes aren’t as fortunate as he,” Genovese continues.

“I have the advantage of being cared for by the government. I have access to cutting edge prosthetic limbs and care. Most people don’t have that,” Berschinski said.

Read the full post on the SCOPE blog.



Recommended summer reads from Stanford Law School faculty

July 6th, 2014

World Cup men’s soccer; then and now

July 1st, 2014
    A group of World Cup soccer fans assembled at the large monitor in Y2E2 Tuesday, July 1, to watch the U.S. team play Belgium in an elimination round. The U.S. battled but fell to Belgium 2-1 with all the goals scored in extra time. (Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service)

A group of World Cup soccer fans assembled at the large monitor in Y2E2 Tuesday, July 1, to watch the U.S. team play Belgium in an elimination round. The U.S. battled but fell to Belgium 2-1 with all the goals scored in extra time. (Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service)

On Tuesday, crowds gathered across campus to huddle around TVs to watch the United States battle Belgium in the FIFA World Cup. And despite the heartbreaking loss, the U.S. and Stanford have much to be proud of, given how far the country has come in the soccer world over the past two decades.

“To understand how the 1994 World Cup changed soccer in America, you must consider what soccer was like in America,” wrote DAVID KIEFER, assistant media relations director in Stanford Athletics.

“Most young American soccer players had never seen a professional match  – on TV or in person. Virtually the only soccer programming came on Spanish-language channels, and often only with the help of rabbit-ear antennas draped with tin foil.

“There was no true outdoor soccer league in the country in 1994. The mercenaries who tried to make a living at the game in the United States played indoor soccer, on turf-covered ice rinks. The indoor league was more stable than the top outdoor circuit, the American Professional Soccer League (ASPL), which lived up to the adage that if you need to have ‘professional’ in your name, you probably aren’t.

“The APSL averaged ‘crowds’ of barely more than 2,000 and hardly was the launching pad the American game required to increase its popularity and stature. At the time, American players were not really accepted in Europe, and the best players had barely any club options at all …

“Much of the mainstream media only begrudgingly embraced soccer, and only because they understood that the World Cup was a big deal. Soccer, however, was not, at least in their eyes. Most newspaper sports editors did not grow up with the sport, were unfamiliar with it, and were eager to belittle it.

“But the 1994 World Cup, which included six matches at Stanford, changed all that. And Stanford’s role in that transformation was a great one.
“When the U.S. was awarded the World Cup by FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, in 1988, the U.S. hadn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1950. The concern internationally was whether the tournament would be a source of embarrassment for the U.S. on the field and in the stands, and for FIFA, for taking the chance on the U.S. in the first place.

“Stanford played a role in earning the trust of FIFA because of its success in hosting matches during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Nine were played at Stanford, drawing crowds of 83,642 for an Italy-Brazil semifinal, 78,000 for a first-round match between the U.S. and Costa Rica, and 75,000 for West Germany-Brazil.

“In the years that followed, Stanford became a regular stop for the U.S. national team, playing five exhibitions from 1990-93, against the USSR and Russia, Argentina, China, and Germany. The 1998 World Cup cycle included two qualifying matches at Stanford, against Costa Rica and Canada.

“The South Bay’s rich soccer history, featuring the original San Jose Earthquakes of the old North American Soccer League, and the massive size of Stanford Stadium made Stanford an ideal choice as one of the 1994 Cup’s nine host venues.

“It got even better – the Stanford venue would become the home base for Brazil, the three-time world champion and the masters of ‘the beautiful game,’ in which style is just as important as results in the soccer-mad nation.

The average attendance at the six matches that were held at Stanford in 1994 was 81,736.

Brazil vs. Russia was the first game of the XV World Cup of Soccer at Stanford Stadium in 1994. That year,  the FIFA World Cup was held in nine cities across the United States. The average attendance at the six matches that were held at Stanford that summer was 81,736. (Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service)

“The Brazilian fans descended upon the team’s tournament headquarters at the now-closed Villa Felice lodge in Los Gatos and the team’s training grounds at Santa Clara University’s Buck Shaw Stadium. Training would be joined by chanting and singing fans, who at night would shift to Los Gatos’ Town Plaza Park for samba, soccer and one big continuous party.

“The Brazilians taught Americans how to be soccer fans and their influence remains in evidence today with the singing, chanting and drum-beating supporter groups that now proliferate the American soccer scene.”

Kiefer noted that the average attendance at the six matches that were held at Stanford in 1994 was 81,736.

“But, even more important,” he added, “was the respect the U.S. gained as a soccer nation. “Not only did America prove to the world that it could appreciate and support the game at its highest levels, but the quality of play by the U.S. was proof of inclusion into the realm of soccer’s elite.”
Read Kiefer’s full story on

Children’s book by Stanford researcher chronicles a baby elephant’s life

June 30th, 2014


In the new children’s book written by CAITLIN O’CONNELL, a consulting assistant professor at Stanford Medical School, the adorable baby Liza steals every scene – taking her first steps, playing with other babies, taking a bath, letting her older brother help her get to her feet.

Except the baby at the center of this captivating story weighs 250 pounds, learns how to walk on four legs within hours of her birth, greets other babies by placing her trunk in their mouths, and takes a bath by rolling in a cool mud puddle in the African savannah.

A Baby Elephant in the Wild, written for preschool through elementary school readers, features Liza, an African elephant born in Etosha National Park in Namibia.

O’Connell and her husband, TIMOTHY RODWELL, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, have been taking pictures of Liza since her birth.

Liza’s arrival marked the first time that O’Connell has been able to follow the growth of one specific elephant from birth during the 20 years she has devoted to studying elephant behavior and conservation. O’Connell has a research station in the park.

Each photograph in the book is a marvel, from a sequence of pictures of a tiny Liza rolling in the mud in the shadow of her 8,000-pound mother’s legs to group photos of the young elephant and her extended family relaxing in the dappled shade of an acacia grove.

The book introduces young readers to how elephants live in the wild:

“A layer of mud is not just fun – it also helps protect an elephant’s skin from parasites and sunburns.”

“While resting in the shade, elephant mothers will stand facing outward, on guard while baby elephants either lie down or lean against their mothers to sleep. Flapping their ears while resting helps baby elephants cool down.”

“Elephants have an aquatic ancestry, so it makes sense that they like the water and are good swimmers. In fact, they use their trunk as a snorkel when swimming in deep water.”

Gently imparting a message about conservation, the book says that Liza’s mother knows how to protect her from danger and even trouble within the family, but she won’t be able to protect her from disease or starvation in the years ahead. The book notes:

“Too many fires, a bad drought, and the cutting down of forests to make room for crops are some of the reasons why an elephant might not have enough food to survive. Poachers looking for either meat or ivory also threaten elephants in the wild. In some areas, elephants are risk of going extinct if they are not better protected.”

Through their nonprofit organization, Utopia Scientific, O’Connell and Rodwell are conducting an ongoing study of elephants in partnership with Stanford and with support from the Oakland Zoo. Learn more about O’Connell and her other books, including The Elephant’s Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa and, for young readers, The Elephant Scientist, on her website.


Tales from the Farm: Stanford history stories

June 26th, 2014

Ever wanted to know more about the origins of the Big Game, the death of Jane Stanford, the first inhabitants of Encina Hall or Stanford’s first African American student? To commemorate its 40th year, Stanford magazine has published a compilation of its best historical stories that have published since the magazine has had an online presence.  From Leland Junior’s childhood to his mother’s murder, from the development of the modern mouse to memories of Lake Lagunita, the resulting list is filled with nostalgia, intrigue and more. Read the full story on the magazine’s website.



Two graduating seniors celebrate their commencement on the Arctic Ocean

June 15th, 2014

On a bright, frigid Tuesday afternoon, two Stanford seniors were honored in their own private commencement ceremony aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a polar icebreaker located in the Arctic Ocean, some 3,400 miles from Stanford’s main campus.

For the past several weeks, the students, ERIN DILLON and CAROLINE FERGUSON, have been active members on a scientific research project called SUBICE that is searching for large under-ice algae blooms in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea. The massive blooms, which scientists think have only become possible in recent decades due to thinning ice caused by climate change-driven ocean warming, could have implications for the global carbon cycle.

“We’re here to follow up on a discovery made in 2011 related to blooms of under-ice phytoplankton,” said KEVIN ARRIGO, professor of Earth sciences and the mission’s chief scientist. “That was a very unexpected result and something we didn’t understand very well but turns out is probably very important for the ecosystem. So we decided to come back to study it a little more comprehensively.”

Dillon and Ferguson have been critical members of the SUBICE team, Arrigo said. “They do most of the actual work in terms of processing the seawater samples. It’s a difficult thing to do a research cruise when you’re working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for six weeks on end. They were two that I certainly thought could handle the stress.”

Being in the Arctic prevented Dillon and Ferguson from graduating with their peers at Stanford on Sunday. So Arrigo hatched a plan to honor them before he left on the polar research expedition.

“It’s a really big deal to miss your graduation, and the students are giving up a lot to be a part of this research,” Arrigo said. “I wondered if there were something we could do to help make up for the fact that they’re missing events at home. So I thought we might be able to hold a ceremony on the Healy.”

From left, Cmdr. Greg Stanclik, Healy executive officer; Kevin Arrigo, professor of Earth sciences and co-director of the Earth Systems Program; graduating seniors Erin Dillon and Caroline Ferguson, and Capt. John Reeves, Healy commanding officer. (Photo credit: Carolina Nobre)

From left, Cmdr. Greg Stanclik, Healy executive officer; Kevin Arrigo, professor of Earth sciences and co-director of the Earth Systems Program; graduating seniors Erin Dillon and Caroline Ferguson, and Capt. John Reeves, Healy commanding officer. (Photo credit: Carolina Nobre)


Healy officers, with the Coast Guard crew standing in formation, as well as scientific researchers and staff. Arrigo and the students walked out of the icebreaker’s hold dressed in full graduation regalia brought all the way from Stanford. Pinned to their gowns was the Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal, a gold medallion they received for serving more than 21 days above the Arctic Circle.

“Caroline and Erin, we honor you here in the Arctic as you wear the traditional cap and gown commemorating your upcoming graduation,” Arrigo said during his remarks. “To our knowledge, you are the first two people to be so honored in Stanford University’s history.”

Healy Commanding Officer Capt. JOHN REEVES also spoke at the ceremony. “As the grandson of a Stanford alum, and an icebreaker sailor myself, it’s my privilege to bring these two worlds together in a ceremony that is befitting of the occasion and the location,” he said.

Dillon and Ferguson, who will receive a BS in biology and a BA in human biology, respectively, said they were surprised and filled with gratitude by the extraordinary efforts undertaken on their behalf.

“We thought maybe it would be us and Kevin,” said Ferguson, who is continuing work toward a co-terminal master’s degree in Earth systems. “But everyone worked tirelessly to make us feel special. The kitchen got involved and baked a cake, and everyone congratulated us. We also received fake flowers – because flowers don’t grow here – so it’s been really, really special.”

Ferguson said she couldn’t imagine a better or more personal way to celebrate the occasion. “When we received our diploma cases, we opened them to discover a touching letter written by Kevin, which was even more meaningful than an actual diploma,” she said. “I’m sad to be missing Stanford traditions like watching the movie The Graduate and attending the senior dinner on the Quad, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for a hundred commencement ceremonies back on campus.”

Dillon called the experience “surreal” and said she thought it was an appropriate way to mark the end of her undergraduate years. “I have spent a significant chunk of my time at Stanford studying abroad and these experiences have been the defining moments of my time as an undergraduate,” she said, “so it only seems fitting that I graduate in my element doing research and traveling.

“In 10 years, when people ask, ‘What did you do for graduation?’ we’re going to have an incredible story to tell.”

Read the original story on the School of Earth Sciences website.

— BY KER THAN, associate director of communications for the School of Earth Sciences.



Four Stanford undergraduates win Taube Center for Jewish Studies short story contest

June 9th, 2014
The organizer, winners and judges of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies inaugural short story contest gathered at the Faculty Club to celebrate. From left, senior Kim Leon, Professor Tobias Wolff, sophomore Beatrice Garrard, writer Sarah Houghteling, freshman Max Weiss, senior Alberto Hernandez, Marie-Pierra Ulloa, associate director for academic programming and student outreach at the Taube Center for Jewish Studies, and writer Maya Arad.

From left, Senior Kim Leon,  Professor Tobias Wolff, sophomore Beatrice Garrard, Sarah Houghteling a lecturer in Continuing Studies,  freshman Max Weiss, senior Alberto Hernandez,  Marie-Pierra Ulloa, associate director for academic programming and student outreach at the Taube Center for Jewish Studies, and writer Maya Arad.

Submissions from Stanford students who entered the inaugural Taube Center for Jewish Studies undergraduate short story contest illustrate the depth, breadth and diversity of the Jewish experience.

The grand prize of $600 was awarded to Stanford sophomore BEATRICE GARRARD for her story, “A Man Without a Watch.” The seed of Garrard’s story comes from a Jewish folktale in which a clever trickster outwits a highwayman. Her prize also includes a one-year mentorship with SARA HOUGHTELING, a writer and lecturer in Continuing Studies

A history major and an avid student of Yiddish literature, Garrard used the contest as an opportunity to reframe a chapter from her working novel into a short story. She has received a Chappell-Lougee Fellowship to research and complete that novel in Lithuania this summer.

MARIE-PIERRE ULLOA, associate director for academic programming and student outreach at the Taube Center, developed the contest to encourage all undergraduates to explore the Jewish experience from a Jewish perspective or from the perspective of another culture.

“Among the many submissions we received, several stood out because of their compelling narrative and velocity, so we decided to award four prizes instead of three,” Ulloa said.

Contestants were asked to write a short story that draws on any aspect of Jewish life, history and culture, and addresses any aspect of the Jewish experience.

TOBIAS WOLFF, professor of creative writing at Stanford; MAYA ARAD, writer-in-residence at the Taube Center; and Houghteling judged the stories.

Houghteling, who presented the awards a Jewish Studies reception earlier this month, was impressed by the literary quality of the submissions.

“There was a wonderful range,” she said. “A lot of the stories had their foundations in Jewish literature, referring to Isaac Babel or to the teaching of the Talmud, and so there were a lot of echoes between the generations.”

Garrard set her story, “A Man Without a Watch,” in 1913 because during that period “many felt that traditional Jewish life was falling apart in the face of the modern era,” she explained. “I wanted to take the original comic scenario and transpose it into a setting that reflects the anxieties of the time.”

A second prize of $300 was awarded to freshman MAX WEISS for “Kasanov’s Bakery,” a story inspired by his grandfather’s memories of growing up in Boston.

Set in 1948 at the time of the narrator’s bar mitzvah, tensions erupt between narrator and father over whether he will carry on the cultural and professional traditions of his family.

“Max mixes humor and drama with an unerring sense of how to tell a good story,” said Houghteling. “We were delighted to discover that a writer of prose this assured was only a freshman.

Two third-prize awards of $150 each were given to senior ALBERTO HERNANDEZ for his work, “Tefillin,” and to senior KIM LEON for her story, “Babel.”

When asked if there is something specific that makes a story distinctly Jewish, the winners paused to reflect.

“It’s really the voice and the values,” Weiss said. “A lot of the best Jewish stories don’t directly address Judaism at all.”

The Taube Center plans to offer another short story contest next spring.

— BY TANU WAKEFIELD, the Humanities at Stanford


Stanford alumnus Michael Tubbs the subject of ‘True Son’ documentary; screening and discussion Sunday

May 14th, 2014

44345On Sunday, May 18, at 3:30 p.m. in CEMEX Auditorium on Stanford’s campus, there will be a screening of True Son, a documenatary that chronicles MICHAEL TUBBS‘s, campaign to win a seat on the Stockton, Calif. City Council.

Tubbs, ’12, MA ’12, ran for office while completing his bachelor’s degree in comparative studies in race and ethnicity and a master’s in the Graduate School of Education. He won the election in 2012, becoming the youngest person to gain a seat on that troubled city’s council.

True Son follows Tubbs’ campaign, which took place during a year of record homicides and impending bankruptcy. The film premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

In addition to the screening, Sunday’s event will include a panel moderated by Stanford President JOHN HENNESSY. The documentary’s filmmakers  – all Stanford grads – will participate in the discussion along with Tubbs himself. Tickets for the event are free, but registration requested. More details are available here:

Three Stanford alums are national finalists for 2014 Student Academy Awards for their thesis films

May 13th, 2014

Three of the 35 films selected as national finalists in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 41st Student Academy Awards competition are from Stanford students in the MFA in Documentary Film and Video class of 2013.

LESLIE TAI is a finalist in the alternative category for The Private Life of Fenfen, a documentary film experiment in which a feisty young Chinese migrant worker’s tragic love story is broadcast to migrant workers across China. In the documentary category, finalists are HELEN HOOD SCHEER for The Apothecary, about the sole pharmacist in a 4,000 square mile region in the American Southwest and the profound divide between his public and private life, and J. CHRISTIAN JENSEN for White Earth, a winter portrait of North Dakota’s oil boom seen through unexpected eyes.

“These three 2013 thesis films are contributing to a proud tradition,” said JAN KRAWITZ, professor and director of the MFA program in documentary film and video. “The Stanford graduate program has garnered more Student Academy Awards in the documentary category than any other school. In 2011, two MFA thesis films were awarded a bronze and a silver medal. We hope that the documentaries produced by Christian, Helen, and Leslie will achieve the same degree of recognition.”

It was gratifying for Jensen to see his name listed among all the nominees, but he said that moment was made even sweeter when he saw the names of his two good friends Leslie and Helen listed as well. “The MFA documentary program only graduates seven to eight students a year so we become very close. These nominations are definitely a testament to the quality of Stanford’s program that really puts you and your films through the refiner’s fire over the course of two unforgettable years.”

Scheer said, “It’s an honor to be selected as a national finalist, regardless of whether we win or not. It will likely help us get into more film festivals, share our work with broader audiences, and stand out a bit more on the job market. I came to Stanford’s documentary program hoping to gain more fluency in dealing with complex storytelling and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to do so.”

Per the Academy’s press release, the Student Academy Awards were established in 1972 to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level. Past Student Academy Award® winners have gone on to receive 46 Oscar® nominations and have won or shared eight awards. They include JOHN LASSETER, PETE DOCTER, ROBERT ZEMECKIS, TREY PARKER and SPIKE LEE.

Academy members will now vote to determine up to three winning films in each category. The winners, but not their medal placements, will be announced later this month. The winning students will be brought to Los Angeles for a week of industry activities and social events that will culminate in the awards ceremony on Saturday, June 7, in Hollywood, at which time the gold, silver and bronze medalists will be revealed.

White Earth — [Trailer] from J. Christian Jensen on Vimeo.

The Private Life of Fenfen (Trailer) from Leslie Tai on Vimeo.


Why does Stanford have streets named Electioneer Road and Samuel Morris Way?

April 30th, 2014

Why is there a street named Electioneer at Stanford? Because there was once a horse that had that name at the Palo Alto Stock Farm. (Photo: Ian Tarpin)

Ever wondered why Stanford streets bear names like Electioneer, Lasuen, Charles Marx, Olmsted or Santa Teresa? If so, you have a kindred spirit in RICHARD COTTLE, professor emeritus of management science and engineering.

In the early 1990s, Cottle started exploring archival records, local histories and maps to document the stories behind more than 130 street names on the Stanford campus. The result was Stanford Street Names: A Pocket Guide, published in 2005 and available at the Stanford Bookstore. Much has changed on campus, so an enlarged version of Cottle’s guide has just been published by the Stanford Historical Society.

The easy-to-use field guide illuminates more than 120 years of Stanford’s evolution from a sprawling rural estate and stock farm into a university and residential community. The book includes two historic maps, more than 160 entries and 65 archival photographs.

Aside from a handful of uninspired names—North Service Road, for example—most Stanford street names reflect important aspects of the university’s history.

Peter Coutts Road, for example, evokes an early landowner whose Ayrshire Farm was purchased by Leland Stanford. Electioneer Road memorializes a premier trotting horse on Stanford’s Palo Alto Stock Farm. Samuel Morris Way was named for the dean of the School of Engineering in 1936. Sand Hill Road was a popular wagon route into the foothills to the town of Searsville. Cottle writes that its name “reflects the old road’s condition, which went from knee-deep dust in summer to nearly impassible adobe mud during winter rains.”

For more, visit the Stanford Historical Society web pages.