Text of President John Hennessy’s address to the Academic Council
Text of President John Hennessy’s address to the Academic Council, as prepared for delivery, on May 15, 2008.
Good afternoon and welcome. I am pleased to see all of you here today.
This past year has been one of significant accomplishments. This afternoon I will begin with a brief review of the progress we have made, and then turn my attention to the future and look specifically at how we are building our university campus for this new century.
After my remarks, I have invited colleagues Ann Arvin, vice provost and dean of research; David Kreps, senior associate dean for academic affairs and the Theodore J. Kreps Professor in the Graduate School of Business; David Lenox, university architect and director of campus planning; and Joseph Stagner, executive director of the Stanford Department of Sustainability and Energy Management, to join me in a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges in this area.
Highlights of the Past Year
There have been many notable events since the last Academic Council meeting in May 2007.
Last month, I had the pleasure of welcoming prospective freshmen to campus, and I think you will be impressed by the range of talents and interests among our incoming class. This year the Office of Admission received more applications than at any time in the university’s history: 25,298 students applied for the Class of 2012. Because the applicant pool was so large, our admit rate at less than 10 percent was the lowest in the university’s history. I recently learned that our yield would set a new record at roughly 72 percent, which will lead to some tight housing situations.
Among private universities, Stanford is a leader in enrolling a diverse student body. The incoming class is once again very diverse ethnically and geographically, and at the same time, roughly 18 percent of the incoming students will be the first in their families to attend a four-year college.
We are committed to attracting the best minds to Stanford. We understand that families face serious financial pressures, and we do not want any high school senior to rule out applying to Stanford because of cost. In a survey last year, it was clear that many low-income families still thought that Stanford was financially unreachable and that more and more middle-income families were feeling increasing financial stress in paying for college.
In February we announced a new financial aid policy that will enable more students to attend Stanford. Families with annual incomes of less than $100,000 will not be expected to contribute to tuition, and those who earn less than $60,000 will not be asked to contribute to tuition or room and board.
This is the third consecutive year we have enhanced our financial aid program. This year’s increase in financial aid is the most generous in the university’s history and makes our undergraduate aid program among the largest in the nation.
The excellence of our undergraduate program attracts outstanding students from around the world, and that is reflected in how well they do when they compete for prestigious fellowships. This year, for example, three Stanford students or recent alumni were named Rhodes Scholars and will attend the University of Oxford in the fall.
This past year also has been marked by recognition and achievement for our distinguished faculty:
This fall, the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore. Six Stanford researchers were among the scholars who contributed to major reports for the IPCC.
Gretchen Daily, professor of biology and senior fellow at the Woods Institute, was awarded the 2008 Sophie Prize for research that utilizes innovative economic approaches to determine the value of our ecosystems.
Daphne Koller, professor of computer science, has been selected to receive the first ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in computing science for pioneering work in artificial intelligence that utilizes both logic and probability.
W. E. Moerner, the Harry S. Mosher Professor in Chemistry, will share the 2008 Wolf Prize in Chemistry for his contributions in single molecule spectroscopy and electrochemistry.
Harold Mooney, the Paul S. and Billie Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology, has been recognized with three major awards this year for his pioneering research in ecology.
We also had two colleagues elected to the National Academy of Engineering, five to the National Academy of Sciences, seven to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and six to the American Philosophical Society. These are just a few of the many honors awarded to our faculty during this past year. In the long term the excellence of our university depends first and foremost on the excellence of our faculty, and the provost and I, together with the deans, are committed to continuing to build a strong and accomplished faculty.
Stanford continues to focus on increasing ethnic and gender diversity in our academic community. Last spring the provost announced that up to 10 new positions would be created for the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. In December, we launched a five-year Faculty Development Initiative to attract the most outstanding young scholars of ethnicity and race to Stanford. Al Camarillo, professor of history and the Miriam and Peter Haas Centennial Professor in Public Service, will lead the effort to identify and recruit new faculty.
We also announced several important appointments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, as the laboratory positions itself for the next phase of its scientific accomplishments:
Persis Drell, professor of physics, became the director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
Steven Kahn, professor of physics and astrophysics, became director of particle physics and astrophysics at SLAC.
William Madia, former director of two national laboratories, joined Stanford in January as vice president for SLAC, a new position created to strengthen coordination between SLAC, the university and the Department of Energy.
The Stanford Challenge
When Jane and Leland Stanford founded this university, they charged us with this mission:
To prepare students to become cultured and useful citizens; and
To “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.”
Over the past century, we have endeavored to live up that challenge. To address the responsibilities of a research university in this century, we launched The Stanford Challenge in October 2006. It represents an opportunity for the university to build capabilities that will contribute to the solution of the complex problems we face around the world, as well as revamp its educational offerings to better prepare our graduates for success in a complex, fast moving, global environment. The accompanying university-wide campaign provides support to hire faculty, enhance and strengthen both undergraduate and graduate financial aid programs, and build new facilities across the university that will support 21st-century research and teaching.
Last year, as you may recall, we discussed new approaches to graduate education at Stanford. This year the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education has launched two funds to encourage innovation. SCORE (Strengthening the Core) grants will be awarded for projects that propose new ways to examine and renovate long-standing educational practices. Graduate students who propose new activities to strengthen our intellectual community, especially ones that bring together students from different subfields and at different points in their development, can apply for Student Projects for Intellectual Community Enhancement (SPICE) grants. In addition, the first cohorts of two fellowship programs will be announced later this spring: 12 Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowships will be awarded to doctoral candidates focused on interdisciplinary research, and 12 DARE (Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence) Doctoral Fellows will be named.
Recently, we have seen increased volatility and decreases in federal funding, and our ability to support our graduate students, especially in the sciences and engineering, may be increasingly at risk. I have asked Vice Provost Patricia Gumport to explore this issue with an eye eventually to developing solutions beyond the existing programs. I have also asked the deans of the key schools to increase their focus on raising additional fellowship funds to ensure that we can support our graduate students in the long term.
The Stanford Challenge also includes an increased emphasis on the arts and developing a culture of creativity throughout the campus. Last year, our good friends Peter and Helen Bing announced their support of a new performing arts center. This fall, after a five-month review process, we selected the architects and acousticians to design the center’s 900-seat concert hall. When the hall is completed in the next few years Stanford will finally have a first-class musical performance venue—a mere 120 years after its opening.
As part of The Stanford Challenge, we are committed to improving the way our nation educates children in levels K-12. This year Stanford’s School of Education was selected by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to participate in a new program aimed at developing teachers for under-served areas. Through the Lenore Annenberg National Teaching Fellowship program, 25 fellows will complete the Stanford Teacher Education Program, and as part of the program, they will teach at least three years in secondary schools with high needs. We believe this program will help match our best students with schools that have the greatest challenges.
As we developed the Initiative on the Environment, we included as a research focus area the oceans and ocean resources. Earlier this year, with the support of $25 million from the Packard Foundation, Stanford partnered with two leading institutions, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, to establish the Center for Ocean Solutions. Through the center, scholars in biology, aquaculture, environmental law and other fields will collaborate to find effective ways to protect the world’s oceans.
The Bing Overseas Studies Program celebrated its 50th anniversary at Stanford earlier this month, and we continue to expand opportunities for students to learn outside the United States. This spring, for example, we are offering a program in Cape Town, South Africa, on post-apartheid community development and public health. And this summer, selected students will gain practical experience through internships in the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Our celebration of the anniversary was capped by an announcement that Peter and Helen Bing have decided to make an additional gift of $20 million to ensure that we can provide every interested student with a high-quality opportunity to study outside the United States.
Our alumni and friends have a deep interest in the work of this university. This year, faculty and deans from across the university joined me as we visited alumni and updated them on our new activities. We traveled to Seattle, San Diego, Hong Kong and Tokyo, where our “Leading Matters” discussions attracted record-breaking audiences. Over the next three years, we plan to hold these “Leading Matters” events in 13 other cities. It has been deeply gratifying to see the response and overwhelming support for our programs.
Our alumni and friends have responded generously to our appeals for support. Last year, Stanford received gifts from 69,350 alumni and friends, including almost 35 percent of our undergraduate alumni. Thanks to their incredible generosity—and the dedicated efforts of our development staff whose work supports the entire university—The Stanford Challenge has received pledges for over $3.5 billion since the start of the campaign.
Most gratifying is that support has been provided to all aspects of the campaign, including many of the smaller departments and school-specific areas. We have endowed dozens of chairs, dozens of undergraduate and graduate fellowships, and provided significant support to faculty research programs. Much of our fundraising effort for the past several years has focused on new facilities, ranging from the new business school campus to new buildings in engineering, to new educational facilities in the medical school.
Before we turn our attention primarily to the issue of facilities, I want to make it clear that we will need a strong focus on fundraising for faculty endowment as well as financial aid for graduate and undergraduate students. Competition for the very best faculty is more intense than ever, and retaining and empowering our faculty is critical to our future. Long-term threats to graduate student funding and the significant increases in undergraduate financial aid have led to larger needs for financial aid endowment. Our challenges will be to make clear to our alumni and friends the importance of increasing these key endowments.
Building a Campus for the Future
To support this wide range of new activities from the medical school to the arts to the business school, we will need to be innovative in our facilities as well as in our research and teaching. Our facilities must be more flexible and adaptable over time, while still meeting the demands of cutting-edge research, and they must be designed and built in a way that enhances our campus both aesthetically and environmentally.
In November, Joseph Stagner joined the Stanford community as our first executive director of sustainability and energy management. Joe is working on a campus plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I have asked him to join us in today’s panel discussion.
Throughout Stanford’s history, we have been shaped by a profound sense of place. During Gerhard Casper’s tenure, we began a process of returning to the original Olmsted plan for the campus, which relies on strong axes and quadrangles as the primary structural elements. With the completion of the new Science and Engineering Quadrangle, we will have taken a giant step toward developing the campus as it was envisioned more than 100 years ago. Through this process, we are discovering how to grow our capacity for research and teaching while preserving, and even enhancing, the quality and amount of open space as well as the physical beauty of our campus, which is one of the great bequests of our founders.
This winter we celebrated the opening of our newest “green” building, the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy building—fondly referred to as Y2E2. This facility, the first in the new Science and Engineering Quadrangle, is a home for environmental research at Stanford. It allows us to bring together researchers and faculty from across the university to collaborate on new and different kinds of research on issues ranging from global climate change to access to safe drinking water.
Y2E2 reflects the university’s strong sustainability guidelines, setting a new standard on campus for both low water and low energy use. In the process of designing and building Y2E2, we learned a great deal about sustainable building practices, and as a result, we have decided to bring the other new buildings in the science and engineering campus—the School of Engineering Center, the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the Bioengineering/Chemical Engineering Building—up to the same environmental standards.
In April we broke ground on the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge at the Stanford School of Medicine. Named after a longtime friend of the university and the medical school, the center will offer a new approach to medical education by featuring state-of-the-art technologies to train the next generation of physicians and translational researchers.
Stanford’s strong commitment to building a sustainable campus is reflected throughout our community. For example, the Graduate School of Business has become a pioneer among business schools with its innovative approach to sustainability. In October, BusinessWeek wrote: “Sustainability is not a vague pie in the sky concept for the students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business,” and cited its first-place ranking by the Aspen Institute, which ranks business schools on their social and environmental programs. The GSB’s new curriculum includes courses on environmental entrepreneurship, and many sustainability practices—from using biodegradable utensils to a composting system—have been incorporated into the GSB’s cafeteria operations.
Over the years, Residential and Dining Enterprises has partnered with students on a number of policies and practices to make responsible use of natural resources. From the use of biodegradable food containers and flatware to the appointment of a sustainable foods coordinator, Stanford Dining is helping to reduce our impact on our environment, while still meeting the need to serve about 20,000 meals each day. In recognition of their efforts, in June 2007 Stanford Dining was awarded the first Acterra Award for Sustainability.
Our residence halls also have an ambitious recycling program, and for the second year the Stanford community participated in RecycleMania, a nation-wide 10-week competition among colleges to reduce waste and increase recycling. This year, more than 400 colleges competed in several prize categories. Stanford placed first—beating Harvard—to win the Gorilla Prize by recycling more than 1.2 million pounds of materials.
These are just a few of the many ways—large and small—the Stanford community is working to find solutions to the problems that will challenge us, our children and our grandchildren. Through The Stanford Challenge we are educating leaders who will make wise decisions here and around the world. It is about transforming our university, about building a sustainable Stanford that can move into a new era and play a greater role in the world.
We are committed to fulfilling our historic responsibility to be a different sort of university, to demonstrate what a difference a great university can make. With your support—and the support of our alumni and friends—I have no doubt that we will succeed in this mission.
This afternoon, I have invited several colleagues involved in envisioning the needs of the university campus in the 21st century to join us.
Please join me in welcoming (in alphabetical order):
- Ann Arvin, vice provost and dean of research;
- David Kreps, senior associate dean for academic affairs and the Theodore J. Kreps Professor in the Graduate School of Business;
- David Lenox, university architect and director of campus planning; and
- Joseph Stagner, executive director of the Stanford Department of Sustainability and Energy Management.