Students may ‘study abroad’ in Bay Area program

Feb. 16, 2012, 2:52 a.m.
Students may 'study abroad' in Bay Area program
(NATALIE CHENG/The Stanford Daily)

The University may soon develop a “Stanford in the Bay Area” program modeled after the current Stanford in Washington program, if the Faculty Senate votes favorably in March on the recommendations of the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) report released in January.


Stanford in Washington differs from other programs offered through the Bing Overseas Studies Program in its partnership with many institutions in the Washington, D.C. area, providing co-operative work opportunities to students during the day while they receive Stanford course instruction at night.


According to SUES co-chair and history professor James Campbell in an email to The Daily, the report promotes a greater focus on community-based programs similar to the Stanford in Washington program. These programs, Campbell said, “combine engagement with the wider world with serious academic reflection in ways that enrich both.”


SUES committee member and former Daily columnist Aysha Bagchi ‘11, said in an email to The Daily that the Stanford in Washington program and the proposed Stanford in the Bay Area program both serve as ways to give students a literal and figurative change of scenery that ties in well with the report’s overall aim for expansions in educational offerings.


“One of the aims of a Stanford education that we described in the report (the aim that, in a sense, encompasses all other aims) is to foster adaptive learning, where students learn to adapt our knowledge, skills, and sense of personal and social responsibility to new circumstances,” Bagchi wrote.


For Campbell, the Stanford in Washington program fulfills this aim.


“Stanford in Washington became a real model for us because students are not only involved in carrying the skills and knowledge they’ve accumulated out into the world, working in government offices and so forth, but its linking that to reflective experiences,” Campbell said. “So they’re prepared, they’re having these experiences out in the world, they’re coming back and having academic seminars in the evening where they’re processing.”


The benefits the SUES committee saw in the Washington program led them to consider the possibility of offering a similar community-engagement program closer to home in the Bay Area.


“We started to ask, ‘If this thing works so spectacularly well, why aren’t we doing it here?’ So we found other universities that actually run quite successful field studies programs that operate really on the model of Stanford in Washington,” Campbell said.


However, SUES committee member and professor of biology, Susan McConnell, stated in an email to The Daily that a Stanford in the Bay Area “is more of a notion than a plan at this stage.”


Campbell agreed that precisely what such a program would look like is not fully worked out because the committee purposefully tried not to be detailed or prescriptive.


“We tried to act as an incubator of ideas, trusting in the wisdom and creativity of our colleagues and students to develop, implement and, where necessary, revise those idea,” Campbell said.


Jill Vizas, on-campus coordinator of the Stanford in Washington program, said that although she thinks a Stanford in the Bay Area program is a good idea worth pursuing, she and her colleagues have not yet been privy to the thought process behind it.


Regardless, according to Campbell, should such a program come to fruition, it would most likely resemble the opportunities offered currently by the Stanford in Washington program.


“Students might be working with some kind of organization, an NGO or community service organization and spend a quarter doing that for credit. But not just being sent out there blind, but after having extensive preparation — academic preparation — and with a really robust academic and reflective component,” Campbell said.


Campbell said that the Stanford in the Bay Area program would potentially target all students regardless of their majors and allow for students to actively engage in the broader community while being able to stay on campus.


Campbell summarized the impetus for the idea: “What student here wouldn’t profit from an opportunity to integrate academic interests with challenges and opportunities in the wider world?”

Ileana Najarro is the Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. She previously worked as a News Desk Editor and Staff Writer.

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