Stanford trustees visit Google, approve new undergraduate and graduate housing

During its Dec. 9-10 meeting, the Stanford University Board of Trustees visited Google, heard presentations about the Stanford School of Engineering and about neuroscience research on campus, and approved construction projects, including a residential complex for the Graduate School of Business and a new undergraduate residence hall.

L.A. Cicero Old Chemistry building

Stanford trustees at their December meeting gave design approval to renovate and transform the Old Chemistry Building into the undergraduate Science Teaching and Learning Center.

The Stanford University Board of Trustees recently visited Google Inc., where they heard a panel discussion with senior executives, listened to a "fireside chat" between President John Hennessy and company co-founder Larry Page, and rode in Google's experimental driverless cars.

During the field trip, which took place during the board's Dec. 9-10 meeting, the trustees also met with Google co-founder Sergey Brin and tried out Google Glass, an experimental device worn like eyeglasses that communicates with the Internet and displays information and images on an optical head-mounted display.

Speaking after the two-day meeting, Steven A. Denning, chair of the Board of Trustees, said he sees parallels between Stanford and Google. Denning noted that the university – through its schools, departments and institutes – and the company both pursue "big ideas" that could have a significant impact on the world.

During the meeting, trustees heard a presentation on the past, present and future of the Stanford School of Engineering by James D. Plummer, the school's dean, who recently announced plans to step down in 2014.

Plummer, who became dean in September 1999, will have served 15 years when he leaves the post – longer than any of his predecessors as engineering dean. He plans to take a year's sabbatical, then expects to return to research and teaching in the Electrical Engineering Department.

Trustees also heard a presentation about brain research on campus by William T. Newsome, a professor of neurobiology and director of the new Stanford Neurosciences Institute. He also is the co-leader of the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a $100 million research effort by the National Institutes of Health – announced by President Obama last April – aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain.

Speaking to trustees, Newsome said neuroscience is the transformative science of the 21st century. He said that new technologies and conceptual frameworks are revolutionizing neuroscience research and that Stanford is operating from a position of strength in the field, with more than 100 neuroscientists engaged in brain research in the schools of Medicine, Engineering, Humanities and Sciences, Law, Business and Education.

Describing neuroscience as "positive science for individual people, families and society," Newsome said that breakthroughs in the field could lead to a variety of benefits: to making real progress treating devastating brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's; to creating brain-machine interfaces that could improve life for people who have been paralyzed or are visually impaired; to enhancing learning and memory; and to developing new teaching methods for children based on insights into brain development and learning styles.

New housing for first-year MBA students

Trustees gave concept and site approval – the first two steps in the approval process – for a new residential complex for the Graduate School of Business (GSB). The complex will be located on Serra Street between Encina Hall and the Schwab Residential Center, across the street from the Knight Management Center.

Each unit in the new complex will have two bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, and a shared kitchen. Preliminary plans call for several three- to four-story buildings arranged around courtyards. The complex will provide a variety of common spaces, including study rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, courtyards and terraces. The project includes a large multipurpose pavilion to be located next to Vidalakis Dining Hall.

Together with the Schwab Residential Center, which has 240 one-bedroom studios with shared kitchens, the new complex will accommodate all first-year, single MBA students and offer additional housing for GSB executive education programs. All told, the two complexes will provide 480 units.

The project is expected to return to trustees for design approval in April 2014.

Construction approvals for 'Old Chem,' office building and dorm

Trustees gave design approval – the third step in the approval process – to plans to renovate the Old Chemistry Building and transform it into the Science Teaching and Learning Center devoted to undergraduate science education.

"The renovation will bring the building into the 21st century with cutting-edge classrooms and laboratories that students will really appreciate," Denning said.

The seismic upgrade of the 110-year-old building will require the demolition – and partial reconstruction – of the existing interior structure to meet current codes and to create new classrooms and laboratories. The design will incorporate some of the building's key historic features, including its cast-iron stairs and wood wainscot and trim.

The project includes construction of a one-story, partially underground addition on the west side of the building that will house a 300-seat auditorium and 126-seat lecture hall. An events terrace will be located on the roof of the one-story building.

The center will house a new library that will combine the existing biology, chemistry and mathematics libraries.

The four-story building, which faces the Oval at the end of Palm Drive, will be a key component of Stanford's long-range vision to create a Biology/Chemistry District along the formal entrance to campus.

The project is expected to return to trustees for construction approval in June 2014.

Trustees also gave design approval to the Panama Mall Office Building, which will be located on a narrow, L-shaped vacant site at the corner of Panama Mall and Lomita Mall.

Preliminary plans call for a building with two wings that will share a main entrance, lobby and common areas. To blend in with its surroundings and nearby buildings, the building will have a three-story wing along Lomita Mall that will be clad in glass-fiber reinforced concrete, and a two-story wing along Panama Mall clad in stucco.

The building would provide offices and conference rooms for several university groups, including the Dean of Research, Business Affairs, Registrar's Office and Residential & Dining Enterprises – Housing Assignment. The project also includes office space for the Vice Provost for Online Learning and production studios for Stanford Online.

The project is expected to return to trustees for construction approval in April 2014.

Finally, trustees gave construction approval to a new residence hall in Manzanita Park, the first undergraduate dorm to be built on campus in 20 years.

The new three-story Manzanita Dorm will provide beds for 125 students.

Currently, Manzanita Park has three residences – Kimball, Castaño and Lantana Halls – that house about 425 undergraduate students. The complex is located on the east side of campus near the Schwab Residential Center.

The budget for the project has increased to $23.7 million from $23.4 million, due to programmatic changes initiated by the Office of Residential Education, which include expanding the basement and creating open, interactive/gathering spaces in the basement and on the first and second floors.

The new residence hall also will include two studios for guests/visiting scholars, one studio for a graduate-student-in-residence and an apartment for a resident fellow.

It is expected to open in the spring of 2015.