Immersive, enlightening – and sometimes unorthodox – courses help fulfill Stanford’s founding mission

In creating Stanford University, Leland Stanford and Jane Lathrop Stanford wanted students to gain a world-class education that expanded their minds, strengthened their morals and made them adept in practical skills. One way the Stanford community continues to uphold this guiding purpose more than 125 years later? By facilitating and taking part in immersive, enlightening – and sometimes unorthodox – courses.

Neuroscience through the lens of rock climbing

To bring neuroscience down to earth, two Stanford graduate students decided to teach it through rock climbing.

Bridging political divides

In a 2019 Sophomore College course, students traveled to Dallas, Texas, where they helped staff a landmark experiment that brought together more than 500 registered voters who represent the political, cultural and demographic diversity of America in one room.

Students explore oceanography and Steinbeck in Monterey

Students living at and visiting Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey examine the cross-disciplinary friendship and collaboration between author John Steinbeck and scientist Ed Ricketts.

Origins of dragons, trolls and witches

In a new class, called Medieval Fantasy Literature, students examined the origins of dragons, witches and other fantastical creatures by reading a series of ancient works.

Making physics more inclusive

Physics faculty and students are working together to make their department a more inclusive community through clubs, courses and events.

Move responsibly and think about things

In the course CS 181: Computers, Ethics and Public Policy, Stanford students become computer programmers, policymakers and philosophers to examine the ethical and social impacts of technological innovation.

Developing skills for humanities research

A new one-week course, called Humanities Research Intensive, teaches first- and second-year undergraduate students what research in the humanities could be and what skills are needed to do it.

Breakfast for dinner

Blueberry muffins, scrambled eggs and omelets are some of the dishes Stanford students are making at the Teaching Kitchen.

Stanford grad students develop award-winning app for USAF training

A suite of mobile learning tools created at Stanford, which recently won the top prize of $30,000 at a national security innovation competition, is capturing the attention of U.S. military officials.

Chemistry companion courses offer students extra help and a community

First generation or low-income students arrive to college chemistry courses at a disadvantage – lacking the honors or AP science courses that others take for granted. A companion course series helps ensure that no undergraduates taking chemistry are left behind.

Uncovering the lives of Chinese workers who built Stanford

In a new spring course, students are excavating the location of the former living quarters of Chinese workers who helped build Stanford.

New class brings marginalized voices to the forefront of environmental science

In response to student interest and advocacy, the new course highlights issues at the intersection of environmental science and social justice.

Understanding the science of art materials

Science informs art and vice versa in this class that aims to encourage students to look at art – and materials found elsewhere – with fresh eyes.

Can a Giant Company Behave Like a Startup?

Stanford GSB faculty reveal the art of engineering entrepreneurialism within existing organizations.

Stanford graduate students explore new fields during summer institute

The Stanford Graduate Summer Institute offers immersive, interdisciplinary, accelerated courses covering an array of topics, including energy research, sustainable agriculture, international negotiation and decision-making, and the academic job search.

Summer studies at Stanford give military veterans an academic boost

Stanford’s Veteran Accelerator program helps military veterans enrolled in community college programs to develop the academic, professional and personal skills needed to thrive at a four-year institution.

Community building by way of ballet and bhangra

Leaders from student dance groups are invited to co-teach a course on dance forms from around the globe.

Engineering design course reaches its 50th year

Over the last half-century, students in the ME310 course have produced hundreds of prototypes for cameras, makeup, cars and much more. Combined with international teams, they design and develop new products while learning from reality.

Students confront the messiness of data

The Stanford Data Challenge Lab class meets every day and requires nearly 100 homework assignments. But innovative instruction has students clamoring to take the class, which teaches professional-level data skills.

Art capstone course for science students

Projects in The Senior Reflection mix science with art. They have included documentaries, sculptures and performances and expressed students’ views on nature, health and personal experiences.

Students explore the complexities of creating energy

Students who joined the Sophomore College course Water and Power in the Pacific Northwest: The Columbia River traveled to the Columbia River valley to understand the interplay between water, energy and human populations.

Students cultivate positive connection with land through new course

In a new course at the Stanford Educational Farm, students develop a positive relationship with the land through organic gardening while addressing the history of forced farm labor in the U.S. and its enduring, traumatic effects on communities of color.

Stanford students craft big life lessons in books for little kids

A Stanford course groups undergraduate students with local first-graders to create picture books intended to help children better understand personal or social problems.

Launching the 25th generation of a cutting-edge global teamwork class

The AEC Global Teamwork course brings together students from around the world to produce advanced building projects while working remotely.

Students design small tools to tackle big scientific challenges

Tiny devices could help scientists study coral bleaching, parasites, molecular biology and more, but few scientists know how to use them. A new course aimed to change that by pairing students with labs looking for help.

New course examines humanities’ ‘dangerous’ ideas

Equality, evil, progress and tradition were some of the big concepts Stanford faculty, including philosophy Professor Debra Satz, examined in Dangerous Ideas, a new humanities course.

Stanford students replicate museum objects from the Cantor Arts Center

Stanford physics and history students explore how hands-on investigations can provide insights into the past in an art and science learning lab.

New course tackles designing for people with disabilities

A new course teaches undergraduates how to design for people with physical disabilities. Each week, students learn about a different disability, then brainstorm design ideas to address issues and present their work to the class.

Students recreate medieval feasts in new course

As part of a new humanities course, undergraduate students replicate the recipes and the ambience of ancient feasts in order to learn about how people lived in the Middle Ages.

Hands-on approach to archival research earns praise

Stanford students who experience a new archives-centric teaching approach stress the importance of exposure to primary historical materials for students of all disciplines.  

Robo pingpong: Stanford students design, ‘teach’ robots to play

After learning new software and programming languages, Stanford students in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have an opportunity to choose a creative task and design a robot to perform the task for demonstration.

Learning through doing in Alaska

A powerful, immersive course at the edge of wilderness helps Stanford students understand the connections between humans, nature and sustainability.

Stanford humanities students cook up Julia Child’s recipes, study history

Kristen Haring takes her American studies class into a "teaching kitchen" to study the famed chef's impact on American culture.

Stanford musicologist brings the 15th century to life

Stanford’s Jesse Rodin reanimates musical experiences of the distant past through performance.

Stanford in New York program adds quarter focused on theme of media and finance

Stanford is gradually expanding Stanford in New York, a three-year pilot program, to encompass an entire academic year, with each quarter focused on some of New York City’s strengths: arts, architecture, design and urban studies; media and finance; the global city.

Students recreate 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe

Stanford students brewed an ancient beer during class with Stanford archaeologist Li Liu, who discovered evidence of earliest beer-making in China as part of her recent research.

Stanford art students get lesson on the evolution of anatomy illustration

Historical curator Drew Bourn of Lane Medical Library recently reveals how a 16th-century anatomy book revolutionized medical education.

Making Stanford’s Roble Hall sustainable for its second century

The historic Roble Hall houses a multifaceted program that focuses on hard questions, like how to get 300 students engaged daily and deeply with sustainability.

New Stanford class targets U.S. national security problems with Silicon Valley-style innovation

Student teams at Stanford use "lean launch pad" startup methodology to innovate at speed and find technological solutions for critical challenges facing America’s defense and intelligence agencies.

Injection molding class teaches valuable lessons in mass production

In an advanced design and manufacturing class at the Product Realization Lab, students push themselves to make plastic parts that look deceptively simple.