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April 2, 2014

Stanford's Distinguished Careers Institute will offer accomplished professionals a transformative experience

The new institute's yearlong program offers participants access to Stanford's innovative, entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary learning environment.

By Kathleen J. Sullivan

Philip Pizzo, former dean of the Stanford School of Medicine, will lead the new Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute. (Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service)

Stanford has created a new yearlong program to give highly accomplished leaders from the public and private sectors the opportunity to reflect on their life journeys, explore new pathways and redirect or deepen their lives for the common good.

The Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute (DCI), which will open in January 2015, will give 20 participants access to Stanford's innovative, entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary learning environment, including faculty scholars, classes and courses in all seven schools, and programs in dozens of campus institutes and centers.

Stanford is seeking applicants with 20- to 30-year histories of significant achievement who are eager to join their peers for a program of personal renewal, intellectual exploration, physical recalibration and societal engagement.

Philip Pizzo, founding director of DCI and former dean of Stanford Medical School, said the institute will serve as a transition to new ventures for participants, allowing them to build on their life experiences to create something unique that will improve themselves and the world.

"The new way forward that emerges from participating in the institute can be one long-anticipated and hoped for, or one not yet imagined," Pizzo said.

Stanford President John Hennessy said rapid changes in information technology compel people to think in new ways about how universities teach and create knowledge.

"Along with these major shifts, dramatic and continuing increases in longevity raise important questions about how to harness the wisdom of experienced individuals who are ready for new challenges and opportunities to contribute to their communities," he said.

"The Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute provides an innovative nexus that will connect established leaders with the extraordinary depth and breadth of Stanford’s rich interdisciplinary environment and its extraordinary students and faculty. The institute will foster bidirectional opportunities for intergenerational teaching and learning, helping to create new models for the role of universities in lifetime learning."

The institute is a partnership with the Stanford Center on Longevity, whose mission is to redesign long life.

"A growing body of research suggests that health and satisfaction in the second half of life are critically tied to education and engagement, yet the current social norms that guide us through life limit education largely to youth," said Laura Carstensen, the longevity center's director.

"In this era of very long life, there is an urgent need for new visions of work and education. The Distinguished Careers Institute instantiates an innovative model and points to exciting new roles for universities in the 21st century."

DCI fellows will have the opportunity to audit classes and courses throughout Stanford, and each one will have an assigned faculty adviser, said Pizzo, who is the David and Susan Heckerman Professor, and a professor of pediatrics and of microbiology and immunology at Stanford.

Fellows will participate in a core program that includes weekly discussion seminars with faculty on a broad range of topics, and weekly receptions, in which fellows share lessons learned throughout their lives and consider issues of life transitions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

The program will include think tanks – one- to two-day meetings – on key social and intellectual issues. Potential topics for 2015 include: The Human Brain and Behavior Across the Life Journey; The Transition to Sustainability; The Societal and Ethical Impacts of Newly Emerging Technologies; and The Widening Economic Gap in the United States.

With the help of faculty, each DCI fellow will develop a personalized "scholarly pathway" designed to help him or her achieve goals.

Pizzo said more three dozen Stanford interdisciplinary programs have enthusiastically agreed to engage with DCI fellows, including the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, the Center for Law and the Biosciences, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and many programs at Stanford Medical School. Fellows may join the programs as observers or participants, with the approval of faculty members.

Monthly dinner soirées will be held with faculty scholars, as well as leaders from the broader Stanford and Silicon Valley communities.

To promote future longevity and success, each fellow will have the opportunity for a personal health assessment, including a health, exercise and personal well-being plan.

The program will emphasize community building by offering dedicated office space on campus that facilitates networking among fellows with each other and with Stanford faculty, students and staff. The program will encourage interactions with undergraduate and graduate students in research, academic and service projects that foster intergenerational learning.

Spouses and partners of the fellows also will be eligible to participate in the program. Applications for the inaugural class of fellows are available on the institute's website and are now being accepted.

Pizzo said insights from a seminal program, the Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI), which began at Harvard University in 2008, contributed to the design of Stanford's program. He said programs like the ALI and the DCI offer a new role for universities to engage individuals throughout their lives and to create a future that promotes healthy, productive and values-based lives and communities, locally and globally.



Mira Engel, Distinguished Careers Institute: (650) 725-2895),

Kristin Goldthorpe, Distinguished Careers Institute: (650) 497-5403),


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