What’s Next for Stanford?

Setting our sights on new and greater heights.

March/April 2017

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What’s Next for Stanford?

Photo: Toni Bird

Great institutions move forward, or they fall back. They change while honoring tradition.

After celebrating Stanford’s 125 years of innovation in education and research, now is the time to ask what new challenges and opportunities lie before us in the years ahead. Working together to develop a bold vision for Stanford’s future, guided by our purpose and courage, our potential is unlimited.

In February, I welcomed Persis Drell as Stanford’s 13th provost. Persis is an accomplished physicist and a longtime member of the Stanford family, having served as director of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and as dean of the School of Engineering. She is an exceptional leader and ideal partner in charting Stanford’s future course.

Together, Persis and I are initiating a long-range planning process for Stanford. The goal is to develop, through a collaborative and inclusive process, a shared vision for Stanford’s future that identifies key areas of opportunity. This shared vision is intended to extend knowledge and inspire creativity, educate our students to think broadly and deeply as world citizens and leaders, and amplify Stanford’s contributions to our country and to an increasingly complex and interdependent world.

Among the questions we are asking: In light of many societal changes taking place, how will institutions of higher learning—how will Stanford—need to change over the next 10 years? How can we best equip our students with the tools needed to have fulfilling lives and be productive citizens? What kinds of research projects and service activities hold the greatest potential to improve our country, humanity and our world over the next 10, 15, 25 years?

We will seek broad-based engagement on these and many more questions. The process in the coming months will include outreach to all members of the Stanford family. The outcome will yield both conceptual and specific priorities to help the university remain pioneering and world-leading, and a vision that ensures Stanford continues to be greater than the sum of its parts. We aim to craft this vision by early 2018.

This kind of planning has been enormously impactful to the university. For example, the planning conducted by President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy in the early 2000s led to major efforts in interdisciplinary research addressing pressing challenges facing the world, a bold new commitment to the arts at Stanford and extensive infrastructure improvements, among many varied initiatives.

Our world faces many challenges that need the attention of our nation’s research universities. They include still-untreatable illnesses and infectious diseases; mounting environmental degradation that endangers ecosystems and threatens the global economy; socioeconomic injustices that limit opportunity and contribute to violence in communities; and challenges to authentic communication and understanding. The mission of bringing light and hope to our world through education and research remains needed and urgent.

Among reasons to be optimistic, Stanford’s more than 200,000 living alumni are uplifting humanity in myriad ways throughout the world. Our students bring incredible fervor and commitment to their work at Stanford. The faculty, students and staff in Stanford’s seven schools and 18 independent laboratories, centers and institutes are working on ideas and innovations with world-changing potential.

Jane Stanford wrote about the hope she cherished when sending Stanford students into the world—that they would be people “who will aid in developing the best there is to be found in human nature.” In our effort to lay out a vision for Stanford in the 21st century, we seek to build on Stanford’s extraordinary mission and accomplishments while setting our sights on new and even greater heights.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne is the president of Stanford University.

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