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Stanford welcomes families to the Farm on Feb. 27 and 28

December 2nd, 2014
A parent t-shirt displayed during Parents' Weekend.

The Parents’ Club will offer specialty t-shirts during Parents’ Weekend on Feb. 27 and 28.

Employment prospects for humanities and arts majors will be the topic of one of 14 lectures, presentations and talks to be offered at Parents’ Weekend on Feb. 27 and 28, 2015.

Parents are encouraged to visit the Parents’ Weekend website to register for the popular annual event in advance. Also strongly encouraged is making early reservations for accommodations.
More than 3,000 family members—everyone is invited—are expected to attend. Online registration closes Jan. 28, 2015.

The humanities and arts career panel discussion will challenge the assumption that humanities and arts majors are unemployable and outline the resources Stanford offers to assist students with career exploration, according to Jeffrey Schwegman, Humanities and Arts Initiative coordinator in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

“There is a widespread belief these days that studying English or philosophy will lead to unemployment after graduation,” Schwegman said. “ In fact, the data suggests otherwise: humanities and arts majors fare quite well in the job market. Moreover, a broad liberal arts education can give young people an edge later in life if they need to retrain or change careers.”

Richard Saller

Richard Saller

The panel discussion will be moderated by Richard Saller, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, and will include historian James Campbell, career development specialist Margot Gilliland and two recent Stanford graduates: Alexander Berger, a senior research analyst at GiveWell, and Camille Ricketts, editor at First Round Review.

The panel discussion is just one of 14 Back to School Classes offered by Stanford faculty and administrators on topics ranging from sustainability to food to artificial intelligence. The classes, always one of the most popular parts of Parents’ Weekend, are designed to give families a sense of the educational experience at Stanford, according to Elaine Enos, executive director of the Office of Special Events and Protocol.

Among the other Back to School Classes offered this year will be “The Museum as Muse: Why the Arts Matter Now More than Ever,” featuring Connie Wolf, director of the Cantor Arts Center; “Why Counterterrorism is So Difficult,” featuring Martha Crenshaw, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; and “Feeding Nine Billion,” featuring David Lobell, associate professor of Environmental Earth System Science.

Parents also will have the opportunity to take campus tours on both Friday and Saturday that highlight, for example, the university’s architecture, academic quadrangles, athletic facilities and dining halls. Also featured will be hikes to the Stanford Dish and a tour of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.

Also throwing their doors open to parents throughout the weekend will be the university’s community centers, as well as the Bing Concert Hall, the Product Realization Lab, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the Virtual Human Interaction Lab and the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab.

Events officially begin on Friday at 9:30 a.m. with a welcome from Provost John Etchemendy. His talk will be followed by “Conversations with Parents,” which address issues specific to each class: freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. President John Hennessy’s always-popular question-and-answer session with parents will be held Friday afternoon.

Parents with questions on any range of subjects are encouraged to attend the Saturday morning Resource Fair. There, parents can talk directly to representatives from campus departments, including Residential Education, the Student Services Center, Undergraduate Advising and Research, Vaden Health Center and Public Safety.

The weekend’s events will wrap up on Saturday afternoon with the Entertainment Extravaganza! The annual event, sponsored by the Parents’ Club, features student performance groups. Tickets can be purchased online when parents register for Parents’ Weekend.

For more, visit the Parents’ Weekend website, which includes a link to answers to frequently asked questions.

Stanford and the music industry collaborate to create leaders

November 20th, 2014

Innovation and entrepreneurial thinking are key factors that make the music business a shape-shifting industry. They are also part of the learning ethos at Stanford – and will drive the Stanford/Warner Music Group Leadership Initiative.

The goal of this initiative is to identify and develop a new generation of undergraduate Stanford students from across educational disciplines – music, computer science, product design, economics and electrical engineering – for leadership roles in the ever-changing music business.

Each year, a select group of students in their junior year of study will participate in the program by taking a course co-developed with Warner Music Group (WMG). WMG is committed to an initial program period of five years.

“I am excited that this new collaboration will offer our students hands-on experience working in this fast-changing creative industry,” said Matthew Tiews, Stanford’s executive director of arts programs. “We hope the program will also bring out the skills, talents and entrepreneurial spirit of Stanford students from all disciplines in order to develop new approaches and leadership in this field.”

How it works

Year one of the program begins now with the admission process. Juniors are invited to apply before Jan. 30, 2015, for participation in this academic year.

The application consists of a resume, a transcript and a brief written expression of interest in participating, detailing experience and preparation and the type of professional experience the student is most interested in pursuing. A portfolio of relevant work (i.e., musical work, technical inventions, marketing campaigns, etc.) is optional.

The selection committee is chaired by Tiews and includes an interdisciplinary group of Stanford faculty and key staff from across the university. The committee will make preliminary decisions in February 2015, at which point Stanford will work with WMG to finalize the selection. This process will likely include an interview or other interface between students and WMG staff to determine fit, with final selection to be announced by March 2015.

The program will have three required components, to take place in the following sequence:

Students must complete, by the end of their junior year, the new course co-developed with WMG and to be offered starting in spring 2015 called Changing World of Popular Music. The course will feature a rotating group of guest artists and executives.

Beginning summer 2015, participants will be given a 10-week paid “in-house” assignment with WMG or one of its program partners. By design, these summer assignments will be highly challenging and rewarding opportunities across the music industry, where technology is reshaping the future and innovation provides tremendous opportunities (and for which students will be eligible to receive $8,000).

Upon returning to campus from summer assignments, students must begin work on intensive capstone projects designed to address opportunities for innovation and to be presented at the end of the senior year ($2,000 per student per project).

Upon completion, WMG may seek to offer support in further developing the projects and careers of leaders emerging from the program.

“This innovative new collaboration brings together the extraordinary creativity and entrepreneurial vision of leaders in music, tech, business and education to inspire and educate the music industry’s next generation of leaders,” said Cameron Strang, CEO and chairman of Warner Bros. Records and Warner/Chappell Music.

Music momentum on campus

The level of interest and participation in music is high on the Stanford campus. There are 35 student music groups, and the Department of Music reviews more than 1,000 arts supplements in music during the college application process every year. Student interest in live music brought back spring concerts at fabled Frost Amphitheater. More than 200 pianos are scattered around campus for easy access.

There is even a new music major.

Following action by the Faculty Senate last spring, Stanford is now offering on a pilot basis new undergraduate majors integrating humanities subjects and computer science. A new joint major in computer science and music, or CS + M, is among the first of them.

The new degrees are distinct from dual degrees or double majors. Rather than completing all of the requirements for two separate majors, students who choose a joint major will pursue a curriculum integrating coursework from both disciplines. In the case of CS + M, the coursework is very much in line with the Stanford/Warner program goals.

Following on the heels of the joint major announcement, Stanford collaborated with Strang and WMG to launch Creativity: Music to My Ears, a free, massive open online course (MOOC) teaching creative problem-solving skills through the lens of music.

Taught by Stanford engineering Professor Tina Seelig, the course features contributions of WMG artists, songwriters and executives. Participating artists include Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park, Nate Ruess from Fun., Tegan and Sara, Jason Mraz, Josh Groban and more.

“I’m passionate about education, and Stanford is leading the world in fostering creativity and innovation,” said Groban. “It’s great to see Warner develop this rich partnership, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to lend my efforts to the collaboration.”

Bringing a taste of Stanford education to participants from around the world, Creativity: Music to My Ears combines individual and team-based challenges and interviews with artists, executives and Stanford faculty experts for a one-of-a-kind online learning experience. All of the projects in the experiential course deal with some aspect of music, including listening, creating and sharing.

During Strang’s visit to campus in October, he participated in a Q&A with students in the new course Real Industry: Music & Audio Technology taught by Jay LeBoeuf, an adjunct lecturer with Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.

Noting what he calls a huge chasm between students and the industry, LeBoeuf said the Stanford/Warner collaboration bridges the arts and music business in an innovative, applied, creative way.

“We need symbiotic relationships to yield the next generation of leaders in music business and technology,” he said.

He added, “WMG is proud to be part of such an important, forward-looking program with Stanford, whose students change the world, and we are committed to using our resources and expertise to create the highest levels of engagement and opportunities for the students. Today’s digital natives are defining the new era of music, and these students will lead it.”

Harry Elam gives undergraduate education annual report

October 24th, 2014
Harry Elain

Harry Elam, vice provost for undergraduate education, at a recent faculty senate meeting. (Photo: Linda Cicero)

At a recent faculty senate meeting, Harry J. Elam Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education, discussed undergraduate education, focusing on Thinking Matters, which is designed to introduce incoming students to college-level thinking by having them tackle problems, questions and issues of significant import. It is now in its third year.

Elam said surveys have shown that the courses are popular with both students and faculty, and as a result, it has been easier to recruit faculty members to develop and teach the courses. Freshmen are required to take at least one Thinking Matters course.

He said the fear that the humanities would suffer when Thinking Matters replaced Introduction to the Humanities (IHUM) has proved to be unfounded. In fact, the two most popular Thinking Matters courses this year – What Is Love? and Evil – are humanities courses, taught by medievalists and philosophers, he said.

Elam said the 27 courses in this year’s Thinking Matters catalog present a wide range of offerings from across the university, including a course on cancer from Stanford Medical School; on the rules of war from Stanford Law School and the Political Science Department; and on meeting the global sustainability challenge from the School of Earth Sciences and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“Because students only have to take one Thinking Matters course, instead of the three courses they took with IHUM, we can have smaller class sizes,” he said. “We can have class sizes of 60 to 100 students, rather than the 250 that we saw in IHUM.

“What that means is that it is a more intimate experience for students, faculty and the fellows that are the section teaching staff for the course.”

Elam discussed several other new undergraduate programs, including Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture (ITALIC), a yearlong residential program designed to showcase the arts as an essential part of scholarly and public life, and the future Stanford in New York, a pilot program scheduled to accept its first cohort of 20 juniors in autumn 2015.

Provost addresses the Stanford community on Ebola

October 24th, 2014

In an Oct. 23 message to the Stanford community regarding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Provost John Etchemendy and Dr. Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center, said the university has established protocols to reduce the risks to the community posed by the virus, and to identify, isolate and begin care should the campus have a case in the Stanford Health Care network.

“We are confident of our plans for handling a local case of Ebola in our emergency room and for caring for such a patient within our hospital isolation units,” they wrote, adding that the university is fortunate to have a world-class medical facility and expert personnel. “We have and will continue to train our Stanford Medicine staff using state-of-the-art simulations of an Ebola scenario.”

Etchemendy said the university has been monitoring the high-level federal warnings about travel to the Ebola regions since the summer, and recalled or cancelled summer academic programs to the region.

“Stanford has a current restriction in place prohibiting Stanford-related travel by any community member to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the three countries where Ebola outbreaks continue,” the message states.

“We imposed this restriction due to the uncertainty of travel and safety logistics, as well as health care constraints in these areas. The public health infrastructure in these countries is severely strained as the outbreak grows, and the security situation in these countries is unstable and may worsen.”

At present, Stanford Medicine does not plan to send any organized medical support team to the affected area. Some people may still want to volunteer their expertise in West Africa during the crisis, Etchemendy said, adding that Stanford respects that selfless and humanitarian personal choice.

“But any Stanford, faculty, staff or student who wishes to undertake personal, voluntary travel to these specific countries should be aware that Stanford’s ability to provide medical support or evacuation in the event of illness or exposure will be severely limited, and potentially in the hands of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department, beyond our control,” the message states.

Speaking at Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Etchemendy encouraged the Stanford community to contribute to relief efforts.

All individuals traveling to those areas should register their trip in Stanford’s travel registry at the Office of International Affairs, Etchemendy said.

Etchemendy said anyone who travels to an Ebola-affected area will be required to contact campus health offices for an evaluation prior to their return to campus – the Vaden Health Center for students and the Occupational Health Center for employees.

“Any employee or visitor who has traveled to or arrived from the endemic Ebola area – Liberia, Serra Leone and Guinea – for any reason will be required to stay away from campus for 21 days following the completion of travel,” the message states. “Arrangements and support for this isolation period may be available and should have prior approval.”

Campus units expecting visitors from the endemic Ebola countries should contact Brendan Walsh – or (650) 725-0076 – in the Office of International Affairs before their planned arrival to determine steps to take before the visitors are permitted to enter campus.

“To date, we have not identified any member of our community, or any visitor to campus, who is at elevated risk for Ebola,” the message states.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers Ebola to pose little risk to persons in the United States at this time. The Ebola virus is only spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with, or has died from, Ebola or objects contaminated with the virus. Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu; Ebola is not transmitted through the air.

While a case of Ebola within the Stanford community is unlikely, Etchemendy said the outbreak of the deadly virus was an opportunity to remind everyone of the basic precautions they should take to avoid the spread of any communicable disease.

“We encourage every member of the Stanford community who is able to do so to get a flu shot, either from your own doctor or in one of our free flu vaccination clinics ongoing now,” the message states. “It is also important to practice proper hygiene throughout the winter months and to avoid infecting others if you become sick.”

Finally, Etchemendy encouraged the Stanford community to play close attention to the evolving situation and to stay informed by visiting the Stanford Responds to Ebola website.

The website presents updates on the university’s response to the outbreak; details for travelers to the affected region; and FAQs and links to the CDC and the World Health Organization. It also includes a video of Stanford and CDC experts talking about the health, governance, security and ethical dimensions of Ebola.

For more, visit

Stanford responds to Ebola questions

October 20th, 2014

What has Stanford done so far in preparation for a possible case of Ebola among members of the Stanford community?
The university has had a pandemic plan in place for many years. Since Ebola began to emerge as an issue, the university has been planning intensively and following best practices and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We have held meetings of the campus infection control working group, representing many departments across campus, in concert with county public health officials, since summer. With the emergence of the U.S. index case in Dallas, the pace of planning has been stepped up recently, and operational subgroups are actively working on updating existing contingency plans for medical care, identification and support in the unlikely event of a potential case occurring at or near Stanford. Additionally, policy and support guidance has been developed for travelers to and from the affected countries with community outbreaks, as well as for other areas of West Africa.

At what level do you assess the risk from Ebola to members of the Stanford community?
The risk is very, very small. For members of our campus community, our students and faculty who returned to campus this fall, we are now well past the critical 21-day window for Ebola. Nevertheless, we are continuously monitoring the emerging situation and adapting existing infection control planning efforts in order to further reduce that small risk.

How would the university’s ongoing protocols for disease control help diminish the possibility of an Ebola infection on campus?
We have isolation plans, and we would communicate quickly and effectively. Our protocols enable us to identify possible scenarios, designate a range of potential response actions to mitigate the risk, and allow us to quickly share information and communicate needed steps to the necessary groups, such as staff and emergency responders.

What advice has Stanford offered to students, staff and faculty who might be considering traveling to the West African countries most affected so far?
Stanford is asking that all non-essential travel be deferred to the three countries with community spread of Ebola: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Travelers are also advised that travel to other parts of West Africa should be carefully evaluated to account for possible disruption due to local country restrictions on incoming and outgoing visitors, even if those areas are not presently at risk of Ebola virus disease.

What type of outreach has the university done to the campus community thus far to educate them about Ebola and its risks?
Instruction and guidance will be posted to this site, including links to instructions for returning travelers from West Africa and university guidance for travelers. These instructions are consistent with guidance documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This site will be regularly updated as information becomes available.

What advice does the university offer to students, faculty and staff to diminish the possibility they could contract Ebola?
We are always educating our campus community to minimize the spread of any infectious disease, whether it would be the flu or Ebola. It’s always a good idea to practice good hand-washing and basic hygiene. That cuts down on the risk of person-to-person spread of many infectious diseases. Right now, travel to the three affected countries with community outbreak is strongly discouraged. Returning travelers are urged to check in with our health services and self-monitor for signs of illness for 21 days after return.

Is Stanford Hospital equipped and able to handle an Ebola case should it occur in this area?
We are fortunate to have a world-class medical facility, and expert personnel, at the university. Stanford Hospital, like many hospitals across the country, has elevated its alert status. If needed, they are equipped and fully prepared to accept an Ebola case.

Are you worried that the nation’s focus on Ebola right now might diminish the precautions people take around influenza?
Our flu vaccine clinics are always underway at this time of the year, and we make free shots available to all members of our campus community. There’s been good distribution and acceptance of vaccinations, so we are pleased that our faculty, staff and students remain focused on prevention. Ebola has not been a distraction, but perhaps a reminder of the importance of good self-care. It is very important to remind everyone that, unlike the influenza virus, Ebola transmission requires close contact with someone with disease symptoms and is not transmitted through the air.

For more information, visit

Stanford’s safety net helps students in distress

October 10th, 2014

The director of Vaden Health Center recently talked to members of the Faculty Senate about the mental health and well-being of students.

Ira Friedman

Ira Friedman talking before the Faculty Senate.

Ira M. Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center, recently reported that Stanford has established an extensive “safety net” of mental health and well-being resources on campus to help students who may be experiencing psychological distress.

Speaking to the Faculty Senate, Friedman encouraged faculty members to contact someone in the safety net if they are concerned about a student. He said early recognition and intervention can help address mental health issues before they become more difficult to mitigate and treat.

“I’m going to start with a very provocative statement, which is that stress is up and students may not have the resilience to overcome that level of stress,” he said. “I believe it’s true among students, not necessarily every student, of course, but it may explain why you as faculty members on campus encounter students with signs of stress.”

He told the senate to keep in mind that the late teenage and young adult years are a peak time for the first onset of mental health conditions.

Friedman said faculty can play a critical role in supporting the mental health and well-being of students by recognizing the signs of psychological distress in students, intervening by engaging the students in conversation and listening to them talk about their problems, and encouraging them to get help.

He urged faculty to encourage feedback from teaching assistants and course assistants if they sense that a student is in distress, and to pay attention to any of these warning signs:

Change in participation and/or performance
Decline in the quality of academic work
Frequent absences from a lab, office or class
Change in mood or appearance
Unusual or troubling behavior, including angry outbursts, inappropriate dark humor and vague threats to harm themselves or others
Failure to respond to repeated attempts to communicate
Concerns expressed by other students
He encouraged faculty members to trust their instincts.

“If you’re concerned there is a problem, you’re probably right,” Friedman said.

Friedman said faculty members should seek help and advice whenever the demands of the situation exceed their comfort level.

The key thing for faculty to remember, he said, is that Stanford has many resources available to help students get the best possible referral.

When encouraging students to seek help, a faculty member could say, “I know that there are many caring and helpful staff who can listen and help you access the many resources that are available to help students who may be experiencing difficulties.”

Friedman encouraged faculty to reach out to trained staff at Stanford who can assess the seriousness of the situation, develop options for a response and gather the resources needed to respond.

The people who compose the safety net can be found in a new online resource directory, Wellness Network at Stanford, at

The online directory is a comprehensive, searchable site that links students, faculty and staff, and family and friends to immediate crisis-intervention services and professional counseling, as well as academic support services, community centers and student groups. It features more than 150 resources and reflects the spectrum of mental health and well-being support available on campus. Select off-campus resources also are included.

Friedman said help is available 24 hours a day. He said the “go-to staff” include the residence deans, graduate life deans and staff in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Vaden. They are backed up by residential staff, including residence fellows, peer health educators and community associates.

There are more than 14 offices in Stanford’s safety net, including CAPS, Residential Education, the Graduate Life Office, Athletics and the Office for Religious Life.

This article originally ran in Stanford Report on Oct. 9, 2014.

Five things parents should know about alcohol at Stanford

September 24th, 2014
Ralph Castro

Ralph Castro

Ralph Castro, associate dean of student affairs and director of the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education, shares information he hopes all parents know about alcohol prevention efforts at Stanford.

Each summer, you write to freshman parents to ask them to talk to their children about drinking alcohol. Why?

Studies here and elsewhere show that students who talk with their parents about drinking have fewer alcohol-related issues. In other words, parents have more influence than they might suspect. We want to create a partnership with parents to prevent high-risk drinking among Stanford students. We hope, too, that candid conversations continue throughout students’ college careers.

What programs does Stanford offer to help prevent high-risk drinking among students?

We have many programs, beginning with the online educational program all freshmen must take before arriving on campus. Once here, they’ll find Cardinal Nights, which are alcohol-free programs designed so that no student feels isolated by a decision not to drink. Most events are packed beyond capacity, and nearly one third of attendees say they were likely to have been drinking had they not attended. In addition, our staff visits all residences with first-year students in the first several weeks of classes to provide alcohol education. Our objective is to change campus culture so that high-risk drinking is not considered a rite of passage any more.

How does drinking at Stanford compare with other colleges nationwide?

Stanford is very similar in terms of national norms for quantity and frequency of drinking. Surveys show that most Stanford students drink moderately or not at all. But some percentage engages in high-risk or “binge” drinking, often with hard alcohol. So, we’re dealing with the same issues as other colleges and universities. We consistently talk to our peers to share information and ideas.

What are the consequences of student drinking at Stanford?

Excessive drinking can—and does—result in arrest. Stanford students are not immune from prosecution and are commonly cited for being a minor in possession of alcohol or being intoxicated in public—which involves being arrested and transported to jail. Almost all of Stanford’s emergency hospital transports result from high-risk drinking shots of hard liquor. Another thing that worries us a lot is the relationship between drinking behaviors that harm others such as assaults and violence.

What advice do you give to parents to help them talk to their children about alcohol use?

Just having a conversation appears to be enough to affect alcohol use. Be open, frank and honest with your son or daughter. Provide clear and consistent expectations for them. Things have changed since we were in college. High-risk drinking activities such as rapid hard-liquor consumption are different now and are very dangerous.

Visit the website of the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education.

Row Houses get significant summer upgrades

September 10th, 2014
Sigma Nu is among the Row Houses receiving significant summer upgrades.

Sigma Nu is among the Row Houses receiving significant summer upgrades.

Returning students this year will see upgrades in residential facilities throughout campus, but especially in four Row Houses, as a result of summer renovations by Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE).

Mars, Sigma Nu, Roth and Durand – all upperclass residences located on Mayfield Avenue – underwent significant structural, electrical and plumbing upgrades over the summer. The buildings were given new enclosed stairwells; student room, bathroom and laundry updates; flooring repairs; exterior stucco work; roof and window repairs and replacement; and new decks, walkways and landscaping.

Also updated was Mirrielees House, which received new appliances, sofas, paint and carpet. Mirrielees is an upperclass apartment residence located on Escondido Road.

The Florence Moore complex on Mayfield Avenue, which underwent major renovations last summer, and Wilbur Hall on Escondido Road, which had its eight houses renovated over a four-year period, both received courtyard upgrades during the summer.

In the Manzanita Park neighborhood on the east side of campus, construction has begun on the first new undergraduate residence to be built in 20 years. The new Manzanita Park residence will complete the original plan for four communities on that site, joining Kimball, Castaño and Lantana.

The new residence will be home to 125 upperclass students beginning in the fall of 2015. The facility will feature singles and two-room doubles, community gathering spaces – including a large lounge with kitchenette – study spaces, seminar rooms and a computer cluster.

On the west side of campus, planning continues for two new houses in Lagunita Court, which is located on Santa Teresa Street. These residences will complement the historic nature of the current complex and will house an additional 216 students and two resident fellows.

In addition, R&DE recently opened a new graduate housing complex, the Kennedy Graduate Residences in Escondido Village. The Kennedy Graduate Residences house 435 students in four buildings of studio and two-bedroom apartments over the same ground space that previously accommodated 63 students. The new Donald Kennedy Commons building and a new outdoor plaza will be completed this fall.

While these major projects are R&DE’s most visible, the department also completed hundreds of other projects throughout campus, ranging from repainting rooms and updating furniture to replacing roofs and mechanical equipment.

“It takes the involvement and commitment of many, many people to accomplish so much in such a short period of time, and we are so glad to have such a great team of people involved across Residential & Dining Enterprises and the Stanford University Department of Project Management,” said Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost for R&DE.

“Stanford is a very busy place in the summer, as we make the most of a short period of time to implement significant renovations in our student residences,” Everett said.

How would Stanford communicate in a crisis?

September 10th, 2014
Lisa Lapin

Lisa Lapin

Stanford continuously works to improve its emergency response systems in preparation for crises administrators hope never occur. Lisa Lapin, associate vice president for university communications, answers questions about how the campus intends to communicate with students and their families should an emergency occur on the Stanford campus.

How would students be alerted to emergency situations on campus?

Stanford has a notification system called AlertSU, which can send out alerts via mass emails, phone calls, text messages and, if necessary, campuswide sirens. Police generally initiate the alerts. For more complex incidents or situations impacting the greater campus, Stanford University Communications will assume responsibility for communicating with our immediate community.

We plan to use the web as a primary mode of frequent communication, in addition to social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. We run ourselves through timed drills so that we can practice posting messages through all of the channels available to us as quickly as possible.

How quickly can Stanford alert the university to an emergency?

Every situation will have a different timeline, but the university’s intent is to use AlertSU to communicate with faculty, staff and students as quickly as possible. By federal law– specifically the Clery Act – all colleges and universities must alert their campuses to imminent threats so people can take preventative measures. How fast an alert is issued would depend upon how quickly a problem is reported to campus police or other local agencies, the nature of the situation and how quickly the report can be reasonably substantiated. We know that information is quickly shared via social media by bystanders when a crisis occurs. Stanford will want to be sure we share both the most timely and most accurate information possible.

How would families learn more directly from Stanford about what is happening on campus?

Communicating with families during an emergency would be a high priority for Stanford. We would use emails and web updates and be proactive in sharing what we know as soon as we know it. Parents do not receive AlertSU messages, but we have two methods of communicating via email with parents: one is the distribution system we use for the Stanford Parents’ Newsletter. The other is using emergency contact emails collected by the Registrar’s Office. That said, we know that students and parents will be communicating directly and frequently, as well. We encourage parents and students to have their own communications plan using texting or social media for checking in after an event so parents can have the peace of mind of knowing their student is safe.

If there were a large-scale critical incident on campus, everyone, including parents, would be directed to the website, which is where we would post periodic updates. That’s where we would focus our initial communication efforts, and that’s where parents would learn the most up-to-date information. The information will also be shared through Twitter and Facebook postings.

What challenges do these kinds of emergencies pose, and how are you preparing for them?

First, it is very challenging to get accurate information quickly, given the heavy activity that emergencies entail. Our police will be focused on response and safety warnings first, detailed information second. Social media reports may be faster, but the information bystanders provide is not always accurate. It is possible that mobile and digital communication may be sporadic, or even fail, due to the sheer volume of information being transferred. The websites of some colleges and universities have actually crashed during emergencies because of the volume of traffic. In a major earthquake we could lose electricity, so we are taking steps to deploy backup web systems. Those are all challenges we continue to discuss.

We also know that parents may want to reach someone live to get information rather than glean it from a website. As a college parent myself– my children are at New York University and Stanford–I can relate. But campuses that have experienced crises tell us that is a difficult expectation to accommodate in a large, fast-moving situation. Most likely, we would communicate personally first with parents of students who might be directly affected by an emergency. Then we would be better able to reassure other families that their students haven’t been affected.

What happens if you lose the ability to communicate?

We hope that never happens, but it is a possibility and we are working to be prepared. For example, we have relationships with off-site services to help us handle massive online interest. Stanford attracts global attention as a matter of our day-to-day business, and we already have among the highest volumes of website traffic of any university in the world. Should there be a crisis here, we expect that not just our campus community, but interested people around the world, will be coming to our website for information and updates, so we are preparing for that high volume.

Throughout Stanford, we take emergency preparation very seriously, working to think through every possible scenario, including the unthinkable, and adopting best practices from other institutions that have faced such challenges. Sadly, there has been much to learn from our colleagues at other colleges and universities.


Five things parents should know about health care at Stanford

September 8th, 2014

Ira2Dr. Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center, shares information he hopes all parents know about health care services at Stanford.

What happens when a Stanford student living in the residences gets ill? Who knows and what services does the university provide?

The residential staff – including peer health educators and residence assistants – keep tabs on who is ill. Clusters of illness are rapidly reported to me for possible environmental intervention. Information about self-care and hygiene and prevention is distributed. Students who are bedridden can have their meal trays delivered by dining services by contacting their Residence Dean.

How does Stanford deal with infectious illnesses such as the flu?

Early warning and prevention education are the keys across the board. We keep very careful tabs on whether illnesses are appearing in clusters. In terms of the flu, we have a very active free flu shot program for faculty, staff and students in October. We hope parents will help us encourage their children to get vaccinated before they leave campus for Thanksgiving.

Does the university consider the impact of worldwide issues such as pandemics on the Stanford campus?

Absolutely. The university attracts a global student body, and our faculty, staff and students frequently travel for work, study and play. This past summer, for instance, we convened our Infection Control Working Group to monitor the outbreak of Ebola and establish protocols for members of the Stanford community, including individuals who have traveled recently to West African countries.

What are the advantages of Stanford’s Cardinal Care?

Stanford’s Cardinal Care is a top-rung “platinum” plan, meaning it is very comprehensive in its coverage of medical expenses. In addition, the Cardinal Care provider network is strong locally (including the Stanford University Medical Center) and throughout the United States. It is particularly good at covering our students who are studying, doing research and traveling overseas.

What can parents do to help their children stay healthy at Stanford?

Parents can advise their children to get vaccinated for the flu, to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest and exercise. Our experience is that students fail to sleep as much as needed or eat the healthy meals they enjoyed at home, making them more susceptible to illness. We ask parents to encourage students to stay in bed when they are ill and rest. Isolating students is one of our biggest challenges because they are so motivated. If students opt to attend classes although they are sick, it may prolong their illness and infect others.

For more information about health care at Stanford, visit the website of the Vaden Health Center.