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Stanford Introductory Studies

Program Directors: Marvin Diogenes, Ellen Woods
Offices: Sweet Hall
Web Site:

Stanford Introductory Studies (SIS) offers courses taught by faculty from across the seven Schools of the University and by SIS Lecturers. Some of these courses satisfy University Requirements (THINK, WAYS, and the Writing and Rhetoric Requirement) while others are electives especially designed for first- and second-year students including Introductory Seminars. Special residential programs such as Structured Liberal Education, Science in the Making (SIMILE), Immersion in the Arts—Living in Culture (ITALIC), and September Studies (Leland Scholars, Sophomore College, Leadership Intensive, Arts Intensive, and Bing Honors College) expand SIS curricular opportunities for students. The Hume Center for Writing and Speaking, which manages writing and oral communication services such as tutorials and workshops for all students, is also part of SIS.

Thinking Matters

Faculty Director: Russell A. Berman, Comparative Literature and German Studies

Director, Stanford Introductory Studies for Thinking Matters : Ellen Woods

Associate Director: Parna Sengupta

Affiliated Faculty: Steven Block (Applied Physics), Chris Bobonich (Philosophy), James Campbell (History), Shelley Correll (Sociology), Cari Costanzo (Anthropology), Adrian Daub (German Studies), Jenna Davis (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Larry Diamond (Hoover Institution), James Furguson (Anthropology), Russ Fernald (Biology), James Fishkin (Communication), Shelley Fisher Fishkin (English), Margot Gerritsen (Energy Resources Engineering), Peter Graham (Physics), Allyson Hobbs (History), Susan Holmes (Statistics), Adam Johnson (English), Dan Jurafsky (Linguistics), Michelle Karnes (English), Joseph Lipsick (School of Medicine), Tanya Luhrmann (Anthropology), David Lummus (French and Italian), David Magnus (School of Medicine), Pamela Matson (Dean of the School of Earth Sciences), Yoshiko Matsumoto (Linguistics), Peter Michelson (Physics), Ian Morris (Classics), Josiah Ober (Political Science), Sarah Olgilvie (Linguistics), Vijay Pande (Chemistry), Thomas Ryckman (Philosophy), Scott Sagan (Political Science), Jane Shaw (Dean of the School of Religious Studies), Jan Skotheim (Biology), Kathryn Starkey (German Studies), Elaine Treharne (English), Abraham Verghese (School of Medicine), Blakey Vermeule (English), Allen Weiner (School of Law), Amir Weiner (History).

Lecturers: Kassahun Betre, Dave Blome, Rahul Chaudhri, Anna Corwin, Brian Coyne, Rob Furrow, Kjerstin Gruys, Angela Harris, Sarah Hillenbrand, Lauren Hirshberg, Raymond Kania, Zenia Kish, Karola Kreitmair, Andy Lyons, Nicole Martinez, Kara McCormack, Pete Mohanty, Kate Leila Norako, Michael Park, Sarah Perkins, Karen Powoznik, Jehnna Ronan, Stephen Speiss, Bronwen Tate, Ruth Tennen, Dan Va de Mark, Ian Zuckerman.

Offices: Sweet Hall, Second Floor
Mail code: 3068
Phone: (650) 723-0944
Web Site:

Thinking Matters courses are listed under the subject code THINK on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site .

Thinking Matters offers courses that satisfy the one quarter freshman requirement. Taught by faculty from a wide range of disciplines and fields, the Thinking Matters (THINK) requirement helps students develop the ability to ask rigorous and genuine questions that can lead to scientific experimentation or literary interpretation or social policy analysis. Through the study of these questions and problems, students develop critical skills in interpretation, reasoning, and analysis as well as enhance capacities for writing and discussion. The THINK requirement may be satisfied in one of three ways:

  1. Thinking Matters courses:
    • a one quarter, 4-unit course taught by Academic Council faculty.
  2. Education as Self-Fashioning courses: ESF
    • a one quarter (Autumn), 7-unit course that satisfies both the Thinking Matters Requirement and the first-year Writing Requirement. For information on the program, faculty, and instructors, see the "ESF" section of this bulletin.
  3. Integrated Learning Environments: ITALIC, and SLE
    • a three quarter, residence-based learning experience, which satisfies the THINK requirement, two of the University Writing and Rhetoric requirements, and selected General Education Requirements. For information regarding the three residence-based programs, faculty, and instructors, see the "ILE" section of this bulletin.

Thinking Matters Courses Offered in 2015-16

Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR)

Faculty Director: Professor Adam Banks

Director, Stanford Introductory Studies for PWR: Marvin Diogenes

Associate Director: Christine Alfano

Director, Hume Center for Writing & Speaking: Julia Bleakney

Associate Director, Hume Center for Writing & Speaking: Sarah Pittock

Director, Oral Communication Program: Doree Allen

Director, Stanford Storytelling Project: Jonah Willihnganz

Lecturers: Christine Alfano, Paul Bator, Shaleen Brawn, Russ Carpenter, Erica Cirillo-McCarthy, Maxe Crandall, Kevin DiPirro, Erik Ellis, Norah Fahim, Megan Formato, Thomas Freeland (Oral Comm), Wendy Goldberg, Arturo Heredia, Shannon Hervey, Donna Hunter, Kelda Jamison, Jennifer Johnson, Chris Kamrath, Valerie Kinsey, Clara Lewis, Helen Lie, Kimberly Moekle, Gabrielle Moyer, Alyssa O'Brien, John Peterson, Sarah Pittock, Emily Polk, Alya Raphael (Oral Comm), Becky Richardson, Carolyn Ross, Kim Savelson, Susan Schuyler-Olmsted, Selby Schwartz, Ruth Starkman, Jennifer Stonaker, Mary Stroud, Kathleen Tarr, Angela Becerra Vidergar, Ann Watters, Ben Wiebracht, Irena Yamboliev

Fellows: Jesse Davie-Kessler, Sarah Ives, Kiersten Jakobsen, Hanna Janiszewska, Raechel Lee, Lindsey Mantoan, Ethan Plaut, Trisha Stan, Robert Stephan, Eric Vanden Bussche

Offices: Sweet Hall, Third Floor
Mail Code: 94305-3069
Phone: (650) 723-2631
Web Site:

Courses offered by the Program in Writing and Rhetoric are listed under the subject code PWR on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site. Courses offered by the Oral Communication Program within PWR are listed under the subject code ORALCOMM. Please see below for more information about the Oral Communication Program.

The Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) designs and teaches courses that meet the Writing and Rhetoric requirement for undergraduates at Stanford as well as intermediate and advanced writing and rhetoric classes. For more information on the requirement, see the "Writing and Rhetoric Requirement" page on the PWR website.

PWR courses engage students in rhetorical analysis of texts and research-based argument. Students in PWR courses learn and practice time-tested rhetorical principles to gain increasing control over the intellectual and stylistic elements of their writing; they learn to analyze the persuasive strategies of others and to apply those insights to their own writing.

Toward these ends, PWR 1 focuses on elements of academic argument: understanding a writer's stance; developing an argumentative thesis; discovering, developing, and deploying cogent proofs; making appropriate organizational and stylistic choices; and understanding the expectations of varied audiences. The course emphasizes research-based writing, including the effective use of primary and secondary sources and data based on fieldwork. Students enrolled in PWR 1 carry out significant research and use it as the basis for a persuasive research-based argument.

PWR 2 further develops students' skills in writing and oral presentation of research, emphasizing the ongoing development of content, organization, and style. The course addresses the dynamic interdependence of writing and speaking, as well as the importance of visual and multimedia elements in the effective presentation of research. Students enrolled in PWR 2 have opportunities to draft and revise written assignments and oral presentations as well as opportunities to present the results of scholarly inquiry, with an emphasis on how to work purposefully and well with a variety of presentation media.

As a general rule, students complete a minimum of three major assignments in both PWR 1 and 2. Written assignments vary from 5 to 15 pages in length, and students work intensively on revising each piece of writing. Oral presentation assignments vary from 3 to 10 minutes in duration, and students have an opportunity to rehearse and revise major presentations. All assignments involve analyzing a range of texts as well as identifying, evaluating, and using multiple sources in support of research-based arguments. In-class work focuses on how to read with an increasingly critical eye, how to utilize a range of generative writing and revision activities, and how to identify, evaluate, integrate, and cite sources effectively.

Writing and Rhetoric classes enroll no more than 15 students; all classes are conducted as seminars in which participation is crucial. In-class activities include close reading of and responding to the writing of peers; these workshops are augmented by a minimum of three individual or small group conferences with the PWR instructor during the quarter.


The Writing and Rhetoric requirement includes courses at three levels.

  1. The first-level course, taken in the first year, can be satisfied by courses in PWR or Integrated Learning Environments (Structural Liberal Education (SLE) and Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture (ITALIC)) or by completion of the Education as Self-Fashioning (ESF) course; the curriculum emphasizes analysis and research-based argument.
  2. The second-level course, to be completed by the end of the sophomore year, is a writing and oral/multimedia presentation course taught by the Program in Writing and Rhetoric and by other programs and departments. (Also, completion of Structured Liberal Education fulfills this requirement.) Courses taught outside of PWR may include experience in visual, oral, and/or multimodal communication. Some Introductory Seminars certified by the Writing and Rhetoric Governance Board satisfy the second-level Writing and Rhetoric Requirement (WRITE 2). Courses offered as Introductory Seminars require an additional application form; see the Introductory Seminars web site.
  3. The third-level course is a Writing in the Major (WIM) course taught in each major, providing students with systematic opportunities to develop skills for writing in their chosen fields. A list of certified WIM courses may be found in the table of "Undergraduate Major Unit Requirements" of this bulletin. WIM course descriptions may be found under individual department and program sections.

The sequence of required courses provides a coordinated approach responsive to how students mature as writers, researchers, and presenters during their undergraduate years. At each level, students develop greater sophistication in conducting inquiry and producing scholarly work in progressively more specific disciplinary contexts.

Before the term in which students enroll in the first two levels of the requirement, they review course descriptions on the PWR Courses webpage. After reviewing the offerings, students submit a list of top choices, and the PWR office assigns students to courses based on these preferences.

Students wishing to pursue advanced work in Writing and Rhetoric may enroll in electives offered by PWR. Topics vary; further information may be found in the PWR section of the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site or on the PWR advanced courses web page. PWR also offers courses culminating in a Notation in Science Communication. For more information, visit the webpage.

Hume Center for Writing and Speaking

Location: Building 250
Mail Code: 2085
Phone: (650) 723-0045
Web Site:

The Hume Center for Writing and Speaking (Hume Center) works with all Stanford writers to help them develop rich and varied abilities in every aspect of writing and oral communication. In one-to-one sessions, Hume writing consultants help students get started on assignments; address and overcome writer's block or performance anxiety; learn strategies for revising and editing; and understand academic conventions in their fields. Hume emphasizes support for students' writing, oral presentations, and multimedia compositions for PWR, Thinking Matters, and Introductory Seminars while also serving all Stanford undergraduates through individual and group tutorials, workshops, and seminars. The Hume Center also works with students in Writing in the Major (WIM) courses and students writing Honors theses. Other events hosted by the Center include performances for Parents Weekend and Admit Weekend. For further details, see the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking web site.

Oral Communication Program

Web Site:

The Oral Communication Program provides opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students to develop or improve their oral communication skills. Courses and workshops offer a comprehensive approach to speech communication, including training in the fundamental principles of public speaking and the effective delivery of oral presentations. The goal is to enhance students' general facility and confidence in oral expression. The program also provides innovative discipline-based instruction to help students refine their personal speaking styles in small groups and classroom settings.

Student Writing and Oral Communication Tutors

Students with a passion for public speaking are encouraged to apply to writing or oral communication tutors (OCTs); the application process takes place each January, and for those students chosen to serve as writing tutors or OCTs, we offer a required training practicum in Spring Quarter.

PWR Courses Offered in 2015-16

Oral Communication Courses Offered in 2015-16

Advanced PWR Courses

Prerequisites: PWR 1 and PWR 2.

PWR 194SBTopics in Writing and Rhetoric: Rhetoric of Science4
PWR 194DHTopics in Writing and Rhetoric: Empathy: A Rhetorical Tool In The Fight For Social Change?4
PWR 194KDTopics in Writing and Rhetoric: Technology and Human Values4
PWR 91KSIntermediate Writing: Design Thinking and Science Communication4
PWR 91NSCIntermediate Writing: Introduction to Science Communication4
PWR 91EPIntermediate Writing: Communicating Climate Change: Navigating the Stories from the Frontlines4
PWR 5Independent Writing1-5
PWR 6Writing Workshop1-3

Education as Self-Fashioning

Director: Dan Edelstein (French and Italian)

Faculty: Dan Edelstein (French and Italian), Ronald Egan (East Asian Languages and Cultures) Robert Harrison (French and Italian), Blair Hoxby (English), Andrea Nightingale (Classics), 

Writing Instructor: Yafang Bao, Meli Li Inouye, Biliana Kassabova, Valerie Kinsey, Rebecca Richardson, Boris Shoshitaishvili, Elizabeth Ten-Hove.

Offices: Sweet Hall, Second Floor
Mail Code: 94305-3068
Phone: (650) 723-0944
Web Site:

Education as Self-Fashioning (ESF) is a unique opportunity offered only in the autumn quarter, since its aim is to introduce entering students to a liberal education.  The six courses provide you with an opportunity to work closely with a faculty member in a seminar-style setting while simultaneously completing your first-year writing requirement.  In ESF, we consider writings about education by intellectuals working in various fields, with the aim of articulating different ways that education can be used to structure one’s thinking, one’s self, and ultimately one’s life as a whole. You will grapple with this issue in dialogue with fellow students and faculty from across a wide range of disciplines — from the humanities and social sciences through the natural sciences and mathematics. 

The ESF program satisfies both the Thinking Matters and the PWR1 requirement. ESF is a set of linked seminars related to the general theme expressed in the course title. Six seminars, each with a different focus, meet separately as discussion classes led by the faculty; all ESF students also come together for a plenum session or large lecture each week.  Each seminar coordinates writing instruction with the course theme in specially designated writing sections.

The three components of ESF are described below. ESF counts as a 7-unit course.

  1. A seminar with a faculty member that meets once per week for at least 75 minutes.
  2. A section with a writing instructor that meets for sessions of 110 minutes twice per week.
  3. A lecture series that will meet once-a-week featuring prominent intellectuals. These lectures are required for students enrolled in ESF.

ESF Courses Offered in Autumn 2015-16

Introductory Seminars

Faculty Director: Russell Berman, Comparative Literature and German Studies

Director, Stanford Introductory Studies for Introductory Seminars: Ellen Woods

Senior Associate Director: Lee West

Associate Director: Joyce Moser

Faculty: More than 200 faculty from the Schools of Humanities and Sciences; Engineering; Law; Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; and the Graduate Schools of Business and Education

Offices: Second Floor, Sweet Hall
Mail Code: 3069
Phone: (650) 724-2405
Web Site:

The Introductory Seminars program offers more than 200 small classes for first- and second-year students taught by faculty from across the seven Schools of the University. Professors teach subjects drawn from their research and scholarship and engage students in deep investigation of important questions and issues. Seminars require little or no formal background, and welcome freshmen and sophomores to Stanford’s intellectual community.

Most seminars satisfy the WAYs Breadth Requirements, and several meet the second-level Writing and Rhetoric Requirement.  All seminars foster close faculty-student relationships through the study of topics of mutual interest. To make the best matches between faculty and students with a shared interest in a topic, students write brief statements of interest for faculty to read as part of the application process. Seminars that are not filled by application are open for enrollment in Axess with preference to freshmen and sophomores.

Freshmen and sophomores may rank up to three seminars per quarter, but there is no limit on the total number of seminars a student can take. For information about application and enrollment, see the Introductory Seminars web site. Application deadlines for each quarter are at 5PM on:

  • Autumn Quarter: September 1, 2015
  • Winter Quarter: October 12, 2015
  • Spring Quarter: January 25, 2016

Introductory Seminars Courses Offered in 2015-16

Sophomore College

Offices: Sweet Hall, Third Floor
Mail code: 3069
Phone: (650) 724-4667
Web Site:

Sophomore College (SoCo) offers rising sophomores who share a passion for an area of study an opportunity to meet daily in seminar-size classes with Stanford faculty for lecture and discussion; students may also work in labs, participate in community-based learning, go on field trips, and engage in a range of other activities that facilitate in-depth mentoring relationships.  Held before the start of students’ sophomore year, this residential program encourages academic and social connections and transforms classes into intellectual communities, helping participants establish rich relationships with peers and faculty that extend beyond graduation. Seminars are for 2 credits; the Sophomore College program fee covers tuition, room, board, books, and class-required travel arranged by the program. Financial Assistance is available.  You can view the on-line catalog and learn more about SoCo at the Sophomore College web site.  

Arts Intensive

Offices: Sweet Hall, Third Floor
Mail code: 3069
Phone: (650) 724-4667
Web Site:

The Arts Intensive (AI) Program offers rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors the opportunity to study intensively with Stanford arts faculty and small groups of other Stanford students. The Arts Intensive program takes place over three weeks in September before the start of Autumn Quarter.

Arts Intensive courses engage students in the theory and practice of a particular artistic discipline. Courses often include field trips, workshops, film screenings, studio sessions, or other arts events in the afternoons, evenings, and on weekends. Courses are taught by Stanford arts faculty and often include contributions from professional visiting artists. Arts Intensive students live together in a Stanford residence during the program, making for a rich immersion into a creative community. This unique opportunity allows students to focus on their art practice without the constraints of other coursework. Enrollment is by application and takes place in Spring Quarter for the upcoming September program.  Each Arts Intensive course enrolls 10 to 20 students and offers 2 units of academic credit.  For more information or to apply, see the Arts Intensive web site.

Bing Honors College

Offices: Hume Center for Writing and Speaking (Building 250)
Mail code: 2085
Phone: (650) 723-0045
Web Site: Bing Honors College

Bing Honors College brings students working on the early phases of their honors theses back to campus in early September, and gives them three weeks before the start of Autumn Quarter during which  they can think, read, plan, research,  and write.

With the support of faculty leaders and graduate students from participating departments and programs, students work on what they need, such as narrowing down a topic, improving research skills, making a timeline, writing a literature review, starting a chapter, collecting or sorting data, etc. This opportunity to focus solely on their theses helps the students to begin their senior year with a sense of direction and intellectual purpose, a commitment to their scholarship, and concrete progress on their projects. The College provides room and board. It also sponsors cross-disciplinary forums, such as writing workshops and faculty-led research panels, as well as residential activities and a closing celebratory event for all the students and their faculty leaders.

If you are a prospective honors student interested in joining Bing Honors College, please contact your department to find out whether it is participating. If your department is not participating but your adviser is willing to nominate you, the College will try to place you with a BHC leader who will provide you with the necessary support and guidance.