Trustees welcome new president, talk about programs for student well-being and campus energy innovations, and approve building projects

At its Oct. 17-18 meeting, the Stanford University Board of Trustees welcomed President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and his wife, Mary Hynes, and heard presentations on student mental health and well-being, and on energy research and the Stanford Energy System Innovations project. Trustees approved building projects and honored longtime trustee Isaac Stein.

At its Oct. 17-18 meeting, the Stanford University Board of Trustees welcomed Stanford’s 11th president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, and heard presentations on programs that support student mental health and well-being, including initiatives on sexual assault prevention and education and support services for students affected by sexual violence.

The Board of Trustees held an informal dinner welcoming Tessier-Lavigne and his wife, Mary Hynes, a neuroscientist who has joined Stanford’s Biology Department as an acting associate professor.

Steven A. Denning, chair of the Board of Trustees, said trustees were impressed with how much Tessier-Lavigne has learned about Stanford since his arrival.

portrait of Steve Denning in quad arcade

Steve Denning, chair of the Board of Trustees (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“He wants to learn what makes Stanford so special and compelling and what makes our ecosystem so extraordinary – all in the context of wanting to make Stanford a better university and more impactful around the world, and not letting hubris or arrogance seep into the equation here,” Denning said. “He’s off to a terrific start.”

Denning described Tessier-Lavigne as forthright and earnest, and enthusiastic and excited about leading Stanford. He said Tessier-Lavigne is committed to listening to and learning from faculty, students, staff and the extended Stanford community during his first few months on campus. Reunion Homecoming, which opens today, offers a great opportunity for him to spend time with alumni, Denning said.

The meeting was the first for Tessier-Lavigne since he took office Sept. 1. His inauguration ceremony will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Friday at Frost Amphitheater.

Student mental health

Denning said the “prime position” of the student mental health and well-being briefing on the first day’s agenda indicated the vital importance of the issue to trustees and to the university.

Trustees heard presentations regarding campus initiatives on student mental health and well-being, including sexual assault prevention and education, and support services for students affected by sexual violence.

The presenters were James Jacobs, the new executive director of Vaden Health Center; Laura Roberts, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences at the School of Medicine; and Lauren Schoenthaler, senior associate vice provost for institutional equity and access, a new position responsible for campus-wide coordination of equity and access programs, including Title IX and sexual violence prevention programs.

Denning said Stanford students are benefiting from the highly collaborative approach of Vaden Health Center and the Stanford School of Medicine, which have applied their collective expertise to creating such initiatives as the Confidential Support Team, which offers a safe, confidential place for students to get help if they have been impacted by sexual assault or relationship violence.

Denning noted that Stanford has added $2.7 million of new and expanded programs to the university budget this year to tackle sexual violence. The funding supports an expansion of educational programs, new support services for victims of sexual assault and a state-of-the-art process for adjudicating allegations of sexual violence, among other things.

He recommended that the Stanford community read the September Q&A in which Schoenthaler shared her perspective on the subject of sexual violence at Stanford.

Energy innovations

During the meeting, trustees heard about cutting-edge energy research at Stanford and toured the new Central Energy Facility, which is part of the Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) project.

Presentations were given by Ann Arvin, vice provost and dean of research; Sally Benson, a professor of energy resources engineering and executive director of Stanford’s Global Climate & Energy Project; and Arun Majumdar, a professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

Denning said trustees heard about a variety of projects, including research focused on improving the efficiency of batteries and of the solar voltaic process, as well as very early stage research on creating synthetic fuels through artificial photosynthesis.

“Precourt is doing a fantastic array of research not only focused on technical issues, but also on behavior, pricing and business models,” he said. “Precourt is working with all seven schools, the Hoover Institution and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.”

Denning noted that Precourt researchers are working on projects designed to modernize the electrical grid in the United States and worldwide, and on projects designed to use natural gas more efficiently and effectively.

Trustees toured the Central Energy Facility, which has won several design awards.

“It’s an unbelievable facility – beautiful, functional and well-designed for future expansion and weather variability,” Denning said.

The facility is part of the SESI project, which has made Stanford one of the most energy-efficient universities in the world.

“Students should be very proud of the fact that Stanford is a global leader in reducing greenhouse gases on campus,” Denning said.

Building projects

Trustees approved a project to expand the facilities of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S), which is located on Oak Road on the west side of campus. The goal of the project is to create more space for the department’s programs and personnel on its existing site, using a combination of renovation and new construction.

Under the proposed project, Stanford will build a two-story facility to support administration, collaboration and training, as well as an expanded Occupational Health Clinic. In addition, a small portion of the existing building will be renovated to provide more space for fire-alarm technicians. The new building and renovation accommodates the current program and the department’s needs for the next decade. The EH&S project is expected to return to the Board of Trustees for design approval in February 2017.

Trustees approved a new building to support the Athletic Academic Resource Center, which has outgrown its current home in the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center, the ergonomic rowing center and other programs of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation. Academic advisors – full-time, professional staff within Undergraduate Advising and Research – housed in the Athletic Academic Resource Center are the primary advisors for varsity student-athletes.

The project calls for a building with a basement and two upper floors that will be located on the east side of Ford Plaza along Arguello Way.

The ergonomic rowing center, which is currently located in the hallway of the Ford Center, will be housed in the basement. The first floor will provide administrative space for the Physical Education and Recreation Program, coaches’ offices for rowing and squash and program space for the BeWell@Stanford Program. The second floor will house the academic resource center, including open study space, offices for academic counseling and a computer center. The project is expected to return to the Board of Trustees for design approval in February 2017.

Trustees also approved the construction of a new childcare facility on Escondido Road that will replace the existing Children’s Center of the Stanford Community and the two small buildings that house the Rainbow School and Peppertree After School Program.

The two new permanent buildings will serve up to 224 preschool children and their families, an increase of 50 children above the current programs. The project is expected to return to trustees for design approval in December.

In addition, trustees also gave concept and site approval to the new BioMedical Innovations Building for the Stanford School of Medicine. The building will be located along Pasteur Drive and will have a basement and four above-grade floors of research labs and other support facilities. It will be connected to nearby research facilities, including the Lokey Stem Cell Research Building, via a tunnel.

The building is the first in a series that will replace several outdated and inefficient laboratory research spaces with state-of-the art research facilities. The building is expected to return to trustees for design approval in December.

Finally, trustees gave partial construction approval to the research center that will house Stanford Chemistry, Engineering & Medicine for Human Health (ChEM-H) and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. The building is scheduled for completion in October 2018.

ChEM-H will bring together chemists, biologist, engineers and clinicians to advance understanding of life at a chemical level and to apply this knowledge to improving human health. The Stanford Neurosciences Institute will catalyze interdisciplinary collaborations at the boundaries of neuroscience and a broad array of disciplines, including engineering and the quantitative sciences, chemical and molecular biology, and the social sciences and professional schools. A central part of the institute’s mission will be dialogue with clinicians, lawyers, educators and ethicists.

Trustees honor Isaac Stein

The board also held a dinner and program honoring Isaac Stein, who has served two 10-year terms and most recently led the presidential search committee.

Denning described Stein, who just completed his second term as trustee, as a remarkable individual.

Denning noted that Stein has served in many positions at Stanford, including chair of the Board of Trustees and convening co-chair of The Stanford Challenge. He has served on boards and committees for the Law School, the School of Humanities and Sciences, the Graduate School of Business, Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Denning also noted that Stein served on the 1999 search committee that chose John Hennessy as Stanford’s 10th president and as chair of the presidential search committee that chose Tessier-Lavigne.

“Isaac is a one-of-a-kind individual,” Denning said. “He is extremely thorough and thoughtful. He has served as a mentor and a coach to many. He is respected for his insights, his wise counsel and his wisdom. There are few trustees who have his depth and breadth of involvement at the university and his depth and breadth of understanding about Stanford.”