Annual Report 2015
2015 — Annual Report Message from the President
by President John Hennessy
In 2016, Stanford University will celebrate its 125th anniversary — looking to the future, even as it builds on and honors its past.
This is my 16th and last year as Stanford’s president — and my 38th year as a member of the faculty — and the strength of the university’s foundations and its pioneering spirit has never been more palpable. As was evident in the activities and achievements of 2015, the adventurous spirit of our community and its commitment to making a difference continue to distinguish Stanford and draw people to the university.
Stanford's 125th Anniversary
In the fall, we began celebrating the university’s anniversary with events and activities noting its history and impact on the world. We launched a series of symposia to engage the Stanford community, as well as our neighbors and the broader online global community. In October the first symposium, “Thinking Big About Learning,” explored the importance of taking a multidisciplinary approach in emerging fields such as digital humanities and of rethinking how we engage students. As Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning John Mitchell noted, this is “a renaissance time for learning and education,” with scholars in various disciplines “working together and thinking about how we can teach and learn better.” And Stanford is in the vanguard.
Nowhere is Stanford’s impact experienced more directly than in the education of students who become leaders in every field. In September, we welcomed the 125th class of students to campus. It was fitting — and in keeping with the spirit of the founders — that 15 percent of those students are the first in their families to attend college. When the university opened its doors in 1891, no tuition was charged. While that is not possible today, Stanford has a longstanding commitment to need-blind admissions. We want to ensure that a Stanford education is affordable for outstanding students, regardless of their financial situation. We have significantly enhanced our financial aid program in recent years. Since 2000, we have more than doubled our spending on undergraduate financial aid, and in academic year 2014-15, more than half of our undergraduates received financial aid directly from the university. Today Stanford’s financial aid program is one of the strongest in the country, and 77 percent of our undergraduates graduate debt-free.
Student engagement and public service
Last year, we heard from our students on a number of significant and pressing issues, such as sexual assault, diversity and divestment. We appreciate that our students have spoken out on these difficult issues, which deserve our attention. The university thrives — and our community becomes stronger — when we engage in free and open discussion of our concerns and differences of opinion. This fall, we re-affirmed the university’s commitment to inclusion and diversity at Stanford. To further encourage and support meaningful engagement on such issues, in September Stanford launched OpenXChange, a community-wide and community-driven initiative that promotes conversation on issues of local, national and global importance. Through events, workshops and discussions — many organized by students and faculty — we will advance understanding of our differences and prepare students for citizenship in a global and diverse world.
Stanford’s impact is felt also in its tradition of public service. Jane and Leland Stanford established the university “for the benefit of mankind,” and over the years the Stanford community has found many ways to serve the public.
This year we launched Cardinal Service. In celebration of its 30th anniversary, the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford partnered with the offices of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Vice Provost for Student Affairs to increase student awareness and provide more opportunities for service. Cardinal Service is focused on four areas, including quarter-long service projects; multidisciplinary, community-engaged learning courses; and programs that will encourage lifelong commitment and careers in the public interest.
Service learning is a form of experiential learning. As the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford noted, this kind of learning through active engagement brings together “ways of thinking with ways of doing.” It teaches adaptive skills and can be transformative, and it has become a hallmark of a Stanford education.
Other new initiatives
This year we launched Stanford in New York City (SiNY), another opportunity for experiential learning. Modeled after the Bing Overseas Studies Program and Stanford in Washington, SiNY offers juniors and seniors in different disciplines the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of one of our great urban centers.
Stanford’s flourishing arts district provides other opportunities. In September, Stanford Arts marked a milestone with the opening of the McMurtry Building, and students gained important studio and study space. The academic centerpiece and the fourth building in the arts district, the McMurtry Building is the home of the Department of Art & Art History, providing classrooms for studying and learning about art as well as spaces for students to make and exhibit their own work. The university has become a showcase for creativity and the arts, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to campus a year.
The year has also been marked by a series of distinguished visitors, reflecting the role Stanford can play in bringing together world leaders to discuss some of society’s most complex issues.
In February, U.S. President Barack Obama chose Stanford as the site for the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection — the first White House Summit held outside of Washington — explaining it was an easy decision. “So much of our information age began right here, at Stanford,” he said. “Your graduates have gone on to help create and build thousands of companies that have shaped our digital society.”
That same month, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan presided over Stanford Law School’s Moot Court. In April, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter delivered a major policy speech on campus, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talked about the role of innovation in transforming Japan’s economy. In October, National Security Advisor Susan Rice addressed the implications of global climate change.
These are just a few notable occasions in what has been a remarkable year. As you will see in the accompanying sections of this report, our faculty and students continue to pioneer research breakthroughs and advance innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
Several members of Stanford’s faculty were recognized with prestigious honors. English Professor Emeritus Tobias Wolff was awarded a National Medal of Arts, and Professor Emeritus James D. Bjorken received the 2015 Wolf Prize in Physics. Karl Deisseroth, professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, won a 2016 Breakthrough Prize in life sciences for pioneering the development of optogenetics, and Stanford physicists Xiao-Liang Qi and Leonardo Senatore were awarded New Horizons in Physics prizes. Professor Adam Johnson in our Creative Writing Program won the National Book Award for his collection of short stories Fortune Smiles; this recognition followed his Pulitzer Prize of 2013.
Support from the Stanford community
Our alumni, parents and friends continue to be extraordinarily supportive of the work done by our faculty and students, and their great generosity has fueled Stanford’s success. Through their gifts, they have supported groundbreaking research and teaching and enabled the university to offer one of the strongest financial aid programs in the nation.
Through Stanford+Connects, I have had the pleasure of meeting and thanking many of them in person. In 2015, we traveled to Chicago, Sacramento, Boston and Washington, D.C. In March, we’ll be in Asia before concluding the tour in the Bay Area.
When David Starr Jordan welcomed the Pioneer Class in 1891, he exhorted students and faculty “to lay the foundations of a school which may last as long as human civilization,” noting that this new university would not be hampered by tradition, for “its finger posts all point forward.”
The efforts of generations of faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and friends have built a lasting foundation. Today — 125 years since the university opened its doors — Stanford is the “University of high degree” envisioned by its founders, and it will continue to do the work of the future. I look forward to seeing what new directions we will take.