Setting a Vision

Photo: Toni Bird

From its founding, Stanford has embraced new ways of thinking. A combination of intellectual capability, pioneering spirit, can-do attitude and optimism for the future has enabled Stanford to defy traditions and continually open new opportunities.

When Provost Persis Drell and I began our current roles at Stanford, we had to ask ourselves some urgent questions: How can we make sure that Stanford continues moving forward? How can we further advance Stanford in service to the world? What priorities should guide the university in the next decade and beyond?

The questions are urgent because Stanford, and our broader society, face a dynamic future. We live in a world marked by accelerating change, reflected in rapid technological transformation and mounting societal challenges. Universities today are called upon to chart a purposeful course for helping the world navigate this dynamic future.

Last year, we asked our university community for its input on Stanford’s future. To our delight, the community responded with more than 2,800 ideas. Over the subsequent months, these submissions were reviewed and synthesized by steering groups of faculty, students and staff. They were further discussed and refined by our executive leaders and trustees.

I recently shared with our community a high-level vision for Stanford’s future, building on everything we heard. This vision is not a detailed plan but rather a set of strategic priorities to help guide us in the years ahead. It is organized around four areas:

Mission and Values: The vision aims to ground all of our work in our fundamental values. It outlines three institutionwide presidential initiatives to advance this objective: one on research and education addressing the intersection of ethics, society and technology; another on purposeful engagement with our region, nation and world; and a third advancing inclusion, diversity, equity and access in our community.

Research: Here, the vision calls for more nimble structures and resources to better empower researchers to take risks and tackle urgent problems. It also calls for a series of initiatives to advance fundamental research in all fields and to accelerate the application of research for social problem-solving in medicine and health, in sustainability, and in shaping our digital future. The sustainability initiative envisions Stanford itself as a lab, setting a goal for our campus to become 80 percent carbon-free by 2025 and zero-waste by 2030.

Education: Our vision seeks to equip students for a world of change by preparing them to think broadly, deeply and critically. Initiatives addressing pathways to majors, the first-year undergraduate experience, student advising and residential life are all part of this vision—along with advancing the science of learning to improve educational outcomes, and expanding access through new technologies and partnerships.

Community: We envision an inspired, inclusive, collaborative Stanford community where all are supported to thrive. One essential component is concentrated attention on the challenge of affordability for so many members of our campus community, given the escalating costs of living in the Bay Area. We also will renew attention to personal development and well-being for all members of our community.

Our work is still beginning. While we are taking some near-term actions in support of these priorities, in most areas campus design teams will soon begin working to map out specific implementation plans and the resources needed to achieve our goals. 

As we embark on this journey together, I am excited and optimistic. The vision for Stanford emerging from this process reflects the conviction expressed by one of our steering groups: that when we come together to set ambitious goals and marshal the institutional will to achieve them, dramatic things not only can happen but will happen.