Trustees pass funding for new center

April 23, 2012, 3:04 a.m.

The Stanford Board of Trustees approved $4.2 million for a new contemplation center at its recent spring meeting. The annual gathering was held in Monterey from April 15 to 17 to discuss two main topics: undergraduate education and the Stanford Challenge.

The Land and Buildings Committee met before the retreat, resulting in two action items then raised at the trustees meeting.

According to Board of Trustees Chair Leslie Hume ’71 Ph.D ’79, the first action item was concept and site approval of the proposed 4,000 square-foot Windhover Contemplation Center at the intersection of Lomita and Santa Teresa. The center will feature paintings by the late Nathan Oliveira, former professor of art at Stanford.

“It will be a place where people can sit and contemplate and look at these beautiful, enormous paintings by Oliveira,” Hume said. “From the slides we saw at this presentation of his paintings, and from reading about the origins of these paintings, it’s going to be a wonderful thing to have.”

The board will consider design approval of the contemplation center in October, and construction approval is scheduled for June 2013.

The second action item concerned piping and building conversions to accommodate changes from steam to hot water for Stanford’s Central Energy Facility.

The board was prompted to discuss undergraduate education after the release of the SUES report earlier this year. Before this meeting, Vice Provost Harry Elam had not had the opportunity to speak about his plans for changes in undergraduate education in front of the entire board. Elam, along with Senior Associate Vice Provost Martha Cyert and a panel of three faculty members, spoke to the board about the vision of undergraduate education moving forward, specifically the introduction of Thinking Matters courses and a potential Introductory Seminar requirement.

“Harry walked us through, in some depth, all the different aspects of the SUES report and the programs and initiatives he has introduced,” Hume said. “The board was particularly excited by the effort to integrate all aspects of students’ learning, inside and outside the classroom – the effort to really focus on engaging students earlier on in their time at Stanford.”

Elam and Cyert discussed the opportunity to use residences as a way to broaden students’ learning experiences by having more faculty interaction in the residences or having rooms in dorms specifically for art projects and music.

“For the next few years, there are going to be a lot of experiments, and one of the key things is to address early on how you’re going to assess these initiatives and decide what you really want to continue,” Hume said. “So I think it’s going to be a really interesting time in undergraduate education.”

The board also discussed The Stanford Challenge, which raised $6.2 billion for the University and which Hume called “the most successful comprehensive campaign in Stanford’s history.”

Vice President for Development Martin Shell led the board in examining the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of the fundraising campaign that concluded at the close of 2011. Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning Roberta Katz and Dean of the School of Earth Sciences Pam Matson discussed initiatives and challenges in moving forward.

The board also toured the Hopkins Marine Station for the first time as part of their retreat and listened to Hopkins Executive Director Steve Polumbi and three graduate students, who shared their research. Hume called the station “a gem” for both undergraduate and graduate research.

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