Stanford University
Stephan Graham Dean Earth Sciences

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My take on the LRP… Up next: Commencement

This summer will see the framing of a plan to add muscle to the university’s Long Range Plan vision, and the next academic year will be the period in which detailed plans are drawn and put in motion.

BY Stephan Graham
ClockMay 21, 2018

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Persis DrellLate last Thursday afternoon, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne drew back the curtain for the first public view of the results of the university’s Long Range Planning process in a presentation entitled, ‘Navigating a Dynamic Future.’ This much-awaited event came after well over a year of input from the Stanford community and analysis by committees and the university executive cabinet.

The roll-out touches most aspects of the Stanford universe, presenting a positive, proactive, catalytic vision for the university for the coming decade and beyond. The vision doubles down on the notion of Stanford as a ‘purposeful university.’  The president’s presentation offered a very high level vision, and specified relatively few details.  The coming summer will see the framing of a plan to add muscle to the skeletal vision, and the next academic year will be the period in which detailed plans are drawn and put in motion.  A development campaign has not yet been announced, but is sure to follow.

What does it all mean for Stanford Earth? In a word, opportunity!  While the president’s vision was lacking in detail, with much remaining to be worked out over the coming year, I see important opportunities for our school in several areas:


Catalyzing innovation in teaching/learning and research is a prominent theme of the vision. Seed money will be available for innovative new classes, redesigned classes, and for off-campus field learning opportunities.


Opportunity exists at several levels.  In recognition of diminishing federal support of research, new university funding tools will be available.  Of course, the university cannot truly replace federal funding, but seed grants will be made available on a competitive basis at the school level, as well as funds for upscaling research from benchtop to broad application.  At a much broader level, eight university-level research initiatives will provide funding on a competitive basis for big, cross-cutting research projects proposed by consortia of researchers who come together across departments, schools and institutes.

The eight initiative themes are:

  1. The changing human experience
  2. The natural world
  3. Social problem-solving accelerator
  4. Innovative medicines accelerator
  5. Sustainability in the Bay Area and beyond
  6. Precision health in the Bay Area and beyond
  7. Data @ Stanford
  8. Human centered artificial intelligence. 

Explanation of these can be found at the website mentioned below.  Numbers 2,5,7,8, in particular, intersect significantly with Stanford Earth.


Community, with its many facets, is an extremely important theme of the vision.  A Presidential Initiative termed ‘IDEAL’ (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access in a Learning Community) forms the umbrella for a number of new initiatives, policies and goals. Among them are a university-level diverse post-doc program; an increase in the minimum post-doc salary (already announced); more graduate fellowships; increased financial assistance for post-docs and grad students with families; a new faculty housing loan program; satellite work centers, a new work-from-home policy, commute assistance for staff; and a new affordability task force.

Please go to to see the president’s presentation. You may find the Fact Sheet useful for a thumbnail overview, or check out the Stanford Report article on the presentation.  More information will be added to the website as the long-range plan continues to unfold.  There will be opportunities for members of our school to be involved in the coming year’s planning, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, I welcome any comments you have about the president’s presentation or other aspects of the Long Range Planning process.  I’ll pass them on to the president and provost.

Commencement is around the corner

This is the last edition of our all-school INSIDE Stanford Earth newsletter before commencement, so I want to take this early opportunity to congratulate all Stanford Earth graduates and to welcome anyone from our community -- faculty, staff, postdocs, and students --  who wishes to join our diploma ceremony and reception on the Mitchell patio at 12:30 pm, Sunday, June 17.

Special thanks to our faculty and staff for all of the large and small ways you helped me to hit the ground running this academic year.

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