Accelerating Stanford’s Impact

A new institutional vision offers fresh opportunities for learning and research.

December 2019

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Accelerating Stanford’s Impact

Photo: Toni Bird

For many of us, the approach of a new year means reflections on the recent past and plans for the next few months. At Stanford, though, we look back more than a hundred years, to our founders’ charge to serve “humanity and civilization.” Likewise, the horizon ahead extends much further, to a future with unlimited possibilities.

Guided by a powerful new institutional vision—the product of energy and imagination from across our community—Stanford is aggressively pursuing new opportunities for learning and research. 

This vision was molded over the past two years. Faculty-led groups analyzed more than 2,800 proposals and made recommendations, the university leadership established priorities, and design teams then developed specific plans. 

The themes of this vision are accelerating impact and transforming education. True to our roots, it focuses on magnifying Stanford’s beneficial impact in the world, with an emphasis on meeting the scale and urgency of the challenges ahead. Our vision can be summed up in this sentence: Fueled by optimism, ingenuity and a sense of responsibility, we seek to accelerate our purposeful impact in the world.

As we implement this vision, I’m excited by the work now underway. Some examples:

Reflecting our commitment to fundamental scholarship, multiple initiatives empower discovery and creativity—from the arts and humanities to the social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. We’re also working to apply Stanford’s strengths in data science to stoke research across the academic spectrum.

Our planet, health and society face many challenges. So our vision also focuses on accelerating solutions to address these challenges. Sustainability is one area in which our faculty are developing plans to devise zero-emissions energy solutions, data-driven adaptation and resilience strategies, and other initiatives to meet the urgent challenges of climate change. 

Innovation alone is insufficient. We also have a responsibility to consider the societal and ethical impact of our work. So our vision explicitly acknowledges the need to embed ethics in innovation.
We see this at the newly launched Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, which draws from across campus
to understand and guide the impact of AI, possibly the most consequential technology of this century.

We’re taking steps to transform learning, from classroom to dorm. 

To offer our students a rich intellectual experience and prepare them to be engaged citizens, our faculty are working to renew our liberal education curriculum. One proposal now under faculty review would implement a new core sequence for first-year students—Citizenship in the 21st Century—that focuses on critical thinking and civil disagreement, and the global dimensions of contemporary challenges. Another proposal would adjust unit requirements for majors to help support academic breadth and exploration.

But our vision also calls upon us to look beyond Stanford and develop new initiatives to advance the science of learning for all
students, wherever they are in the world.

Our vision also aims to strengthen support for our campus community. It includes redesigning student residential neighborhoods to create vibrant and supportive communities, while retaining the hallmarks of life on the Farm. It includes new efforts to mitigate affordability concerns for our community, the focus of a task force now at work. And it emphasizes access and inclusion in everything we do, so that diversity of thought, experience and approach can thrive at Stanford and prepare students for a diverse world. 

You’ll be hearing more about these and many other initiatives as they develop. I’m excited and optimistic. From its founding, Stanford has worked to develop new knowledge and anticipate and address challenges in our world. We continue to have the opportunity and—by virtue of our strengths—the responsibility to lead.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne is the president of Stanford University.

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