Stanford University: Stanford’s vision prioritizes citizenship, solutions, sustainability, IDEAL values and more, president tells Faculty Senate

Stanford aims to create a new model of the research university – one that addresses the world’s biggest challenges through citizenship, catalyzing discovery, accelerating solutions, sustaining life and advancing equity and inclusion.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne provides a report to the Faculty Senate Thursday on Stanford’s vision during the first in-person Faculty Senate since going virtual in the pandemic. (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne detailed these values and goals within the university’s vision during a report to the Faculty Senate on Thursday that also included an update on fundraising to support this vision.

It’s “how that we can make bold contributions in preparing the next generation of students for lives of active citizenship and leadership, to continue to conduct deep and fundamental [research for] knowledge that advances the frontiers of understanding, and also in developing and applying solutions to the world’s great problems,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

The Faculty Senate meeting Thursday was the first held in-person since the onset of the pandemic last year, when the senate began meeting virtually.

The meeting also included a presentation on the Global Engagement Review Program, which was established last year to support foreign research engagements following growing concerns about national security and undue foreign interference.

Commitment to values
In his presentation, Tessier-Lavigne said Stanford’s vision for the future matters for the campus community as well as for the local and global communities because it defines how Stanford will fulfill its mission to be a purposeful university in the 21st century.

He said the vision is made up of four themes:

Preparing Citizens and Leaders, which aims to educate students not only for personal success but also to provide them with the skills, values and knowledge they need to pursue a purposeful future
Catalyzing Discovery in Every Field, which is about dedication to supporting fundamental, curiosity-driven research that expands the boundaries of human knowledge
Accelerating Solutions for Humanity, which includes initiatives that reduce the time from knowledge acquisition to application
Sustaining Life on Earth through a new school focused on climate and sustainability that will amplify research and accelerate impact across multiple areas of scholarship
“The fundamental knowledge is key to application, but the application of knowledge opens new avenues for research, new questions that feed back fundamental scholarship so there really is a virtuous cycle we can take advantage of here,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

He added that woven throughout those initiatives is a commitment to “living by our values,” including through advancing equity and inclusion, embedding ethics across research and education and engaging with external partners to learn from and give back to the local and global communities.

“We recognize by underscoring the importance of our IDEAL initiative that how we do the work of our vision matters as much as the work that we do, and we can’t be successful unless we center creating a more ethical and equitable world,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

Tessier-Lavigne and Vice President for Development Jon Denney went on to describe fundraising efforts to support initiatives that will move the vision forward, in addition to supporting priorities for schools and other units. Those additional priorities include seed funding for innovative new research areas, graduate student funding, support for new faculty and undergraduate financial aid.

Denney said the majority of the gifts support those priorities identified by schools and units. About a third of funds raised went to specific vision initiatives as well as to undergraduate financial aid.

The fundraising campaign for the vision will differ from a traditional campaign, in which a university declares an ambitious dollar goal and then reports results against that goal, he said. Instead, the campaign will emphasize the impacts those dollars are having in the world. “We want to keep the focus on the good these dollars achieve,” Denney said.

After the presentation, Judy Goldstein, the Janet M. Peck Professor of International Communication, professor of political science and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, asked whether areas of the vision focused on impact would involve new faculty hires.

“We do envision some growth,” Tessier-Lavigne answered, citing the example of plans to hire additional faculty for the new school on sustainability.

Tessier-Lavigne also said that existing faculty are already interested in applying knowledge. “We have a sizable fraction of our faculty that is interested in being involved in going from idea to impact. … Not all, but for many, it can be frustrating because they don’t necessarily have the full skillset to do that. They don’t necessarily have the full resources,” he said.

The new initiatives will provide resources and infrastructure to enable those faculty who want to apply their research. “We want to be there to make it possible for them to do that seamlessly,” he said.

Foreign research engagement
The senators also heard a presentation on Stanford’s Global Engagement Review Program (GERP), which was established in 2018 to encourage foreign research engagements amid heightened concerns about national security and undue foreign interference.

The presentation was provided by George Triantis, the Charles J. Meyers Professor in Law and Business at the Law School and GERP Faculty Committee chair, and Jessa Albertson, GERP director in the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.

“International collaboration is central to Stanford’s mission,” Triantis said. “It’s absolutely necessary to solve the most pressing problems facing humanity.”

The program provides resources to help those involved in cross-border research comply with complex U.S. federal regulations and requirements while mitigating risk to information security, university property and resources.

“There is a no one-size-fits-all approach,” Albertson said. “Each engagement is different.”

Albertson said that the program’s advisory review is most appropriate when engagements involve these overlapping high-risk factors:

Foreign government talent recruitment programs
Identified countries of risk and high-risk individuals or entities
Defense technology, artificial intelligence, biotech, quantum, autonomous systems and semiconductors
The program grew over the last three years after the U.S. government increasingly asked academic institutions to address the risks of foreign influence on research.

Bipartisan concern that universities are vulnerable to undue foreign influence have resulted in heightened scrutiny, such as investigations of researchers and institutions resulting in loss of funding, or visa denials for students or visitors affiliated with certain Chinese institutions.

Chinese American and Asian American researchers as well as those with collaborations in countries identified as high risk feel targeted, alarming many researchers. This has had a “very significant impact on our community,” Triantis said. Researchers face complex and changing regulatory requirements for cross-border projects, and many feel the measures inhibit valuable international collaborations, he said.

To address the issue, Stanford has been advising on government policy and regulation and providing more support to meet disclosure requirements, in addition to the Global Engagement Review Program.

The program’s plans moving forward include offering risk self-assessment tools and improving guidance to Stanford researchers navigating the complex regulatory landscape, Albertson said.

Several senate members thanked the program presenters for their work, noting that this is a significant issue that needs to be addressed.

Andrew Fire, the George D. Smith Professor in Molecular and Genetic Medicine and professor of pathology and of genetics, said the “chill that this whole effort puts on international collaboration and discussion, something that is the lifeblood of science, is very disconcerting.”

Vaccine mandate
On Thursday, the federal government delayed the compliance deadline for federal contractors’ employee vaccine mandate to Jan. 4, 2022, Provost Persis Drell told the Faculty Senate.

Stanford, as a federal contractor, will move its compliance deadline to Jan. 4, but the Nov. 12 deadline for employees to submit their accommodation requests remains in place, she said.