May 17, 2018

Envisioning Stanford’s future

This afternoon at the annual meeting of the Academic Council, we presented a high-level vision for Stanford’s future, building on the input of many hundreds of people from across the university community over the last year.

We’re excited to share this vision with our community. It’s an ambitious framework that aims to further advance Stanford in service to the world, across broad swaths of the university’s activity. We believe it reflects the optimistic, pioneering, energetic spirit of a community eager to strengthen Stanford’s foundations and to expand its contributions.

You can find details on a website we have launched at Below we’ll provide some highlights of the vision, and there will be more opportunities for conversation at two campus meetings we have scheduled in the coming weeks, on May 30 at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and on June 5 at Stanford’s Porter Drive offices.

Framing the vision: our opportunity and responsibility

Since our founding, Stanford has always embraced new ways of thinking about its missions of research, education and service. We have cultivated a distinctive combination of intellectual capability, pioneering spirit, can-do attitude and optimism for the future that enables us to defy traditions and open new opportunities.

Today we face a future full of both promise and peril, marked by a breathtaking pace of change in the world. There is need for new thinking and new approaches to help anticipate and navigate this change, in order to accelerate benefits and address challenges.

Stanford is strongly positioned to help society navigate this dynamic future, but doing so requires us to chart a purposeful course for our university. By tapping the wisdom of our campus community, our alumni and outside perspectives, through a year of long-range planning we have framed a vision to guide our shared journey over the next decade and beyond in service to the world.

The vision sets priorities in four areas:

  • Values: To ground ourselves in our fundamental values and ensure ethical and purposeful engagement with our community and the world at all times.
  • Research: To create more nimble structures and resources to better empower our researchers to take risks, spark new directions and take on urgent problems, with renewed focus on several areas: fundamental research in all fields, which is the key to transformative advances; accelerating application and impact for social-problem solving, health and sustainability; and shaping the digital revolution.
  • Education: To equip students for a world of change by preparing them to think broadly, deeply and critically, and to contribute to society; and to magnify our educational contribution by further increasing access, by extending our reach beyond our campus, and by advancing the science of learning to improve educational outcomes.
  • Community: To provide the necessary foundation for our journey by promoting an inspired, inclusive and collaborative community of diverse scholars, students and staff, where all are supported and empowered to thrive.

Shaping the vision

One of the challenges of an effort like this is its scope. The focus of the long-range planning effort has been nothing less than the future of Stanford as a whole! While the vision that has emerged from the process is high-level in nature, it covers a wide variety of subjects. Some areas have greater detail or encompass work in progress, while others will be shaped by design teams in the months to come.

Here is a sampling of just some of the elements of the shared vision:

  • Presidential initiatives on several cross-cutting priorities: inclusion, diversity, equity and access; purposeful engagement with our region, nation and world; and the intersection of ethics, society and technology.
  • Along with new shared platforms, resources and funding mechanisms to support research, eight research initiatives are proposed across four topic areas: Sparking Discovery, Creativity & Knowledge (with a focus on The Changing Human Experience and The Natural World); Accelerating Applications (with a focus on a Social Problem-Solving Accelerator and an Innovative Medicines Accelerator); Solutions for Our Region and World (with a focus on Sustainability and on Precision Health in the Bay Area and the World); and Shaping the Digital Future (with a focus on harnessing data to advance all fields of research and on advancing human-centered artificial intelligence and tackling its impacts). As part of the sustainability initiative mentioned above, Stanford will set a goal of becoming 80 percent carbon-free by 2025 and zero-waste by 2030.
  • A package of education initiatives including fresh approaches to the first-year undergraduate experience and the pathways to majors for undergraduates, with the Faculty Senate playing a key role as required in our system of academic governance; improved student advising and a new comprehensive plan for residential life; support for research, tools and resources to improve educational opportunity and outcomes at both Stanford and beyond; and new partnerships and other opportunities for expanding the reach of Stanford’s teaching to more learners.
  • A series of community initiatives, including near-term affordability actions in recognition of the housing, transportation and other challenges facing our community. These include increased need-based financial assistance for graduate parents; an increased minimum salary for postdoctoral scholars; and an expanded FY19 salary program, expansion of satellite work centers and other enhancements for staff and academic staff. In addition, a new Affordability Task Force will assess, by the second quarter of 2019, further steps the university can take to address the affordability challenges facing members of our campus community. The vision also calls for broader community initiatives, including increased support for community centers and a master space plan to foster community, including reimagining White Plaza as a vibrant gathering space.

Next steps

What about next steps? We have two kinds in mind.

As noted above, we’re taking immediate steps in a number of areas. In addition, on larger and longer-term issues, design teams of people from across the campus community will be assembled to develop more comprehensive and specific plans over the 2018-19 academic year. The progress of these design teams will be tracked on the vision website. In many cases, after their acceptance by university leadership, plans will be developed to identify the necessary resources for their execution.

We are grateful to everyone who submitted ideas and proposals for Stanford’s future, and particularly to the 100+ members of the four area steering groups who worked to organize those ideas into 37 white papers. We have given great care and attention, working with senior leadership, to creating an overarching vision for Stanford that will amplify our contribution to the world and that is true to what we heard from our community. We continue to welcome your feedback and your ideas for improvement.

As you read the materials on the website, we hope you’ll be inspired about the possibilities for Stanford’s future. We know we are. And we hope this high-level vision provides compelling guideposts for the next, exciting phase in the story of a great university.