Daughters and sons visit campus for annual workplace event

L.A. Cicero Cub reporters

Clockwise from left: Tatiana Stinchi, Alyssa Rivera, Christina Winn, Marisa Hardwicke, Kayla Winters, Diana Liu, Vera Czernichowska and Zoe Davis participated in “Extra, Extra! Create a Newspaper” at the News Service April 28.

Eleven-year-old Samantha Parker may have had a day off from classes at Roy Cloud Elementary School to attend Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work day, but shortly after she stepped onto campus Thursday, she was being treated like a sophomore at Stanford.

That included a challenge posed by Melanie Yelton, a lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, to decide which life form would be best to study cell development. Samantha and 17 other children examined increasingly sophisticated live organisms—first worms, then flies, sea urchins and, ultimately, fish—as part of the department's Biologist for a Day workshop.

"Actually, I liked watching the little worms," said Samantha, whose mother works for the university's Bio-X initiative. "I'm really interested in all this stuff because when I grow up I want to be a veterinarian."

It's just what event organizers wanted to hear. Sponsored by the WorkLife Office and Human Resources, Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work at Stanford gives faculty and staff the opportunity to invite their kids onto campus to explore interesting career fields, learn about various research projects at the university and see where mom or dad works. This year's event, themed "Power in Possibilities," featured 25 workshops, was open to children from 10 to 15 years old.

The university has hosted the event seven times and brought back popular workshops such as Junior Iron Chef, Working in College Athletics and Extra, Extra! Create a Newspaper (where participants put together a mock issue of the Stanford Report on deadline). New this year were workshops put on by Stanford's fire marshal, the Gravity Probe B program and Biological Sciences.

Students, staff and researchers also got into the act with Yelton, who gave the kids plush mice and frogs—common lab animals—on keychains at the end of her whirlwind workshop. There was no consensus among participants as to whether worms or fish would be the best to dissect, but one boy asked if he could cut up his new toy.

"You can dissect them," Yelton said. "But remember, you have to fill out a lot of papers so you can get all the approvals before you dissect any vertebrate."

The day began at Dinkelspiel Auditorium, where hundreds of children and their parents listened to an on-stage conversation with Provost John Etchemendy and his son, Max, as well as Jenna Wachtel, daughter of Jeff Wachtel, senior assistant to President John Hennessy and secretary to the university Board of Trustees. Her father was present as well.

Max and Jenna are both undergraduates at Stanford, but they and their parents acknowledged that encounters on campus are limited. Wachtel said he is just giving his daughter, an English major, the space and privacy essential for students during their college years—although he admitted to sending lengthy e-mails early on to try and stay in touch.

Max said he and his dad occasionally cross paths on campus, but added that encounters are more regular at night: The father and son spoke fondly of catching the cable-television cartoon "South Park" every week. In another sense, however, Max is following directly in dad's footsteps by majoring in symbolic systems and philosophy—both of which are his father's fortes.

"Symbolic systems, I guess it's a good major," said Max, whose father acknowledged the ribbing with a smile. "It was kind of a no-brainer."

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day at Stanford also included a parenting seminar by School of Education Dean Deborah Stipek, who discussed how parents could help their children enjoy school and learning despite society's competitive, exam-oriented culture.