With Stanford’s 125th anniversary in 2016, Stanford affiliates on campus and around the world can look forward to an exciting series of events this academic year. The celebration will officially begin this October and will continue through next year. According to Nicole Sunahara, director of special initiatives for Stanford, the theme running throughout the celebration will be Stanford’s transformative impact on people’s lives and on the world as a whole.
David Demarest, vice president for public affairs, noted that the 125th anniversary will be of a smaller scope than the 100th and 150th anniversaries, but he still sees it as an opportunity to reflect on Stanford’s past and future.
“We don’t want to overplay the 125th,” Demarest said. “We want to put it in the right context.”
“[The anniversary] is significant in that it gives us the right opportunity to do some reflection and to think about what brought Stanford to where it is today and, to some measure, where Stanford is going in the future,” he added. “If you look at the last 20 years or so, there’s been a tremendous and growing awareness of Stanford’s impact on the world.”
Using technology that was unavailable during the 100th anniversary in 1991, Stanford will be taking advantage of social media to bring Stanford affiliates around the world into the experience. For example, during Alumni Weekend this fall, Sunahara explained that a dome will be erected in which alumni can share their stories through videos about how Stanford has impacted them.
“[During] anniversaries, you often naturally think about looking backwards, maybe even looking backwards and forwards, but we also feel like we don’t want to miss celebrating Stanford at this moment in time — today,” Sunahara said.
Two events in honor of the anniversary have already taken place. Carissa Carter, the director of teaching experiments at the d.school, recently held a 125th-anniversary-themed design challenge for 10 visiting scholars. According to Carter, the results demonstrated a breadth of ideas that the d.school would not have considered.
“Visiting fellows are only on campus for a year,” Carter wrote in a statement to The Daily. “They are approaching campus with a fresh perspective and discovering nuances that the rest of us take for granted because we are here all the time.”
In addition, the Association of Chinese Scholars and Students at Stanford (ACSSS) is holding a photo contest called “The Spirit of Stanford,” open to anyone in the Stanford community. ACSSS originally intended to host the contest on its own, but when the organization reached out to Stanford’s Office of Public Affairs, ACSSS was inspired to connect the event with the 125th anniversary. Submissions will not only be judged for the ACSSS contest, but all photos also gain the potential to be used in official University releases in the future.
“With this competition, we’re able to provide a lot of great photos from people at Stanford to express what they think about Stanford and what they — the beauty around them that Stanford provided,” said Biquan Luo, pathology postdoctoral scholar and member of ACSSS.
Those interested in the contest are free to explore different facets of the “spirit of Stanford,” ranging from technology to entrepreneurship, according to Lei “Ray” Zhong, postdoctoral fellow in the neurosurgery department.
Zhong recognized that individuals entering the contest will have a variety of talent in regards to photography skill, and although two professional photographers will act as judges and will be evaluating skill, Zhong said more emphasis will be placed on whether submissions capture the spirit of Stanford. ACSSS will hold an award ceremony announcing the winners, and the event will will feature a keynote speech by Alexander Nemerov, chair of the Department of Art & Art History and professor of arts and humanities.
“Different people could appreciate different aspects of Stanford’s offering,” Luo said. “That’s why we want to include everybody who’s affiliated with Stanford — to express from their perspective what Stanford means to them.”
The first event held this fall will be an education-focused symposium called “Thinking Big About Learning” at Cemex Auditorium on Oct. 18. Covering topics from virtual reality to the neuroscience of learning, the conference will include speakers such as psychology professor Carol Dweck and Provost John Etchemendy.
“Because [learning is] an important topic at Stanford and also in our community, it’s of such great interest — that’s what we’re going to be launching the year with,” Sunahara said.
Another anticipated event is known as “Celebrating Founders.” In honor of the Stanford family’s role as founders, the event will include talks by a number of individuals who are founders of all kinds.
“Now that doesn’t mean just Jane and Leland, it means founders that have their roots in Stanford — whether that’s a founding of a company or a non-profit or even a movement,” Demarest said.
The celebration hopes to have an impact beyond just the celebration’s end in 2016. For example, kiosks will be installed around campus as part of the celebration, commemorating different moments in Stanford’s history. According to Demarest, the kiosks will not be taken down after the end of the year, but rather will allow people to trace Stanford’s history as they walk around campus for years to come.
“[The celebration is] really an opportunity for Stanford to connect with not only its campus community — students, faculty, staff, alumni — but also the broader community as well and even the people that are touched somehow by Stanford innovation or people or discovery around the world,” Sunahara said.
Contact Skylar Cohen at skylarc ‘at’ stanford.edu.