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September 28, 2015

Stanford kicks off 125th anniversary celebration with 'Big Thinkers' symposium

The first in a series of events marking Stanford's 125th year, "Thinking Big About Learning" brings together the greatest minds in education to talk about their current research and discoveries.

By Sarah Madgic

Stanford kicks off its 125th anniversary celebration on Oct. 18 with a symposium on 'Thinking Big About Learning.' (Photo: Tamer Shabani)

What are some of Stanford's best minds thinking about education and learning? In an afternoon symposium on Sunday, Oct. 18, an eclectic lineup of leaders in the field will address this theme.

The event kicks off a yearlong celebration that will culminate in October 2016, when the university officially turns 125.

"This milestone is an opportunity for us to celebrate Stanford's impact in the world today and over the past 125 years," said David Demarest, vice president for public affairs. "Highlighting Stanford leadership in teaching and learning is the perfect way to launch our 125th anniversary celebration."

The campus community has begun to see more signs of the celebration. Commemorative merchandise is now available for purchase in the Stanford Bookstore, and groups across campus are beginning to plan activities. A new website,, features a video and an invitation to sign up for email updates. In addition to information about upcoming events, more content will be added as the celebration unfolds.

"Thinking Big About Learning" will begin with a wide-ranging discussion between John Etchemendy, university provost; John Mitchell, vice provost for teaching and learning; and Daniel Schwartz, dean of the Graduate School of Education, that explores big ideas for education in the 21st century. TED-style talks will follow in three areas: The Art and Science of Learning, The Learning Landscape, and The Future of Learning.

"Anyone engaged in learning – students, parents, teachers and lifelong learners – will find this symposium intriguing and valuable," said Nicole Sunahara, director of special initiatives in the Office of Public Affairs. "We invite alumni, the local community and the campus community to join us to hear from an amazing group of leaders in this field."

Among the day's speakers are Carol Dweck, professor of psychology and author of the book Mindset; Philip Pizzo, former dean of Stanford School of Medicine and founding director of the Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute; and Sebastian Thrun, a research professor in computer science, co-founder and CEO of Udacity and a former Google vice president.

Piya Sorcar, a lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Education and founder and CEO of TeachAIDS, a project she created as a graduate student at Stanford, will talk about her groundbreaking work to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Graduate School of Education Professor Carl Wieman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, will discuss his research into new methods of teaching science.

There will be talks from Scott Doorley, creative director of the (the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford), on designing innovative, collaborative spaces, and from Jeremy Bailenson, director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, on the potential of virtual spaces to enhance learning and address global challenges.

Linda Darling-Hammond, professor emerita in the Graduate School of Education and faculty director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, and Travis Bristol, a research policy fellow at the center, will talk about SCOPE's cutting-edge work.

Participants will hear about pedagogically sound uses of technology in teaching from Petra Dierkes-Thrun, a lecturer in comparative literature and director of interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning. Esther Wojcicki, head of Palo Alto High School's journalism program, will share her experiences implementing blended learning in the classroom. Bruce McCandliss, director of the Stanford Center for Mind, Brain and Computation, will talk about how brain-imaging technology is offering new insights into how students learn.

Thinking Big About Learning will be held at the CEMEX Auditorium in the Knight Management Center at Stanford Graduate School of Business from 2 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 18. Tickets, which are currently on sale online, are $15 for Stanford students; $20 for faculty, staff, Stanford alumni and educators. General admission tickets are $25. Admission includes a wine and hors d'oeuvres reception following the event.

Symposium details are available on the university's 125th anniversary website.



Nicole Sunahara, Office of Public Affairs: (650) 498-8202,


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