A break to remember: Stanford faculty reminisce about their college summers

Stanford faculty members look back at the memorable experiences from their college summers that helped shape who they are today.

With many students working, interning and traveling this summer, Stanford News Service asked faculty to reflect on what they did during summer breaks from college.

Their stories were as varied as their academic disciplines.

Whether it was working the night shift at a warehouse, cleaning bed sheets at a nursing home, interning for a major news network, Congress member or public defender, working at a hotel in Japan or jumping from an airplane – the summer experiences faculty had as students provided some unexpected and valuable life lessons.

They learned how feeling nervous can be helpful and sometimes necessary. They saw that failure may offer more learning potential than success. They discovered that the path to one’s career isn’t always direct, and that a “dream job” might not be the right fit, after all. They found that defying norms and expectations can lead to profound, personal transformations.

For some faculty, even ordinary jobs led to extraordinary experiences that changed how they viewed the world, inspiring questions about social justice, democracy, artificial intelligence and gender equality – topics that became the foundation of their research and academic career.

From summers in 1963 to as recent as 2007, here are some of their stories.

Audrey Shafer

Professor of anesthesiology

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Wah Chiu

Wah Chiu

Professor of bioengineering

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Kathryn Olivarius

Assistant professor of history

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I wanted to do something with my career where I could, at the end of the day, come home, look myself in the mirror and say that I took a tiny, little step to make the world a better place.”


Karl Eikenberry

Director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative, Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center

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Amy Zegart

Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution

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David Kennedy

Professor emeritus of history

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Seeing the lab for the first time, I think it was amazing to me that this was a place where people worked. That summer was filled with some disbelief that this was actually people’s jobs.”


James Hamilton

Professor of communication

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Estelle Freedman

Professor of history

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Dan Edelstein

Professor of French

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Mary Hawn

Professor of surgery

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In the summer of 1969, I thought just getting a regular job somewhere or going on vacation was not sufficient to address the pressing issues of the time.”


Emanuele Lugli

Assistant professor of art & art history

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Matthew Jackson

Professor of economics

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Zachary Manchester

Assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics

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