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February 16, 2012

New Stanford unit seeks educational initiatives for middle and high school students

The new unit will coordinate and promote current Stanford-sponsored pre-collegiate programs and will invite faculty to propose new educational initiatives.

By Kathleen J. Sullivan

Dana Paquin,(in foreground) division head of mathematics at Stanford Online High School, helps students tackle complex and advanced math topics during the high school's summer session at Stanford. (Photo: Norbert von der Groeben)

Stanford University has brought several programs designed to enrich the educational experiences of middle and high school students under one roof, a new administrative unit known as Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies.

The goal of the new unit is to help individual programs achieve their objectives while promoting common goals across the university.

Provost John Etchemendy said the new unit had been created at a pivotal moment in Stanford's history.

"Increasingly, universities are recognizing their responsibility to constituencies beyond their matriculated students, and emerging technologies are making possible activities that were previously unimagined," he said.

"Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies will provide a central administrative unit within the university to coordinate and promote current Stanford-sponsored pre-collegiate programs and will invite faculty colleagues from all schools and departments to propose new pre-collegiate initiatives." 

Currently, there are six programs in Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies:

  • The Stanford University Online High School is an independent school for academically talented and motivated students in grades 7-12.
  • The Education Program for Gifted Youth Summer Institutes are two- to four-week residential programs for academically talented and motivated middle and high school students.
  • Stanford Summer Humanities Institute, a three-week residential program led by Stanford professors, lets rising high school juniors and seniors explore the big questions at the heart of the humanities. How and when can ideas transform society? When is the use of force legitimate? How can we define the limits of individual rights?
  • Stanford Medical Youth Science Program offers a residential science- and medicine-based enrichment program during the summer and a school-based health disparities curriculum offered to students in low-income high schools during the school year.
  • Stanford University Mathematics Camp brings mathematically talented and motivated high school students from across the United States and around the world to campus for four weeks of serious mathematical pursuits.
  • The Stanford Math Circle hosts weekly gatherings of high school (or younger) students working on problems involving complex and advanced mathematical topics, guided by mathematicians and educators.

Raymond Ravaglia, associate dean and director of Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies, said the unit offers a new way for Stanford to influence the education of young people. Ravaglia will continue as executive director of the Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) while its core activities are folded into the new unit.

"Historically, there have been three ways that universities have been able to impact education at the pre-collegiate level – educational policy, leadership education and teacher training," he said. "Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies, through its on-campus programs, but more dramatically through its online offerings, provides a fourth way – namely, directly educating students."

Ravaglia will report to Charles Junkerman, associate provost and dean of Stanford Continuing Studies, which has shared the university's rich educational resources with adult students from throughout the Bay Area since 1988.

"There are many students out there who are not yet in college, but who would benefit from what Stanford has to offer," Junkerman said. "Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies will provide a conduit for this."

Rick Sommer, director of academic programs for Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies, said that over the last decade, the summer institutes of EPGY have developed a good deal of insight into how to reach middle and high school students, as well as expertise in operating such programs.

The program began with 40 students enrolled in two courses in 2002. By last summer, it had swelled to more than 1,200 students enrolled in 80 courses.

"We are pleased we will be able to offer that experience and expertise to others," Sommer said.

Rafe Mazzeo, faculty director of Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies, will chair the new unit's faculty advisory committee.

"With all of the attention that online learning is now getting at the university, I am pleased that this new unit can build on 20 years of experience with pre-collegiate students in the Education Program for Gifted Youth to ensure that this population gets the attention that it deserves and that those students receive programs that are truly of a Stanford caliber."



Raymond Ravaglia, Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies: (650) 723-4117,

Lisa Lapin, University Communications: (650) 725-5456,

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