Stanford moves forward with vision for the future

Leadership appointed for 19 university teams to develop initiatives in the areas of values, research, education and community.  

As the fall quarter gets under way, Stanford’s long-range planning process is moving from a high-level vision into tactical planning and implementation.

Since May of this year, when President Marc Tessier-Lavigne presented A Vision for Stanford: Navigating a Dynamic Future, Stanford’s Executive Cabinet has been working with faculty and administrators to refine the initiatives in the areas of mission and values, research, education and community.

The Our Vision website has been updated to list all 19 teams, including the leadership and goals for the initiatives.

The bulk of the work this summer was devoted to creating a structure to facilitate the design of implementation plans for each of the initiatives. This structure consists of design and discovery teams and task forces, led by faculty and staff co-chairs, that are tailored in size, level of participation and approach depending on the objective of each initiative.

Some initiatives have design teams to develop implementation recommendations, while others initially have discovery teams to catalog efforts currently taking place on campus before moving into design work. Some initiatives will be deferred pending completion of work on related initiatives.

Complex issues, such as undergraduate education, will have more than one design team. Initiatives in that area will look at several aspects of undergrad life, including housing, the first-year experience and advising.

The work of the teams will include conducting outreach for stakeholder advice and making recommendations regarding specific operational goals, timing of implementation and measures of accomplishment. The teams will have varying deadlines to complete their planning during the current academic year, depending on the scope of their work.

Tessier-Lavigne said that the goal is to present a final strategy to the Board of Trustees and then to the university community in May 2019.

“I’m excited to see the plans start to take shape and move forward. I’ve been inspired by the level of participation of the many community members who continue to step up to help guide Stanford’s future. Our ultimate goal is to create a future that is as dynamic as our past and our present,” he said.

The deans of the seven schools appointed the co-chairs and will oversee the initiatives. In addition, Megan Pierson, the president’s chief of staff, will provide general oversight and coordination of the project. Design team membership is determined by the deans in consultation with the co-chairs.

There will continue to be ways for the campus community to be engaged in the long-range vision effort, including surveys, focus groups, outreach sessions and advisory groups. Those wishing to be involved may indicate their interest or provide feedback by sending an email to

Most of the teams will begin their work during fall quarter. However, some teams, such as IDEAL, ResX and the Affordability Task Force have already started working.

Supporting the foundation

To strengthen the resources and facilities for research at Stanford, two initiatives – Flexible  Resources and Platforms and Services – have been established under the rubric of Supporting the Foundation. Within Platforms and Services, four design teams have been formed in the areas of Imaging, Nano Facilities, Making and Computing & Data Services.

Vice Provost and Dean of Research Kam Moler is excited about these initiatives, which aim to address the changing nature of how research is conducted and empower the entire research community – students, faculty and post-doctoral scholars – to do their best work.

“Modern research is driven by the desire to gain a deeper understanding coupled with the desire to have real impact in the world,” said Moler.

She noted that, in the last decade, conditions in research have changed. For example, changes in federal funding have made it more difficult to do early-stage or “risky” projects, including projects that may lead to new funding and new areas of research. In addition, state-of-the-art equipment has become increasingly complex and expensive and many of the problems researchers are tackling require large, interdisciplinary teams.

“For hundreds of years, the library has been the most important shared resource on a university campus – and it still is. Individual scholars have had their own office bookshelves with their most frequently referenced books close at hand, but for their research, they have relied on institutional libraries, which are able to assemble a range and depth of resources, including expert staff, that far exceed what any single scholar can afford or house,” said Moler.

“We have reached a point in the evolution of knowledge and the nature of research where we need to create new shared resources on the model of the library. Researchers have their own versions of a bookshelf – their experimental labs and computational facilities. It’s time to think about how to create a broad and flexible shared research environment where students and faculty have access to the equipment, facilities, and expertise they need to pursue their research and scholarship.”


Launched last spring, ResX is focused on improving the undergraduate residential experience. The task force, co-chaired by Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole and Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam, is charged with developing the overarching vision and goals for the entire undergraduate residential experience.

Housing configurations, staffing structures, housing assignment processes, community-building experiences and the relationship between classroom and out-of-class learning are some of the aspects of this issue that the task force is examining.

To support this effort, members of ResX – faculty, students, alumni and senior administrators – have been meeting with various stakeholders in person and through online town halls. In addition, some task force members visited peer institutions to gain a better understanding of the current landscape in residential education. The ResX task force has also reviewed relevant scholarship and analyzed previous data collected from the Stanford community.

The work of the task force will culminate in the presentation of the vision and specific recommendations to the provost by the end of fall quarter, with an eye to begin acting on those recommendations as soon as next summer.

Brubaker-Cole acknowledged that while many students find a vibrant community and have transformative educational experiences in their undergraduate dorms, the university needs to do more to ensure such experiences for all students.

“To realize the potential of the residential experience at Stanford, we must be as deliberate about what we want our students to learn and experience in the residences as we are in the classroom. We must also be more intentional in creating the kinds of communities and living spaces that will foster a deep sense of inclusion and belonging for students across their time at Stanford through the four years that our students live together on campus,” she said.


Provost Persis Drell is overseeing the presidential initiative IDEAL – Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in a Learning Environment. The goal for this initiative is to support diversity at Stanford, broadly defined, as well as a culture of inclusion and engagement that infuses all aspects of the university – from undergraduate enrollment and faculty and staff hiring to modes of instruction and resources that support the open exchange of diverse opinions.

In her welcoming remarks last week to the IDEAL task force members, Drell said the initiative was about the future of Stanford.

“The future is diverse, and IDEAL is about helping to ensure that the institution continues to attract the best students, staff and faculty and to successfully support a culture where diverse viewpoints can be included and engaged, celebrated, encouraged and learned from. We do not want to be an institution that only hears or recognizes one perspective,” she said.

She noted that in the last decade, the university has set broad policies, created programs, funded initiatives and sponsored events focused on diversity and inclusion. In addition, many programs and initiatives addressing this issue have been implemented on the school and program level. The IDEAL task force will catalogue and assess these efforts, determining gaps in resources, sharing best practices, develop a plan to move forward and then execute on that plan.

Funding for some aspects of IDEAL was included in 2018-19 budget, including additional support for community centers and the expansion of the Faculty Incentive Fund. Drell said that beginning in this academic year, the appointment of a faculty member who brings much-needed diversity – broadly defined – may entitle a school to a full incremental billet that is fully centrally funded.

Drell said that IDEAL is essential to accomplish Stanford’s mission of outstanding research and education and expressed her optimism for the initiative. “If we get this right, particularly the focus on inclusion, we’re making Stanford better for everyone,” she said.

Affordability Task Force

The Affordability Task Force, chaired by Elizabeth Zacharias, vice president for human resources, held its first meeting last week.

“Affordability is a complex issue that needs to be examined and addressed from multiple perspectives,” she said.

To that end, the design team has been organized into stakeholder groups for faculty, staff, academic staff, graduate students and post-doctoral scholars. The groups are looking at four main factors affecting their stakeholders: housing, transportation, child care and benefits.

Zacharias said that the design team will draw upon previous experience and research, including the long-range planning white papers and the large body of work that was done on child care, and will determine what additional research needs to be conducted in order to develop a set of recommendations by spring 2019.

“Throughout the long-range planning process, people have been excited to have an opportunity to help shape the university’s future. As chair of the Affordability Task Force, I’m pleased that so many members of our community are committed to helping with such a difficult and multifaceted issue,” she said.

More information

Updates on the work of the design teams will be provided periodically in Stanford Report and on the Our Vision website. For more information on Stanford’s long-range planning efforts, including a complete list of all the initiatives and design teams, visit Our Vision: Navigating a Dynamic Future.