Address of President John Hennessy to the Academic Council

These are the prepared remarks of President John Hennessy to the Academic Council on May 17, 2007.

Good afternoon and welcome. I am pleased to see all of you here today.

This has been an extraordinary year for Stanford University. This afternoon I would like to briefly review some of the accomplishments of the past year, and then look at how we are redefining and enhancing graduate education.

Highlights of the Past Year

There have been many notable events since the last Academic Council meeting in April 2006.

Stanford continues to attract the best minds in the world, and this year the Office of Undergraduate Admission received a record-breaking 23,956 applications for the 2007-08 academic year. Our offers of admission also have been accepted at a record-setting rate of over 70 percent between the early and regular rounds. When the new class arrives in the fall, I am sure you will find their talents, diversity of interests and backgrounds, and their enthusiasm for learning to be outstanding.

I believe the combination of a record-setting number of applicants and a record-setting yield is a strong testimony to Stanford’s reputation for offering an outstanding undergraduate education. This combination is also a reflection of our ongoing commitment to need-blind admission. Starting last year, we enhanced our financial aid policy and eliminated parental contributions for undergraduates whose family incomes are less than $45,000. Recently, we have been concerned that the financial burden on middle-income families is still too great. This year we added an additional $5 million in financial aid to help students from families whose annual incomes range from $60,000 to $135,000, thus reducing both the debt required and the current contribution for such families.

The excellence of our faculty is another reason we attract the best students from around the world, and this past year has been an extraordinary year of recognition and achievement for our faculty.

This fall was particularly special, since we celebrated two new Nobel laureates. The 2006 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Andrew Fire, professor of pathology and of genetics, and a colleague at the University of Massachusetts, for their groundbreaking work in RNA interference done while Professor Fire was at the Carnegie Institution. My colleagues in the medical school had the wisdom to bring Andy Fire to Stanford several years ago, and we were delighted when he agreed to come. Two days after the first announcement, Professor Roger Kornberg was named winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on RNA transcription. Professor Kornberg, who received his PhD in chemistry from Stanford, is a faculty member in the Department of Structural Biology in the School of Medicine, and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center served as his major scientific tool.

More recently, four colleagues were elected to the National Academy of Engineering, five to the National Academy of Sciences, two were elected to the American Philosophical Society, and eight colleagues from across the university were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

There were many other recognitions and honors during this past year, and we anticipate a record-breaking attendance to the yearly celebration the provost and I hold for our colleagues who have received a major award.

This past year we also announced several important appointments.

Richard Saller joined us in April as the dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences. Before coming to Stanford, Dean Saller served as the provost of the University of Chicago, where he was also a professor of history and classics and a former dean of the Social Sciences Division.

Ann Arvin, the Lucile Salter Packard Professor in Pediatrics and professor of microbiology and immunology, became the vice provost and dean of research.

Ann’s predecessor, Artie Bienenstock, has accepted a new role as special assistant to the president for SLAC and federal research policy.

Patricia Gumport, professor of education and director of the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, was chosen to be the first vice provost for graduate education. Professors Mark Horowitz, who co-chaired the Commission on Graduate Education, and Gail Mahood, who served as associate dean for graduate policy, are working with Patti as associate vice provosts.

Bob Bowlsby joined us in July as the director of athletics, after serving as athletic director at the University of Iowa for almost 15 years.

Stanford values the diversity of its community, and we continue our efforts to increase ethnic and gender diversity among our faculty and graduate students. In 2001, we developed guidelines to stress our commitment to diversity in the faculty. Last month, the provost and I issued a reaffirmation to Stanford’s Commitment to Faculty Diversity that expanded on our earlier statement.

Over the past decade, we have made significant progress in the representation of women on our faculty. Last year, 24.3 percent of the Stanford faculty were women, up from 17.8 percent a decade ago.

This year, we have expanded our efforts at recruitment and retention. Recognizing that many assistant professors are starting a family at the same time they are establishing themselves as leaders in their fields, we announced a new program—the Junior Faculty Childcare Assistance Program—to assist pre-tenured professors with young children. The provost and I believe that adequate and affordable childcare can make a tremendous difference at this stage in their careers, particularly for women faculty.

Unfortunately, our progress, like that of our peer institutions, has been much slower when it comes to increasing racial and ethnic diversity of our faculty. The provost and I have become convinced that we must try some new approaches that address recruitment, retention, and enhancement of the pipeline.

As most of you know, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, currently being ably led by our colleague Larry Bobo, who joined us from Harvard several years ago. The center not only has made major research contributions but serves as a model for organizing multidisciplinary research and teaching on topics of race and ethnicity. A new $2 million gift from Jeff and Tricia Raikes will enhance the work of the center. In addition, the provost has added funding to appoint up to 10 new faculty associated with the center and to support six new graduate fellowships; our hope is to promote high-quality research in this critical area, while also enhancing the diversity of our faculty and graduate student population.

To help us ensure that we are vigilant and pursue best practices in our goal to enhance faculty diversity, I am also happy to announce that our colleague Al Camarillo has accepted the position of special assistant to the provost for faculty diversity. In this newly created position, he will work proactively with schools and departments to help improve our recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty.

The Stanford Challenge

Stanford has long been known for its innovative approach to education and research. In recent years, we have responded to the demands for an increased role for the university in the 21st century. Our response has included both new collaborative research and educational programs within schools, as well as new university-wide initiatives in human health, the environment and sustainability, and international affairs.

We also have piloted new programs focused on educating leaders, specifically to improve K-12 education; to increase the role of the arts; to strengthen further the undergraduate curriculum; and to transform graduate education.

Recognizing that any new endeavors must depend on keeping our disciplinary and educational foundations strong requires us to find significant resources to maintain and enhance our foundations, from financial aid to support for the core research and teaching missions of departments and their faculty.

Before turning to our panel, I want to update you on a few of our initiatives and on our progress in these activities.

As many of you will recall, last year we focused this address on the arts initiative, whose primary goal is to provide more opportunities for students to participate in and experience the arts. In the second year of our partnership with the New York Public Theater, we brought Stanford alumnus and playwright David Henry Hwang—the author of M Butterfly—to campus. In a weeklong residency in February, he further developed a new play, Yellow Face, which explores questions of cultural identity and racial politics, and it is now scheduled to be performed in the fall at the New York Public Theater.

Increased collaboration between the Stanford Institute for Creativity in the Arts and the Lively Arts program has led to a stunning new performing arts season for next year that will not only bring incredibly talented artists to our campus but also provide unrivaled opportunities for collaboration, master classes, and residency experiences.

Of course, facilities have long been a major shortcoming for the performing arts at Stanford. Once again, two of Stanford closest and best friends came to the rescue: Helen and Peter Bing have provided a $50 million gift to help us build a new concert hall worthy of the world-class musicians and performers we bring to Stanford.

This past year, Kenji Hakuta, professor in the School of Education, and Helen Quinn, professor of physics at SLAC, agreed to lead the newly formed K-12 initiative. Although there is still much planning to be done by the leaders working with a university-wide faculty committee, we were able to announce a new program to provide loan forgiveness for graduates from our teacher education program who work as professional teachers in public schools. Judy Avery’s $10 million gift, matched with the annual gifts from many alumni, enabled us to create the first such large-scale program funded by a private university. At several venues this past year, we had alumni and current students in the teacher education program speak about their goals, motivations, experiences, and commitment. Our alumni audiences were immensely proud of the work being done by these dedicated members of the Stanford community.

In the environmental initiative, a new effort on energy conservation, which is the most effective near-term opportunity for reducing greenhouse gases, will be funded by Jay Precourt’s gift of $30 million. This activity will be led by Professor James Sweeney and will work in close concert with the Woods Institute for the Environment.

Some of you may have had the opportunity to see the rapidly rising Environment and Energy Building made possible by a $50 million gift from alumni Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki. A home for groundbreaking research and educational programs in the environment and sustainability, the building also will set new standards for sustainable development at Stanford.

In the area of international studies, the 25-year-old, highly successful International Policy Studies program, a master’s program jointly administered by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the School of Humanities and Sciences, will be expanded in depth and breadth. A gift of $7.5 million from Susan Ford Dorsey will support this two-year program, which will provide breadth in the first year with the opportunity in the second year to specialize in environment and natural resources; global health; political economy; and international security.

Bio-X, which was one of our first new multidisciplinary initiatives, continues to be a vibrant center for collaborative interdisciplinary work in the biosciences and biomedicine. We are delighted to be bringing Professor Carla Shatz back to Stanford from Harvard to lead Bio-X. In addition to the outstanding research and educational programs it has enabled, Bio-X piloted the Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program, which has successfully spawned dozens of new faculty research collaborations and has been the model for similar research initiative programs in the environmental area, international affairs, and most recently, in the humanities, which has just announced its first set of multidisciplinary research grants to teams of faculty scholars.

The Clark Center, now halfway through its fourth year of operations, has been extremely successful both as the home for Bio-X and for our new Bioengineering Department. In less than five years, Bioengineering, Stanford’s only interschool department, has managed to build a first-class faculty and attract the very best graduate students from around the world. We look forward to its next five years.

Two other components of the human health initiative made impressive progress this year. The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine received a gift of over $33 million from Stanford alumnus Lorry Lokey for a new research facility to support stem cell research. Additionally, our faculty colleagues recently received a total of $26 million in research grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the largest amount received by any institution.

After years of preparation and faculty recruiting, the Stanford Cancer Center has received designation from the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. I congratulate my colleagues and the leadership of the medical school in this impressive achievement. This recognition and ongoing investments and philanthropy will allow Stanford to strengthen its research and clinical treatment in the critical area of cancer.

As I have talked to colleagues from across the university over the past year, I have heard time and time again about the importance of graduate student support. Recent uncertainties in federal funding for graduate students have clearly heightened this concern. In addition, the increasing presence of students doing interdisciplinary research, who may have less accessibility to traditional department-based or external agency-based funding, has created new demands for funding sources. To address this need, I am announcing that we will create a new Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship program to complement the existing Stanford Graduate Fellowships. These new fellowships will be available to PhD students pursuing interdisciplinary research both through existing university centers and programs as well as through individually crafted research programs that involve departments throughout the university.

The Vice Provost for Graduate Education will administer this new SIGF (Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship) program. We plan to accept nominations for fellowships beginning in fall 2008. Our goal will be to raise funding for 100 new fellowships. I am happy to announce that earlier this week I received a $25 million anonymous commitment to help fund this new program.

Of course, to support this wide range of new activities from the medical school to the arts, as well as to maintain and enhance our core activities, we will need to find significant new sources of support. Hence, in October we launched The Stanford Challenge, a university-wide campaign to raise $4.3 billion. We seek support to construct new facilities, hire and support faculty, enhance and strengthen both undergraduate and graduate financial aid programs, and build new facilities across the university.

Our alumni and friends clearly understand the importance of The Stanford Challenge. To date, The Stanford Challenge total stands at an amazing $2.5 billion.

These are just a few of the many remarkable acts of generosity by our alumni and friends. Last year, more than 72,000 alumni and friends—including almost 40 percent of our undergraduate alumni—signaled their support with gifts of all sizes to Stanford. And, for the first time in more than 30 years, Stanford received more total gifts over the past five years than any other university in the country.

That support is a tribute not only to the belief by our friends and alumni in the university’s ability to make a difference, but also to the dedicated efforts of our development staff, who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the entire university.

Advances in Graduate Education

Key to the success of The Stanford Challenge will be our ability not only to embrace new directions in research but also to introduce innovative approaches to graduate education at Stanford.

As I reported last year, in December 2005 the Commission on Graduate Education presented a number of recommendations to enhance the graduate education experience at Stanford and address the changing needs of our graduate students. The commission recommended that we increase the number of cross-disciplinary and collaborative opportunities for students and faculty; enhance our efforts at diversity; develop a leadership curriculum that enhances discipline-based studies; and create a new position of vice provost for graduate education.

Over the past year, we have made advances in each of these areas. As I noted earlier, Patricia Gumport was chosen to fill the newly created position of vice provost for graduate education, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education officially opened in January. I have asked her to participate in the panel that follows my remarks and discuss more specifically some of the new programs that are being developed.

As many of you know, in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Graduate Schools 2008, Stanford was the only institution to have all five graduate and professional schools—Business, Law, Engineering, Education, and Medicine—ranked in the top 10 in the country. Maintaining such excellence requires us to continue to attract the best faculty as well as the best graduate students.

Furthermore, if our students are to be tomorrow’s leaders, in addition to expertise within a single discipline, they will need broad-based skills that enable them to collaborate with others with different skill sets. To facilitate that learning, we have been removing barriers so that our graduate students can take courses in schools outside of their discipline, and providing programs that enhance the breadth of the graduate experience.

This year, the Law School began its transition to the quarter system, which will make it much easier to implement joint degree programs and facilitate cross-school collaborations. The school also has been working on introducing more interdisciplinary courses into its curriculum. Twenty-two new joint degree programs, modeled on the very successful JD/MBA program, have been approved. I have asked Larry Kramer, dean of the Law School, to join us on today’s panel.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business helped launch the Stanford Graduate Summer Institute last year. Seventy non-business graduate students from throughout the university—Earth Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences—came together for a four-week management course, the Summer Institute for Entrepreneurship, where they worked with 14 GSB faculty to learn leadership skills about running a business.

This summer the graduate institute will offer a variety of courses including the Summer Institute for Entrepreneurship; Solving Complex Problems: Responding to Pandemics; and The Experience: Adventures in Design Thinking.

Concluding Remarks

More than a century ago, Jane and Leland Stanford created this university to “exercise an influence on behalf of civilization and humanity,” and “to qualify students for personal success and direct usefulness in life.” This dual dedication to discovery and education remains our mission today, and it is a mission that has never been more important. With your support and efforts and the support of our alumni and friends, I am confident that Stanford will play an even more important role in our world during its second hundred years of existence.

This afternoon, I have invited several colleagues involved in reconceiving and enhancing our graduate studies programs to join us to talk about both their new programs and their future plans.

Please join me in welcoming Patricia Gumport, professor of education, director of the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, and vice provost for graduate education; Robert Joss, the Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Business; and Larry Kramer, the Richard E. Lang Professor and Dean of Stanford Law School.