Stanford president and provost chart a vision for Stanford’s future

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell met with the community to answer questions about long-range planning and other issues.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell provided some details and responded to questions about the new vision for Stanford’s future at a campus community meeting on Wednesday.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne provided details about the new vision for Stanford’s future during a campus community meeting. (Image credit: Holly Hernandez)

The vision, presented to the Academic Council two weeks ago, is grounded in the university’s fundamental values and includes a range of initiatives to advance the university’s teaching and research mission and to support the campus community.

“It’s a high-level vision; it sets priorities. Now we have to take those priorities and turn them into specific plans,” said Tessier-Lavigne.

The hour-long meeting in the Koret-Taube Conference Center in the Gunn-SIEPR Building drew approximately 100 staff, faculty and students.

Tessier-Lavigne began the meeting by giving a brief overview of the long-range planning process and the vision that emerged from the year-long effort. He outlined both broad and specific initiatives in the areas of research, education and community, including three presidential initiatives that address ethics, society and technology; engagement with the region, nation and the world; and Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Community (IDEAL).


Drell then discussed next steps in the process, which include the appointment of design teams to develop specific plans over the 2018-19 academic year. She said the teams will be formed over the summer and that participation will vary based on subject area, adding that one of the jobs of the design teams will be recommending how to measure the effectiveness of the initiatives.

Affordability a key issue

The president and provost answered several questions related to the high cost of living in the Bay Area. Calling affordability “an existential threat” to the Stanford community, Tessier-Lavigne noted that the vision calls for the creation of an Affordability Task Force. This group will be charged with proposing solutions the university can implement to address the financial challenges facing members of the campus community, particularly in the areas of housing, transportation, benefits and childcare.

Meanwhile, Drell cited some near-term strategies to address affordability that will be funded in the 2018-19 budget, including increasing undergraduate financial aid, boosting the salaries of postdoctoral scholars, expanding graduate housing at Escondido Village, implementing an enhanced staff salary program, and extending additional financial assistance for graduate student parents.

Drell said the affordability issue affects all members of the Stanford community and that the task force will look at the needs of all groups. She said “the solutions will vary widely” among different groups based on their needs.

Provost Persis Drell

Provost Persis Drell spoke at an hour-long meeting in the Koret-Taube Conference Center that drew approximately 100 staff, faculty and students. (Image credit: Holly Hernandez)

“The faculty we bring to this university are the absolute best in their fields in the world. And they go through an incredible process to get tenure. They are the lifeblood of this university. To get the very best [faculty] to Stanford requires a different level of benefit structure,” Drell said.

At the same time, she said, “If we can’t hire and retain outstanding staff, we will not, in the long run, be an outstanding institution.”

There were also a few questions about the development of new undergraduate majors. Tessier-Lavigne noted that the faculty senate decides curricular issues, including approval of new majors, and said the senate already has been engaged in a process looking at this issue. He said that today’s students need an education with both depth and breadth, stressing the increasing importance of a broad education given rapid change in the workplace.

“We will not be serving our students well if we didn’t prepare them for change and the ability to adapt to a constantly changing world,” he said.

Other topics the president and the provost discussed during the question-and-answer session included advancing sustainability, diversifying the professoriate, and improving the efficiency of the interface between the university and industry in order to get research breakthroughs out into the broader world.

Tessier-Lavigne expressed his enthusiasm for the level of involvement of the campus community in the long-range planning process and the development of the vision.

“I’m very excited by how our community came together and poured its heart and soul into thinking about the future of Stanford and how we can be the best university to magnify our impact on the world,” he said.