Faculty Senate discusses Stanford’s role as a global university; student government leaders present goals for 2018-19

At the Faculty Senate meeting Thursday, university leaders discussed Stanford’s international efforts, while ASSU leaders outlined current priorities for student government.

To better prepare students for an increasingly globalized world and ensure that the university is purposefully engaging with global issues, Stanford is exploring ways to enhance and expand its international programs and initiatives, according to university leaders speaking at the Oct. 25 Faculty Senate meeting.

Following brief presentations on current international efforts, leaders from the Bing Overseas Study Program, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Stanford Global Studies, along with Martin Shell, vice president and chief external relations officer, discussed Stanford’s role as a global university and the future of the university’s international programs.

Also at the meeting, Shanta Katipamula and Rosie Nelson, executive leaders of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), gave a report on the organization’s goals and activities for academic year 2018-19. Among the student government’s areas of focus are diversity and inclusion, mental health and wellness, free speech, and affordability.

Stanford as a global university

Faculty Senate Chair Stephen Stedman opened the discussion of Stanford’s global efforts by acknowledging that international cooperation – key to solving major problems such as global warming and nuclear proliferation – has become increasingly challenging in recent years. He said the panel was convened to discuss how Stanford can continue to be at the forefront of efforts to foster global cooperation and how the university can better prepare students to work in the world.

Michael McFaul standing before the auditorium

Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, addressing the Faculty Senate on Thursday. (Image credit: Holly Hernandez)

Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, in outlining the institute’s three-pronged mission of research, teaching and policy impact, noted that FSI takes an interdisciplinary approach by integrating its work with all seven Stanford schools.

One way that FSI collaborates with the schools is by playing a convening role in addressing major global issues.

“We bring together economists and scientists to talk about climate change; we bring physicists and social scientists and ethicists together to talk about nuclear risk,” he said, giving some examples of how FSI works.

McFaul said that FSI continually looks at what it means to have an impact in the world and how to reinforce its research and teaching programs. Future plans call for creating a center in cyber policy and security, building on current initiatives and strengthening the program for a master’s degree in international policy.

In his presentation, Jeremy Weinstein, the Sakurako and William Fisher Family Director of the Stanford Global Studies, explored what it might take to make “global” a central feature of a Stanford education.

He said that although students’ interest in international studies and overseas experiences is present from the beginning of their Stanford education, many don’t take advantage of the opportunities. Some challenges include the shifting composition of the majors, declining enrollments in language courses and too few engineering and science students participating in international opportunities, he said.

“Global experiences are changing the lives of Stanford students,” Weinstein said. “But we have a long way to go if we want to ensure that our graduates are prepared for the world.”

Weinstein suggested that Stanford take an innovative approach to international offerings, including study abroad opportunities for all students, new approaches to language learning, first-year courses in global studies and a capstone experience that enables students to tackle global issues.

Shawna Knauff, associate vice provost and executive director of the Bing Overseas Study Program (BOSP), said that each year between 850 and 1,000 undergraduate students and more than 40 faculty participate in the program and more than 400 courses are offered.

“Study abroad is transformative. It’s life-changing and increases opportunities for students to develop the skills they need to thrive in and be successful in the increasingly complex global world in which we live,” she said.

In looking to the future, Knauff said that BOSP is exploring ways to increase participation by taking a more student-centric approach. She said some ideas include expanding overseas locations beyond brick-and-mortar centers, re-examining language requirements and offering international opportunities at different times throughout the year.

“We’re in an excellent position to play a leadership role as we think about the future of global education at Stanford and think about ways to create new and innovative educational opportunities for students overseas,” she said.

Martin Shell, vice president and chief external relations officer, gave an update on the presidential initiative on Purposeful Engagement with Our Region, Nation and World, part of Stanford’s long-range vision.

A discovery team is determining and cataloging current international efforts, identifying patterns of activities based on geography and areas of interest, and analyzing the current institutional support services and governance for global activities.

He also said that interest in Stanford and philanthropic activity have increased significantly in both Europe and Asia.

Shell said that Stanford, as the leading research institution on the Pacific Rim, has an opportunity to make a profound impact on the region and the world.

“Universities have now, more than ever, a unique convening power in the world – to bring disparate ideas and disparate perspectives together, to have conversations and to unpack challenging issues,” he said.

Student leaders report

Following a brief overview of the structure of the organization, ASSU Executive President Shanta Katipamula and Executive Vice President Rosie Nelson gave a report on the goals and areas of focus for the student government for academic year 2018-19, touching on diversity and inclusion, mental health and wellness, free speech, and affordability.

Nelson also noted that a particular focus for the year is engagement with the design teams within the long-range planning process.

Katipamula expressed the desire of the ASSU to form partnerships and make other connections with faculty and administrators to better support student issues.

“We want to make sure that the student voice is being captured in the decision-making process,” she said.

President’s report

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne reported that he had recently returned from the Association of American Universities (AAU) biannual presidents meeting in Washington, D.C., where one of the discussions focused on national security issues regarding research.

Recently, Congress and the National Institutes of Health have raised various concerns with universities, including potential compromise of academic research, protection of intellectual property and interference by foreign entities.

In response to these concerns, the AAU issued a statement from presidents and chancellors, part of which Tessier-Lavigne read:

“U.S. universities, the federal government and the private sector have a shared responsibility to ensure that our scientific enterprise and intellectual property are secure from foreign threats. Every year, thousands of the world’s best and brightest come to our nation to learn, teach, share, research, work and innovate. We must keep our doors open to all those who have contributed – and will contribute – to expanding our economy, upholding American idealism and improving our way of life.

“As we defend against security threats, we must preserve America’s values of openness, freedom of expression and the free exchange of scientific ideas. We are fully committed to protecting our nation and its interests and the core ideals on which it was founded.”

Tessier-Lavigne added, “We take these concerns very seriously and we have been working with the AAU and Congress to ensure that they are thoroughly addressed. … Here at Stanford we are continually taking steps to protect the integrity of our research and our infrastructure from intrusion.”

Dean of Research Kam Moler said that her office was prepared to offer support for Stanford researchers concerned about security and to provide guidance on working with the National Institutes of Health. She will be sending a message to the Stanford research community that will include links to relevant Stanford research policies.

Provost’s report

In her report, Provost Persis Drell drew attention to the recent announcement that Vice Provost for University Libraries and the University Press Michael A. Keller has taken on the additional role as vice provost for teaching and learning at Stanford. Physics Professor Sarah Church was named senior associate vice provost for teaching and learning. The Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (VPTL) supports campus-based learning and extended education.

The full minutes of the meeting, including the questions and answers that followed the presentations, will be available soon on the Faculty Senate website. The next senate meeting is scheduled for Nov. 8.