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Staff picks: 10 favorite stories of 2023

Hundreds of staff members across campus are in communications roles and are responsible for reporting, writing, and assigning the stories that bring Stanford to life. We asked a handful of them: What stood out to you this year? What did you find especially relevant, enough that you felt compelled to take it home and share in conversation with friends and family? Here’s what they said.

1) A breakthrough that could spell the end of daily diabetes shots 💉

“The story hits home for me because my husband was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child and has been managing the disease for many years. It’s a regular part of his daily routine to inject insulin multiple times throughout the day based on his changing blood sugar levels. Knowing that there’s research being done to make this process less cumbersome for people living with the disease is something that gives me tremendous hope.”

—Sarah Bielecki, director of content strategy, Stanford School of Engineering


2) The evolution of working from home 📄

“No other topic dominated our lives in the past year quite like working from home. I think we’ve all found that it takes more than just a set formula of in-office and WFH days to maintain productivity, morale, and excitement. We’ve had to get comfortable with technology that can be glitchy, reckon with a new meaning of work-life balance, and ping pong between days of solitude and socialization. But overall, I’d say we’re seeing the benefits of a hybrid schedule: more opportunities for ‘head-down’ work, less time and money spent commuting, and increased flexibility in tackling our to-do lists. Two of our senior fellows at SIEPR – Nick Bloom and Steve Davis – are at the forefront of understanding the impact of WFH and using ongoing survey results and other data to make the prediction that hybrid work arrangements are here to stay.”

—Adam Gorlick, director of communications and public affairs, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research


3) A new look at immigrants’ outsize contribution to innovation in the U.S. 💡

“A story that resonated with me is about the disproportionally positive impact of high-skilled immigrants on American innovation and the economy, based on research from economist Rebecca Diamond. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from India in the 1960s and my husband moved here from Singapore more than two decades ago. I’ve seen firsthand from family, friends, and colleagues what an incredible impact immigrants have made. If the U.S. were a quilt, these immigrants would be diverse threads adding to the vibrancy and strength of the nation’s tapestry.”


—Sheila Singh, head of brand and social, Graduate School of Business


4) ​​How we understand each other 🎙️

“We launched the second season of our podcast, From Our Neurons to Yours, with a conversation about the neuroscience of language. The way language allows human beings to pass along ideas and share meaning is what first hooked me on neuroscience and this conversation fulfilled all my nerdiest dreams.”


—Nicholas Weiler, communications manager, Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute


5) Barbara Kingsolver on ‘bridges of compassion’ 📔

“This was such a special event, where Barbara Kingsolver beautifully expressed the reason she wanted to tell the story of her Appalachian community. What made it even better was that PhD student Kelly Boles grew up in the same area and was the one to put it together. She emailed Kingsolver and asked if she would stop at Stanford on her book tour. I immigrated to the U.S. from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a small country in the Caribbean, and the feeling of being seen, especially when you come from a small community, means so much. All of your achievements aren’t just for you, they’re also for everyone back home cheering you on.”

—Joleen Richards, social media marketing and communications specialist, Stanford Graduate School of Education


6) A visibility cloak to improve heart surgery 🪄

“My favorite story this year has a Harry Potter angle. I’ve always liked the invisibility cloak that helps characters in Harry Potter movies disappear into the background. Well, earlier this year, I got to write about a sort of molecular ‘visibility cloak’ that allows heart surgeons to see an important but normally invisible feature of the heart and avoid damaging it during surgery.”


—Erin Digitale, senior science writer, Stanford Medicine


7) Lizzie No returns 🎶

“Lizzie No, ’13, is a songwriter with a carefree spirit and inspiring self-belief. She was kind enough to invite me to film with her before her show at Bing Studio, and we had a pleasant conversation about the realities of being a working artist. I was wearing my vintage Grand Ole Opry shirt and she played a few country artists for me to check out. She’s so down to earth and it was refreshing how candid she was about her journey. It’s great to meet and document artists at these kinds of milestones in their career, and I feel like this is a great time capsule before even greater success comes her way.”

—Taylor Jones, content producer, Office of the Vice President for the Arts


8) The untold origins of Stanford Women’s Soccer ⚽️

“I’ve always been interested in Stanford sports history, but I realized that little had been reported on the origins of women’s sports at Stanford. For my own curiosity, I searched for the first mentions of ‘women’s soccer’ in the Stanford Daily archives and pieced together an amazing and untold story about a freshman in 1973 named Allison Brown and her quest, despite never having played competitive sports beyond high school badminton, to start a women’s soccer team at Stanford. Because of this story, Brown, who now lives in Germany, was brought to campus last spring and recognized by the athletic department among the university’s ‘Gamechangers,’ honoring those who have been influential voices in the growth of women’s sports.”

—David Kiefer, executive editorial producer, Stanford Athletics


9) An epic sea turtle journey, and a mystery to match 🔎

“One of my favorite stories from this year is about loggerhead sea turtles crossing the Pacific Ocean. Scientists including Stanford’s Larry Crowder and Dana Briscoe are tracking their epic migration and looking at ocean conditions along the way. They’re testing their theory about how some turtles, once in a while, are able to cross from Japan to North America. Something I loved learning from this story is that the El Niño weather pattern, which we usually hear about bringing floods or droughts to different parts of the world, may also unlock a corridor of warm water that makes it possible for these young and endangered turtles to make their way to important habitats.”

—Josie Garthwaite, senior associate director of content strategy, Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability


10) Technology might be making education worse 👀

“Antero Garcia, a professor in the Graduate School of Education, wrote a first-person essay for us warning about the dangers of technologies used in schools to track the performance and activities of students. As a parent of two young children, the story really hit home for me and made me consider the myriad and invisible ways that information about kids is collected, often with the unthinking consent of guardians, and how that information might be used in the future. It was a wake-up call for me to examine the permissions my wife and I grant schools more closely, to ask more questions, and to say ‘no’ to things we’re uncomfortable with.

Antero is no Luddite, and he is not advocating that technology has no place in the classroom – but he does think that we as parents and as a society should be more thoughtful about how technology in education gets used. ‘Even the seemingly benign resources we might use in our classrooms today come with tradeoffs,’ he writes. ‘Every Wi-Fi-connected smart device utilized in schools is an investment in time, money, and expertise in technology over teachers and the teaching profession.’ ”

—Ker Than, senior director of news and storytelling, University Communications