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October 10, 2006

The Stanford Challenge Fact Sheet

Three key components of The Stanford Challenge

Seeking Solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems through potentially transformative new multidisciplinary research. Three initiatives are at the center our efforts: the Initiative on Human Health, the Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability, and the International Initiative.

Educating Leaders through groundbreaking academic and extracurricular programs for students designed to better prepare them to undertake their increasingly demanding roles in society. The four focal efforts are Improving K-12 Education, Engaging the Arts and Creativity, Reinventing Graduate Education, and Extending the Renaissance in Undergraduate Education.

Sustaining a Foundation of Excellence through strengthening core support for faculty and students and increasing annual giving across the university.

Major initiatives of The Stanford Challenge:

The Initiative on Human Health ($500 million)

The initiative draws from our distinctive resources—a top-flight medical school and hospitals, and strong disciplines—to comprise five programs: Bio-X, the Department of Bioengineering, the Stanford Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, and the Neuroscience Institute. Each employs a highly multidisciplinary approach, focusing on “translational research” that speeds the conversion of fundamental discoveries into new approaches for diagnosing and treating human disease, and promising potentially revolutionary breakthroughs in human health.

The Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability ($250 million)

We must find new ways to create energy, supply communities around the world with fresh water, address growth with adequate living and farming space, and protect the oceans so vital to human society and earth ecology. Rising to these challenges will require sophisticated collaboration of experts from many disciplines. The new Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford is at the center of the initiative, which brings together outstanding scholars from all seven schools, the Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency, and other centers on campus to work among themselves and with representatives from governments, industries, and nongovernmental organizations. The goal of these collaborations is to advance understanding of the world’s ecosystems, find sustainable solutions, and provide business and government leaders with the information and management practices they need to implement sound policies.

The International Initiative ($250 million)

This initiative, which is centered in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, brings together experts from all seven schools, as well as the Hoover Institution and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, to explore questions about peace and security, governance, and human well-being. Although much of the research to be undertaken will be policy-oriented, this initiative will require strong participation by faculty from the humanities and social sciences, who bring needed disciplinary skills and area expertise to the search for solutions. The results of this collaboration can have a dramatic and lasting impact on the current and future lives of people around the world.

Improving K-12 Education ($125 million)

Involving scholars from across the university to improve K-12 education, efforts range from teacher preparation to improved pedagogy in math and science to school reform, all strengthened by our highly successful teacher education program, our two public charter schools (a high school and a K-8 elementary school, both in East Palo Alto), and our numerous efforts to engage other leading scholars and policymakers across the country. A new loan forgiveness program will allow new teachers to go to work in needy communities without the burden of large school debt.

Engaging the Arts and Creativity ($250 million)

Education in the arts and humanities prepares graduates to deal with the complex, diverse, and sometimes ambiguous nature of human existence and draws out and develops personal creativity. The arts also can serve as a window into other cultures, allowing students to more fully explore the experience of people in other times and places. This major university-wide effort will explore and promote new ways to engage students in the process of creation with stronger artistic performance and exhibition programs, led by world-class artists-in-residence, and with enhanced educational offerings exploring the arts and the role of creativity in diverse endeavors. New arts and concert facilities will augment these expanded programs.

Reinventing Graduate Education ($500 million)

Based on recommendations by the Commission on Graduate Education in 2004, the university has expanded support for more multidisciplinary education and the development of a leadership curriculum to offer graduate students training in skills to complement their disciplinary expertise, such as ethics, public speaking, and negotiation. Stanford’s professional schools, including the School of Medicine, the Law School, the Graduate School of Business, and the School of Engineering, are reinventing curricula and transforming teaching facilities with the goal of providing not just disciplinary excellence but added global insight, greater breadth, and enhanced leadership skills.

Extending the Renaissance in Undergraduate Education ($300 million)

The successful Campaign for Undergraduate Education (CUE) enabled Stanford to strengthen the intellectual engagement of our students, increased participation in undergraduate research to better prepare independent thinkers and problem solvers, and enhanced our overseas programs to further develop our students’ ability to think globally. New efforts aimed at advising, residential educational programs, broader research opportunities, and additional support for our excellent athletic programs will build on CUE’s successes. New scholarship endowments will enable us to decrease the financial burden on low-income families and extend need-based aid to international students.

Other important objectives of the campaign include multidisciplinary research across the university ($400 million), core support ($1.325 billion), and increasing annual giving from alumni, parents, and friends across the university ($400 million).

How the initiatives were chosen

The initiatives were chosen after several years of research and discussion among the faculty and university leadership. This process began in October 2000, when the provost convened a task force to assess the university’s needs. The task force identified strong faculty interest in intensifying the university’s multidisciplinary efforts in the biosciences, the environment, and international affairs. In the years since then, the trustees, faculty, and staff have refined the university’s plans for the initiatives by identifying those areas where Stanford has the greatest existing strengths, and which therefore hold the greatest potential for breakthroughs.

The importance of “multidisciplinary research”

Multidisciplinary research involves faculty experts from different disciplines coming together to focus on a specific problem or question, thereby addressing the problem from every angle.

Stanford has long been known for its multidisciplinary research and education programs. But making real progress on complex global problems requires us to greatly expand and support multidisciplinary collaborations and extend them to every part of the campus. This marks a historic turning point in the way Stanford pursues knowledge. We believe it may well establish a new model for university education and research generally.

Research on initiative-related projects will differ from traditional approaches to university research. Universities generally engage in purely “curiosity-based” research, pursuing knowledge without a desired outcome necessarily in mind. While the initiatives will include such research, initiative funds also will be targeted toward finding solutions to complex, real-world problems.

Allocation of campaign funds

The funds raised in this campaign will be used for multiple purposes including:

  • Professorships and faculty support, both school-based and interdisciplinary
  • Program endowment and research support, including venture funding for multidisciplinary research in each of the initiative areas
  • Graduate fellowships, both school-based and interdisciplinary
  • Need-based and athletic undergraduate scholarships, with a particular emphasis on extending need-based financial aid to international undergraduate students
  • Loan forgiveness program focusing on the School of Education
  • Support for performing and visiting artists
  • Charter schools support
  • Endowment for undergraduate programs
  • Facilities for multidisciplinary science, engineering, and medical research
  • New teaching facilities for law, business, engineering, and medicine
  • Additional housing for undergraduates and graduate students
  • New arts and concert facilities




Elaine Ray, News Service: (650) 723-7162,


Martin W. Shell, vice president for development: (650) 724-9107

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