At its Feb. 9-11 meeting, Stanford’s Board of Trustees heard presentations on graduate education from the new vice provost for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs, as well as a panel of deans and a panel of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

The Board approved three development projects in various stages of planning: to renovate the main building of the Graduate School of Education and construct a new building for the school nearby, to launch the next phase of development at Stanford Redwood City and to expand chilled water equipment at Stanford’s Central Energy Facility.

Trustees also toured the Escondido Village Graduate Residences, which is expected to open this fall, and discussed investment responsibility.

At the conclusion of the two-day meeting, Jeff Raikes, chair of the Board of Trustees, shared highlights from the presentations.

Graduate education

Raikes said graduate education at Stanford was an overarching area of focus at the recent meeting, which began with a presentation by Stacey F. Bent, who became vice provost for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs in September.

Board members Marc Jones, Felix Baker, Mary Barra and Christy MacLear at the trustees meeting on Tuesday. Among the agenda items at the meeting were presentations on graduate student life on campus. (Image credit: Farrin Abbott)

She provided an overview of graduate education at Stanford and addressed why graduate programs are important to the university, and also to the nation and the world.

Bent began by noting that graduate education is a cornerstone of technological innovation and economic prosperity in the United States, and is also central to the teaching and research missions of Stanford.

Today, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars make up about 63 percent of the university’s total population of students and trainees. Bent noted that Stanford has more graduate alumni than undergraduate alumni. Out of 217,469 Stanford alumni, 61 percent hold graduate degrees from Stanford, including many who also hold undergraduate Stanford degrees.

Raikes said he was particularly struck by another statistic in Bent’s presentation: that Stanford consistently graduates more PhD students – well above 700 each year – than any other non-profit, private U.S. university. Even more important, Raikes said, was Bent’s point that Stanford’s graduate and postdoctoral training programs have a disproportionate global influence, in part because Stanford is the leading producer of faculty in many fields.

“Our role in producing the faculty of the future is quite substantial,” Raikes said.

Turning to the issue of diversity, Bent noted that while the diversity of Stanford’s programs is growing, the university has more work to do.

She described several diversity initiatives that are already underway, including the DARE Doctoral Fellowship Program, which focuses on faculty preparation; the EDGE Doctoral Fellowship Program, which helps boost recruitment and retention; and the Postdoctoral Recruitment Initiative in Sciences and Medicine (PRISM), which helps recruit postdocs in science and medicine from underrepresented backgrounds.

Raikes said trustees also talked about the significant affordability challenges that Stanford graduate students and postdocs face. To address the rising costs of graduate education and postdoctoral training, Stanford has increased graduate aid by 40 percent since 2013, increased the minimum salaries of postdocs and taken other steps to promote affordability.

“We need to do even more to keep pace,” Raikes said.

Bent described the importance of fellowships, which provide crucial support to several hundred graduate students, adding that additional endowed fellowships are essential to expanding financial support.

After Bent’s presentation, trustees heard from the deans of four Stanford schools: Jonathan Levin, dean of the Graduate School of Business; Debra Satz, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences; Jennifer Widom, dean of the School of Engineering; and Jenny S. Martinez, dean of Stanford Law School. Each of the deans provided an overview of graduate education at their school.

Raikes said the panel helped trustees understand how the schools are undertaking the graduate education mission at Stanford.

Raikes said the Board also heard fascinating observations from a panel of four graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who shared their experiences at Stanford, the varying paths that brought them to the university, as well as their concerns about affordability, wellness and creating a community among graduate students.

“Overall, it was a very rich set of conversations that provided a great overview of Stanford’s extraordinary strengths in graduate education and postdoctoral training,” Raikes said. “It was also an important reminder of the progress we need to continue to make, in particular in affordability, diversity, wellness and some of the other priorities we share.”

Graduate School of Education

Raikes said trustees gave design approval to a project to renovate the main building of the Graduate School of Education, which houses the Office of the Dean, Cubberley Auditorium, classrooms, faculty and administrative offices, as well as three research centers.

Wide view of the Board of Trustees meeting.

The Board of Trustees approved three development projects at their Feb. 9-11 meeting. (Image credit: Farrin Abbott)

Under the project, the space in the main building will be upgraded to meet contemporary teaching and research needs.

Plans also call for constructing a new building next to the Barnum Center, the school’s hub for admissions, career development and its office for undergraduate programs.

“That will create a single cohesive campus for the Graduate School of Education, which is currently spread out among six different buildings,” he said.

Under the project, the renovated main building and the new building will face each other across a new courtyard.

The project will return to the board at a later date for construction approval. Tentatively, construction is expected to begin later this year and to be completed in 2023.

“This is a very exciting project to provide a cohesive campus for the Graduate School of Education and offer contemporary facilities that support new ways of teaching and learning, enhance Stanford’s connections with the broader community and collaboration among the schools,” Raikes said.

Stanford Redwood City

Raikes said trustees gave concept and site approval for the next phase of development at Stanford Redwood City, which currently provides space for more than 2,000 Stanford employees in a range of functions that are critical to the support of the university.

The board gave concept and site approval for a five-story office building and a parking structure at Stanford Redwood City, which celebrated its grand opening nearly a year ago.

The next phase of development will continue the warm, contemporary design, greenways and other features of Stanford Redwood City, which combine to offer an inviting environment for the people who work there.

The project, which represents the beginning of the second phase of development, is expected to be occupied by the School of Medicine and Stanford Health Care, which opened the doors of the new Stanford Hospital in November 2019.

The project will return to trustees for design and construction approvals and will be subject to final design reviews by Redwood City. Tentatively, Stanford expects the office building to be completed in 2023.

“We are very proud to be a part of the Redwood City community,” Raikes said. “We’ve been delighted by the warm welcome and we intend to continue working closely with the city and the community as Stanford Redwood City campus continues to evolve.”

Stanford Central Energy Facility

Raikes said the board gave concept and site approval for an expansion of chilled water equipment at the university’s Central Energy Facility to increase the system’s capacity, reduce the risk of curtailment during extreme heat events and accommodate further growth on campus.

The facility, which has been operating since 2015, provides a chilled water system to cool campus buildings. It has been part of an energy system that has helped produce a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the campus.

However, the university found that on several occasions, “heat storms” in the summer and early fall caused the campus cooling load to exceed the system’s capacity, which resulted in reduced cooling to campus facilities, including buildings with ongoing research projects in them.

“I should note that as a bridge to these improvements, we have temporary chilling capacity available and that will help us reduce the risk of cooling curtailments in the interim,” Raikes said.

The project will return to the board for further approvals. Tentatively, Stanford expects construction to begin in 2021, and to complete the project by the summer of 2022.

Escondido Village Graduate Residences

Raikes said trustees took a walking tour of the Escondido Village Graduate Residences, which will create a new neighborhood for graduate students on the east side of campus.

The complex, which is on track to open in the fall, has four 10-story residential buildings, with wings ranging from six to 10 stories high. It will provide more than 2,400 new beds for single graduate students and couples without children, as well as three apartments for assistant deans in the Graduate Life Office.

The complex will also provide recreational areas, patios in small courtyards, and social spaces that support activities such as grilling, picnicking and volleyball.

Raikes said the Escondido Village Graduate Residences complex represents an important step forward in addressing the housing, affordability and community needs of graduate students.

“It was great to see the project up close, and it was impressive to learn about the close attention that has been given to both constructing the facilities quickly and efficiently – from start to finish the project took 3 ½ years – and to creating an inviting and livable community for its future residents,” Raikes said.

Update on investment responsibility

Raikes said the board discussed the work of a trustee task force that is reviewing a request by Fossil Free Stanford, a student organization, for divestment from oil and gas companies.

The proposal has been reviewed on previous occasions and resulted in selective divestment of the most carbon-intensive energy source, thermal coal, several years ago.

Students resubmitted the proposal last year under Stanford’s updated Statement on Investment Responsibility, which the board approved in December 2018.

The board’s Special Committee on Investment Responsibility created a task force to engage with students, faculty, practitioners and outside experts.

The task force has met with students and more than 10 experts, many of whom are members of the university’s faculty and staff.

In early March, the task force expects to hear from a policy practicum class taught by Paul Brest, a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the former dean and professor emeritus at Stanford Law School.

“The board is working to review the issues that have been brought forward and will continue its dialogue with proponents and other experts,” Raikes said. “As previously stated, we expect the Board will make a final decision on the proposal before the end of the academic year. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re sticking by that commitment.”

Other board activities

On Sunday, the board was joined by the Council of Trustees, which is composed of former members of the board. This year, the group visited the new Stanford Hospital, heard an update from President Marc Tessier-Lavigne on the Long-Range Vision for the university, and had a conversation about leadership with Gen. James Mattis, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense who is now the Davies Family Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Raikes said trustees also held a Monday evening reception for faculty and student leaders from across the university, including representatives of the Faculty Senate and of the Associated Students of Stanford University.

“This was a new approach for us to connect the trustees with leaders from across campus and it was a big success,” he said. “It was a welcome opportunity for people in leadership roles, including students, to talk informally, and share with board members their own thoughts about their aspirations for Stanford. It was a terrific evening.”