Thanks a Billion

The Campaign for Undergraduate Education was an unprecedented success.

January/February 2006

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Thanks a Billion

A little more than five years ago, I stood before many of you at ceremonies marking my inauguration as president of Stanford and announced the beginning of a campaign to raise $1 billion for undergraduate education.

I can say in retrospect that, being brand-new to the job,I was just a little nervous. To our knowledge, no university had ever raised a billion dollars solely for undergraduate education. The economy was healthy, but already showing signs of slowing down. And the University had many other pressing needs. Nonetheless, my confidence far outweighed any doubts I might have had.

Five years later, it gives me great pride to formally announce the successful conclusion to the Campaign for Undergraduate Education. Not only have we surpassed our goal by about $100 million, we have achieved something that will help chart the course of Stanford for many generations to come.

Although we raised the money in just five years, CUE is probably more correctly understood as the capstone of a 15-year process that transformed undergraduate education at Stanford. Those changes took shape with the Commission on Undergraduate Education, appointed by my predecessor Gerhard Casper. The commission’s report provided a framework for a question that had become increasingly critical for higher education: how do the great research universities leverage their intellectual resources to provide an education for undergraduates that is every bit as intellectually rich and individual as we provide for our graduate students?

Following the commission’s report, President Casper and the faculty began putting the first pieces of the transformation into place. Small freshman and sophomore seminars taught by senior faculty, increased financial aid and a rethinking of the freshman curriculum that produced the “Introduction to the Humanities” core were all part of the pilot program. These early efforts were generously supported by friends of the University, but such enhancements needed permanent endowment to ensure that future generations of Stanford students also would benefit. That was the genesis of CUE.

The impacts of the Campaign for Undergraduate Education are readily apparent. In fact, they have become so embedded in our way of thinking that one may not fully appreciate the scope of the change the institution has undergone. The freshman core curriculum has been revamped, hundreds of small seminars for freshmen and sophomores have been taught by professors from across the University, thousands of individual research opportunities have been made available to our undergraduates, and millions of dollars in endowment have been added for financial aid so all “deserving and exceptional” students have an opportunity to benefit from a Stanford education, to paraphrase Jane Stanford.

While the numbers provide one important perspective, an equally compelling story is that CUE—and the innovations it has enabled—helped create a transformation in the institution. The University’s fundamental values remain, but they have been strengthened by new thinking and innovative approaches that ensure future generations of students will continue to receive an undergraduate education second to none.

We should take justifiable pride that many of our peer institutions are now re-examining their teaching and research and raising funds to improve and sustain their undergraduate programs. But we cannot rest on our laurels.

There are many challenges left. It will take a similar focus and commitment to enhance our already superb graduate programs. We must take our place on the frontier of a new multidisciplinary approach to teaching and research that seeks solutions to critical global problems concerning the environment, the state of human health and the promotion of security and peace in the world. We must continue to ensure that the best and the brightest students—from our own country and abroad—have the financial ability to attend Stanford.

For a moment, though, I hope we can reflect on—and appreciate—how much we have accomplished with CUE. For me, the most heartwarming part of this campaign has been the way alumni responded to our call. This required a leap of faith on your part; we asked that you support our efforts to create an even better undergraduate education than the one you received. You never hesitated, never faltered, and your belief in the future of Stanford was a critical part of our success.

It is now time, with your help, to move forward. Our ability to define new challenges and meet them with creative solutions distinguishes us among the world’s great universities. Our faculty, students, alumni and friends have made this possible and continue to bring a powerful presence and meaning to the original vision that is the legacy of Leland and Jane Stanford.

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