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Search begins for Science, Technology, Society director

STANFORD -- Stanford's popular Science, Technology and Society (STS) program has a second chance to survive with a proposal from university administrators to provide funds to hire a new faculty member to be program director.

Three departments ­ economics, political science and sociology ­ have been asked to recommend candidates to the dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences by Nov. 1, according to Professor Stephen Haber, associate dean of social sciences. School Dean John Shoven then will appoint a committee to rank the candidates and conduct interviews. "I would hope we can appoint someone by next spring for the following academic year," Haber said.

The successful candidate also will serve as a faculty member in the academic department that recommended him or her, based on scholarship and teaching abilities within the discipline as well as in the interdisciplinary program, he said. Tenured faculty at Stanford all have an appointment within an established department. Interdisciplinary programs, such as STS, are not authorized to make permanent academic appointments on their own.

The sometimes tenuous situation of interdisciplinary programs will be the subject of a faculty and student panel discussion from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Kresge Auditorium. The panel has been organized by students who were involved last spring in efforts to save the STS program as an undergraduate major when the School of Engineering announced that it could no longer muster enough faculty resources to continue to offer the major. STS collaboration of faculty in the schools of Engineering and Humanities & Sciences had many faculty supporters but none willing to devote at least half time to directing the program, a requirement that James Gibbons, then dean of engineering, said must be met in order for that school to continue to offer the major. Robert McGinn, a non-tenured teaching professor hired by the School of Engineering, is acting chair, but he could not continue to meet the advising and teaching load required of him as the number of students opting for the major grew, engineering school administrators said.

"I think it's wonderful that the university administration has taken steps to see that this undergraduate degree, which is very important in understanding science and technology, remains at Stanford," said senior Michael Putnam, an STS major who ­ as director of special projects for the new student body president, Bill Shen ­ organized the panel discussion of interdisciplinary programs. "The atmosphere is definitely hopeful [for STS], although I also assume there are a lot of issues to be worked out" related to moving the program from the School of Engineering to the School of Humanities and Sciences, he said.

The STS program continues to operate this year under the auspices of the School of Engineering, with many courses cross-listed from other departments. One new course this year, organized by student Aly Remtulla and McGinn, brings students in contact with six Nobel prizewinners who will offer their perspectives on ethics in science and have dinners with the students. STS at Stanford has focused on contemporary issues in science and technology while another program, History and Philosophy of Science, has a broader time frame.

The panel discussion was planned to give students a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding maintaining interdisciplinary programs and majors, Putnam said. "We are getting together people on this campus who know the most about interdisciplinary programs to talk about what they are, what are their successes and what challenges they face in a broad sense and in particular at this university."

Faculty panelists will include Ramon Saldívar, vice provost of undergraduate education; Donald Kennedy, president emeritus and a founder of the Human Biology program; John Bravman, associate dean of student affairs in the School of Engineering; Russell Fernald, chair of the Human Biology program; Roger Noll, chair of the Public Policy program; and Judith Goldstein, chair of the International Policy Studies program.

Student panelists will include Vu Luu, a 1996 graduate from STS who was active in the campaign to save the major; Alan Hellawell, a master's student in East Asian Studies; Nava Ashraf, a co-terminal student who plans to earn bachelor's and master's degrees simultaneously in International Relations and in International Policy Studies; and Teri Stein, a senior in Humanities Special Programs.



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