Archive for the ‘Academics’ Category

Finals week… Miley Cyrus style

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

A Stanford adaptation of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop.”  This post brought to you by sleep deprivation, excess caffeine, and the letter S.  It’s way more fun if you sing along using Bastille’s British accent version.

http://thatssostanford.tumblr.com/post/19613206572/photo-michael-white-12-samraadeni-damn

Goin’ hard at Green. Photo credit: Michael White, ’12.

It’s our finals we can eat what we want
It’s our finals we can sleep when we want
It’s our Dead Week we can scream when we want
We can cram what we want
We can sing what we want

Flashcards and study buddies everywhere
Wearin’ sweats to class like we don’t care
‘Cause we came to get some work done now
Turn up the beast mode, suppress all the fun now

If you’re not ready to go home
Can I get a “Hell, no!”? (Hell no)
‘Cause we’re gonna cram all night
‘Til we see the sunlight, alright

So la da di da di
We like to study
Holing up in Green
Coding ‘til we see the sun
This is our life
This is our school

And we can’t stop
Cause we can’t drop [any classes since we’re past the add/drop deadline]
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night?
Runnin’ practice problems ‘til we get ‘em right?

It's our finals, we can sleep when we want.

It’s our finals, we can sleep when we want.

And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We Honor Code ‘cause we classy
Don’t steal answers from nobody
Yeah, yeah

It’s our finals we can eat what we want
It’s our finals we can sleep when we want
It’s our Dead Week we can scream when we want
We can cram what we want
We can sing what we want

To my home girls here with the big books
Tryna get good jobs and the big bucks
Never let the slackers judge ya
Forget the haters ’cause you’ll get an A-plus

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Fall-ing in Love: The 2013 Autumn Course Guide

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 9.03.03 PM

Explore Courses was down more than four hours before Axess even opened for enrollment. Most claim that it was due to overzealous frosh (hint: you can’t sign up for classes until orientation. Please stop bogging down the server), overzealous-er upperclassmen (please don’t judge us for indulging our need to obsessively research and meticulously plan the remaining time in our academic careers),  the fact that the Stanford computing just has a general tendency to suck (Exhibit A: Old Axess. Exhibit B: New Axess) or some combination thereof. But I know the real reason. The real reason you all crashed Explore Courses is because you knew. You all knew how each and every department at Stanford completely blew their course offerings out of the water this quarter.

I’ve written this course guide for over a year now (except for last Spring  – sorry for any of you who looked for it, I kind of dropped the ball. My bad.) and I have to say that each and every quarter of carefully combing through the Bulletin* leaves me freshly dumbstruck with the sheer number of delightful offerings this school continues to pump out. Seriously. Writing this thing is actually pretty excruciating. I want ten more years here. I want to major in about seventeen different things and minor in eight more. I want to take ALL THE CLASSES. But alas. I can’t. So I write this guide and hope that I can live vicariously through all you wonderful people who can collectively take them all for me. With that, I wish you a fantastic quarter full of vigorous and enlightening academic pursuits and the stress, anxiety, sleep-deprivation, loss of morale, and overall decline in physical and mental health that will inevitably accompany them. Cheers.

*The physical book that used to house the year’s course offerings back when the Marguerite was just a horse and an Apple was just a piece of fruit.

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Blessed are the geeks…

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Just don’t get them started about the Claw.

I’m not sure exactly why, but Stanford has an unspoken stigma against asking questions in class.  Ask too many questions and you become “that guy.”  Pipe up and the entire class turns to you like the creepy, synchronized, green alien dudes in Toy Story.  Once the professor starts calling you by name it’s game over.

I’ve always been confused why question-asking feels so taboo in a school so obsessed with intellectual vitality.  Are we willing to compromise our understanding for the sake of looking like we have our act together?  Is it really so bad to admit weakness?  Are we too timid to risk humiliation at the hands of a Nobel laureate, or to face Socratic-style evisceration in a Law School seminar?  (OK, that’s a fair point.)

I’m no exception to this rule, and throughout my time here, asking questions in large lectures has always brought up my pulse and threatened to jumble my words to the point of incoherence.  (Pro tip: asking questions should actually be less scary in large lectures, because fewer people know who you are!)  Better to risk looking like a fool in class than to have it incontrovertibly proven in the final, right?  What have we got to lose?

I want to take this opportunity to thank the question-askers.  You guys rock.  Ever notice the rumble of shuffling paper right after you ask a question?  Yeah, that’s because everyone else had the same question, they were dying for someone to ask it, and they’re now frantically taking notes.  Ever seen the masses turn to you with widened eyes?  Yeah, that’s the look of a hundred students trying to convey “thank you” via ESP.  You keep us from keeling over every time the prof skips the proof or dismisses the big step as “obvious.”  You, sir or madam, are insistent, attentive, and on your game.  In a phrase: you go, Glen Coco.

As we round the bend to finals, never forget that asking questions is a very good thing.  Stay curious, my friends.

From the Desk of the Lorax: I Speak for the “Tree”

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the ‘Tree’” . No, I’m not misquoting Dr. Seuss. I’m talking about the  news that broke today about the registrar’s proposal to change the  earliest class to 8:30, speaking on behalf of a huge portion of the Stanford community united in their common representation by the unofficial mascot  of the Tree: Stanford athletes.  As a member of the lightweight rowing team, I have been a varsity athlete for the past three years. Being on a sport at Stanford is not just an activity, it is a lifestyle. It influences how I eat, sleep, study, and even think. Rowing crew has taught me things that no class could ever so deeply impress upon my soul. Beyond the importance of teamwork, it has taught me that when times get tough, it’s better to see problems as opportunities to transcend weakness by choosing to dig in and pull harder rather than give in to get my boat’s bow ball  to the finish line ahead of the other crews.

Stanford’s culture celebrates student’s achievements both inside and outside the classroom like no other university I have ever seen. Upon coming here, I was overwhelmed by the tremendous respect and support for excellence in all its forms: whether you can juggle six hundred flaming bowling pins at once, code an entire operating system in a few hours, sing the Iliad in original Greek, or move a ball up and down a field or court with incredible agility, you are AWESOME and contribute to the collective awesomeness of this university. No matter what you do, your accomplishment builds to a cohesive whole that drives Stanford, and the rest of the human race, forward. This unbelievable spirit has pushed countless people, myself included, to keep going and to be the best that they can be no matter how tough times get.

Stanford women’s soccer, 2011 national champs

That’s why I was so disturbed to hear of the Registrar’s decisions in today’s article in the Daily. Most sports on campus have practice twice a day throughout he year; usually one of those practices (whether it be rowing on the water, weights, swimming, conditioning,etc.) happens before 9:00 class and finishes just in time to get to 9:00 class. Having classes start any earlier would make it impossible for many athletes to effectively plan their class schedules around practice to take the classes they are passionate about and need to graduate in four years. This would severely hinder the academic experience for many athletes who chose Stanford for its top-shelf combination of academics and athletics. Moving classes any earlier than they are would also be deleterious to athletic performance. Stanford athletes don’t win national championships and Olympic gold medals automatically by being at Stanford and soaking up the glorious northern California sunshine year round while their competition elsewhere in the country is stuck trudging through a snowbank to practice inside; they win only as the result of hours of practice and good, old-fashioned hard work. If we have to shift our practice schedule any earlier to accommodate for an earlier class schedule, our practices will be much less effective as we will have less time to sleep and eat  in accordance with our high energy demands. In rowing, we like to say that every stroke you take “off”, mentally or physically, is one stroke behind the competition; clearly, any lack of focus can get you left at the starting line. I highly doubt that anyone who calls himself or herself a Cardinal wants to see this happen on the grand scale.

As an upperclassman, I vividly remember Dean Julie saying during orientation that whenever the Cardinal takes the field, we ALL take the field.  So, when you think about whether or not you will really miss your pre-class donut in the morning (or, for that matter, whether or not you even go to early morning classes), think about the sense of pride you get from dancing to “All Right Now” every time we score a touchdown, the sense of pride you feel when your friends win a national championship, the chills you got when we won the Rose Bowl. Whether we realize it or not, pride in athletic accomplishment is so deeply engrained in the very fabric of our school’s culture and identity that we cannot act contrary to it.  Sign the petition to make sure it stays “All Right Now”.

Open meeting to discuss Registrar’s proposed changes

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

In case you haven’t heard, the Registrar has proposed moving popular Stanford classes to 8:30 a.m. and disallowing students from taking overlapping classes.  If you’re passionate about this issue, the VPUE is giving you an opportunity to provide input.

Academic Affairs has scheduled a meeting with Vice Provost Harry Elam TODAY at 5:45 PM in the ASSU offices in Old Union.  All interested students are welcome to attend.  Be sure to arrive on time.

The ASSU Senate petition against the changes can be found here.

A climate change study that doesn’t end in tears

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Corals from the Ofu Lagoon, American Samoa

As an Earth Systems major, I can say it’s sometimes difficult to stay positive about my choice of field because there are so many urgent and intricate problems woven into the daily fabric of life–and in order to learn how to solve them, you have to appreciate how intricate and difficult to undo they really are.  So it’s nice when conservation research pays off, especially for animals in as dire straits as corals are.

Awesome Stanford professor Stephen Palumbi–who among other accomplishments has used molecular genetics to track the incidence of marine mammal meat in canned tuna and formed a band called ‘Flagella’–has found a key difference in the genomics of heat-resistant corals from the waters of American Samoa that might be used in genetic therapy for corals worldwide, potentially saving coral reefs from the worst effects of global warming.  When water temperatures rise above a certain extent, corals get stressed and their photosynthetic partners, zooxanthellae, are expelled from the tissue of the coral, leaving it hard-pressed to manufacture enough carbohydrates without the ability to make sugars from sunlight.    Palumbi and other researchers discovered in their warm-water corals that 60 heat stress genes were activated whether or not the corals were subjected to excessive heat.  If this pattern could be transferred to cooler-water corals, it could potentially avert cases of coral bleaching from extreme heat.

This treatment, if applied, doesn’t solve all the problems coral reefs are facing in the future, of course.  Corals will still have to contend with the rising acidity in the world’s oceans due to the excessive deposition of carbon dioxide from our increasingly CO2-filled atmosphere–an acidity change that makes it harder for corals to build skeletons, because waters become less saturated with calcium carbonate.  Runaway algae growth is also a possibility and a threat, and more frequent and violent tropical storms are predicted in future years, which could be a huge challenge for coral communities to withstand.  However, finding ways to combat heat stress is a necessary first step (we are committed to further global warming, we might be able to stave off the worst ocean acidification), and Palumbi and his team have unlocked a very important discovery.

The One, the Only, the 2013 Winter Course Guide

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

It’s that time of year again.

Let’s just say that this is NOT what Thanksgiving looks like at my house…

No, not Thanksgiving. I mean, yes – technically it is time for family drama, dried out Turkey, sleeping in a bed that hasn’t been tainted by years of college kids getting it on, and becoming unnecessarily excited that it’s now socially acceptable to eat truly stupid amounts of pumpkin pie. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Oh no. Not that. I’m talking about something far more important: the TUSB Winter Course Guide.

Yes, I know Axess opened a month ago. I’m sorry I’ve been a little late to the game. As you all know, the quarter system is effing exhausting and often prohibits us from doing those things we really want to do. However, because it’s “Break”, and because the lovely few of my saintly friends who actually follow this blog have been bugging me to get off my keister and actually write the darn thing, and because my brain is downright refusing to let me start the 25 page paper I’m supposed to write before the end of the holiday, and because it has recently been brought to my attention that I have atrocious time management skills, I’m excited to bring you the 2013 Winter  course guide.

Given that I didn’t have a spare week to sit around Starbucks and think up super-amazing themes like “the Muppets”, this time around I’m sticking with a classic: “When I Grow Up”. As always, you can rest assured that this course guide is poorly-informed, overly generalized, and rarely if ever politically correct. As always, I will accept no responsibility for any misery inflicted by taking any of these classes. So enjoy the post, enjoy the break, and – above all – enjoy the fact that we get to do this all over again after New Years. Cheers.

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iStanford launches for iPad this Thanksgiving Break

Monday, November 12th, 2012
Home screen

Page one of the home screen upon opening the app

If you’re lucky enough have an iPad, you just got a bit luckier. I’d like to introduce to you iStanford for iPad, the one way stop for all things Cardinal. If you’ve used the iPhone app, you already have an idea how iStanford provides a sleek, convenient mobile experience. The iPad version, however, has been completely rebuilt and redesigned for an ever smoother U/I experience, cool new features, and has integrated some of the most popular web services on the Farm. By combining features from Axess, ExploreCourses, Classowl, and others, iStanford demystifies the mobile side of the college experience.

iStanford was originally released in 2008 as a iPhone tool for students to access campus maps, course catalogs, email professors, and get news and information about Stanford sports teams. Since its first iteration, the app has undergone several face-lifts and added features, and now features real-time information about the campus shuttle service, the Marguerite, as well as campus trivia and class analytics.

“Students regard their mobile devices as indispensible to the way they learn, work and live,” said Thomas Black, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and University Registrar at Stanford University, whose team spearheaded the effort. “Providing them with the native tools they need to more intuitively navigate campus life in a way that feels normal and natural to them has been our primary focus throughout the iStanford initiative.”

Upon opening the app, the user is met with a series of tiles, each of which correspond to a Stanford-related feature. “My Academics” gives you quick access to your grades, GPA, and contact information. My personal favorite, “Classes” is a sleek, intuitive, take on explore courses. You can visually navigate through each department’s offered classes and easily access course descriptions, as well as see how different lecture or section times fit into your schedule. Neat stuff. Some of the more basic features include Stanfordwho, our campus directory, as well as Treevia, a quirky trivia game testing your knowledge on a wide array of Stanford facts.

My favorite feature: interactive course navigation

What makes iStanford for iPad really cool, though, is its integration of various Stanford-related features such as Classowl, OrgSync, and a few others. With Classowl, you can plan your school and social life in one convenient swoop, and Orgsync makes planning your club or student group’s meeting insanely easy. Along with Pathbrite, a feature offering next-gen e-portfolios, iStanford for iPad is really a one-stop shop. More info for Classowl, OrgSync, and Pathbrite is available on their respective websites.

So here’s a short to do list: First, find an iPad. Secondly, download iStanford when the app launches this Thanksgiving. I guarantee your Cardinal experience will get a whole lot easier. Visit the Facebook and Twitter pages for more info!

Breaking the Fall: 2012 Autumn Course Guide

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Ah, summer. One minute you’re shotgunning a beer celebrating with friends after your last final, the next, you’re waking up and rolling over to find that two months of beaching, traveling, summer-schooling, tanning, grilling, working, and/or your resume-building b****work meaningful internship experience have flown by and it’s already August. Which means it’s time to maybe, possibly, conceivably consider what you’ll be studying in the fall. Even at Stanford, summer doesn’t last forever, and eventually we’ve got to come to grips with  all of our first-world problems – namely, enrolling in classes at the happiest place university on earth. But, fear not – I have spent the last fortnight scouring every course in every department this school has to offer (upon reading this line, my proofreader claims that I “need to get laid a life”), with the hope of delivering the BEST list of classes to get you STOKED to come back to campus. It combines all the things I love most in life: cool classes that don’t physically drive me to tears (yes, I’m talking to YOU, “Inventing Classics“), excessive linkage, personality stereotypes, semi-snarky commentary, giant over-generalizations and massive assumptions, and most importantly: THE MUPPETS.  In any case, I hope the article piques your interest in something you might have otherwise overlooked, missed, or been to lazy to go look up.  And if not, all I can say is that I hope it makes you laugh (if only in pity). Other than that, here’s to the remaining MONTH of summer (suck it, Cal) and the boredom and restlessness that will inevitably accompany it. Cheers.

 

Autumn 2012 classes for…

the wise-guy

Old Guys Rule.

AMSTUD 140: Stand Up Comedy and the “Great American Joke” Since 1945

I took this class last fall. Actual (read: more or less deeply paraphrased) quote from the prof: “Hey, Hennessey – I’ve got an idea for a class. It will involve abundant sexism, racism, elitism, lewd and scatalogical references, innappropriate behvaior, excessive profanity, and – above all – some of the most brilliant and observative writers, performers, and anthropologists of our time.  What’s this class called, you ask? Well, it’s Stand Up Comedy and the Great American Joke”. Take this class. It’s awesome.

MUSIC 36N: Humor in Music

My visions of this class involve Steel Panther, Weird Al, and Parry Gripp.

Thank God I’m not teaching it.

 

the romantic

Living up to his name like an absolute champ

HISTORY 33A: Blood and Roses: The Age of the Tudors
Mystery, murder, sex, and scheming? And you thought your family was dramatic.

ATHLETIC 39: Fencing: Beginning
So you can do THIS.

ENGLISH 154: Mapping the Romantic Imagination
The map of MY romantic imagination involves horseback trips through the Florin countryside with Wesley, a sunset on the bow of the (intact) Titanic with Jack, the California coastline in Benjamin Bradford’s convertible, getting stuck on an island in the Caribbean with Cap’n Jack Sparrow, Patrick Verona’s paintball park, and wherever Ryan Gosling is currently located (though, preferably here). To my great disappointment, however, I believe this class refers a bit more to the English romantic poets and novelists and the sublime countrysides they envisioned. Then again, is anything quite as lovely and romanticized as curling up with a little Keats and Byron?

 

the hipster

This muppet is actually called Harry the Hipster. You've probably never heard of him.

ENGLISH 121A: Tattoos, Scars, Marks and American Cultures of Inscription

I feel bad for the poor sucker of a TA who has to read 60+ papers on “Why the dolphin/butterfly/Chinese symbol for “peace”/shooting star/infinity sign/angel wings/song lyrics/Bible verse on my ankle/lower back/shoulder blade/neck/wrist/sideboob/part of my hip that totally gets gets covered by a bikini is a unique artistic expression of my inner self”.

ARTSTUDI 131: Sound Art I 
Because taking just “music” was too mainstream.

FILMSTUD 301: Fundamentals of Cinematic Analysis 
Take this class so that the next time you’re giving your pretentious opinion about the latest film showing at INSERT NAME OF UNKNOWN THEATER HERE, you’ll be able to reference a little-known technique/genre/style/paradigm/buzzword that your professor mentioned once in class.

COMM 182: Virtual Communities and Social Media
This should prepare you well for your vague “job” in the vague cross section between “media” and “social networking” at that start-up no one has ever heard of.

 

the history buff

I want that blazer.

HISTORY 95C: Modern Japanese History: From Samurai to Pokemon
Samurai…. Pokemon. SAMURAI… POKEMON. I’m not quite  sure what’s between these two poles (the history of sushi?!?!) but it’s guaranteed to be awesome.

COMM 125: Perspectives on American Journalism
I don’t know enough about journalism or, frankly, television to confidently explain why “The Newsroom” sucks and “The Wire” is the bestest thing ever since Ike’s Menais a Trois. Admittedly, I should probably take this class and many others on this list. In any case, if you believe the slow death of the newspaper is a genuine travesty or that Cronkite and Murrow could give Colbert and Stewart a run for their money, then this might be the class for you.

HISTORY 103F: Introduction to Military History
It’s like the Military Channel… sans couch.

HISTORY 243G: Tobacco and Health in World History
Not to get all Nick Naylor on you guys, but I’m genuinely curious how one-sided this class is.

HISTORY 59S: The Digital Historian’s Toolkit: Studying the West in an Age of Big Data
From my quick read of the course-description,  it seems like this class involves old documents, scanners, and many a rubber glove. That said, if you like seeing history immortalized and like to wonder “what did they think back then?” and “how did that really happen?” then this is the class for you.

EDUC 116N: Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History’ and the Quest for Historical Truth
If you’re reading this section, theres a decent chance that you identify yourself as a history buff. Howard Zinn was the guru/godfather/mack-daddy of all American history buffs. Student, meet the ultimate teacher.

HISTORY 308D: Pre-Modern Warfare
I’m not exactly sure at what point/what contraptions fall under the heading of “Modern Warfare”, but if you’re telling me that I get to take a class on how to use the history of ninja stars, crossbows, catapults, and broadswords, then SIGN. ME. UP.

CLASSGEN 103: The Greek Invention of Mathematics
My sole incentive for taking this class would be figuring out exactly which Greek mathematician to fantasize about brutally torturing  whilst in the middle of my Math 52 midterm.

 

the patriot

Coming Soon: Muppets take 'Merica.

CSRE 51K: Election 2012

I should really, REALLY take this class. Seriously, because – besides Obama – I’m not really sure who’s actually still in the race.

COMM 162: Campaigns, Voting, Media, and Elections 
See above comment.

COMM 164: The Psychology of Communication About Politics in America 
I’d like to think that, to the individuals who plan to lead my country and allegedly have my best interest at heart, I am more than just a number and that my opinions and behaviors are more than just statistics.

ECON 18: The Washington Debate About American Competitiveness
If I take this class, will I get a job?

PUBLPOL 170: Political Corruption
It’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.

PUBLPOL 154: Politics and Policy in California
Let’s hope that by the time this class is over, Michael Tubbs will have a place in its curriculum.

ECON 25N: Public Policy and Personal Finance
Something about tax-brackets… maybe. I expect to see a lot of pitchforks and raised fists.

HUMBIO 120: Health Care in America: An Introduction to U.S. Health Policy
Obamacare. And other stuff. Probably.

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So… is there a Director’s Cup for academics?

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

I mean, I could be more subtle, but where's the fun in that?

U.S. News and World Report recently released its graduate school rankings for 2013, and it’s a good year for Stanford.

The full list is here, but below I’ve included some highlights:
What makes me happiest about this list is that we’re scoring high across the board – in both science and humanities areas.  In the words of Borat, great success!  Go Cardinal!!

Spring into Spring with the 2012 Course Guide

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Think you know all the ins and outs of spring’s awesome courses?

Story. Of. My. Life.

Ha. Think again. Here, for your pleasure, I have painstakingly compiled a list of the hands-down most awesome, useful, compelling, frightening, GER-fulfilling, enjoyable classes you could ever imagine. Remember  before Chem 31, Math 51, and IHUM… back when you applied to Stanford? Remember how you raved about how excited you were for the “engaging classes”? After reading this article, you’re going to realize you weren’t just saying that. Stanford is killing it next quarter in terms of super-interesting classes, and you have the opportunity to get in on the action. I know Camp Stanford is tempting, but after reading this article, you might actually want to bulk up your course load with some of these. And, speaking of Camp Stanford, the categories are…

Camp Stanford: Whether you’re trying to recover from the carnage of your winter course load or just getting a jump-start on summer laziness/craziness, here are the best classes to keep the thoughts of warm breezes and fun-in-the-sun swirling in your head until June…

  • EARTHSYS 180B: Principles and Practices of Sustainable Agriculture: A course that lets “The Farm” live up to its name. Get outside and onto Stanford’s community farm and others in the area. Enjoy the sun on your neck and a little dirt on your nose. (3-4 units, multiple times)
  • ATHLETIC 80: Lifeguard Training: Didn’t snag the Google internship you wanted? No sweat. Speaking from personal experience, I can attest that lifeguarding is a solid career choice for those  looking to dip their toes in the real world. Make decent cash, get the tan of your life (and hopefully not melanoma… sunblock, guys!) and know that you can save a life if need be.  (2 units, T/Th 12-2, fee)

    Once upon a time...

  • ATHLETIC 51: Beginning Golf: If you were able to make it into this class, I commend you with my highest honors. (1 unit, multiple times, fee)
  • ATHLETIC 320: Backpacking: You might have given up Stanford Sierra Camp to work for a start-up, but maybe this class can scratch your outdoorsy itch before you sell your soul for equity. (1 unit, M 7-9:30) (more…)

The End of IHUM

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for…the death of IHUM.

Proof that IHUM kids were people too.

In its report published today, the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) has proposed drastic changes to the education of a Stanford undergraduate:

  • the creation of SLE-like dorms with different themes
  • a drastic change to the breadth requirements
  • “Helix courses” (find out more here)
  • the elimination of IHUM (huzzah!)
  • mandatory Frosh IntroSems
  • increased quantity of service-learning courses
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Watch Out for the Fuzz… Why Stanford’s Arts and Humanities Aren’t as Forgotten as You Think

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Odds are, you probably came to Stanford because you’d rather slip on a hoodie than sidle into a sportcoat, prefer sunshine and band-run to wintry-mix and finals clubs, and would rather cheer for Andrew Luck than say, the Winklevii. And, odds are, if you’re even remotely techie, you chose Stanford for its knockout science and engineering curriculum… and rankings. It’s no secret that the Farm is both a Mecca and breeding ground for calculation gurus, technical whizzes, biological demigods, and everyone else who is still slightly pissed that they couldn’t take C++ to fulfill their foreign language requirement.

But not everyone destined for Stanford emerged from the womb taking integrals.For those of you who didn’t know that we have an entire quad for engineering, who mourn the death of IHum, who  spend more time in Roble Gym than in the ACSR, who actually stop at Braun on Saturday nights rather than going straight to the Row, and who otherwise prefer the scent of leather-bound books and rich mahogany to motherboards and formaldehyde – your moment has arrived.

We know who you are – even if you are in an oft forgotten niche here at Stanford. The concert halls, high-ceilinged archive and manuscript libraries, and sun-drenched studios of ivies and liberal arts colleges pulled at your heartstrings when you were in the heat of college applications. You fantasized about wearing tweed (with elbow-patches) and swirling cognac whilst ruminating over the flaws in deontological theory and debating Descartes, salon-style. You are a connoisseur of human culture, and you came here, to Stanford, hoping that just maybe you could find that same level of pained fascination with the human condition and method of expression under a red-tile roof as you might have under the buttresses of collegiate-gothic cathedral.

Oh, you knew the sacrifices you’d make. You worried that your love of Chopin, appreciation of Klimt, and obsession with Marquez would all be misunderstood, met with raised eyebrows and blank stares peering over sheaves of graph paper and physics tomes. You would be ever the outsider during O-Chem rants and the communal groans over CME. Your choice to major in English, Religious Studies, or Studio Art would be met with polite smiles and the silent judgment that you weren’t intense enough to study something technical and have no solid, foreseeable career path. Your daring choice to pursue a creative, innovative, reflective, and interpretive field is constantly challenged by those who insist your interests provide no real-world application or insurance. Others will ask you why you chose to pursue a path in arts or humanities at Stanford which, while having what are generally assumed to be “good” programs in these departments, seems to place a much greater emphasis on technologically-driven fields. With our home and history in Silicon Valley, seemingly endless scientific resources, and army of high-profile techie alums, people will probably ask you why you didn’t go to say, Harvard, to study all that “fuzzy” stuff.

To those people, you can now proudly reply that Stanford upholds the honor of having the top arts and humanities program in the world. And that we actually knocked Harvard off of its crimson pedestal to snag it. According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Stanford upstaged Harvard, UChicago, The Australian National University, and Princeton for the coveted top spot among university arts and humanities programs. The leap in the rankings has been largely credited to the outstanding number of MacArthur fellows and Pulitzer winners zipping across the quad and pioneering our liberal-arts research and curriculum, in addition to our broad range of arts/humanities offerings and extensive resources.

By comparison, (according to the U.S. News and World Report) Stanford Engineering clocked in at only #2, taking a backseat to M.I.T.. Admittedly, M.I.T. isn’t exactly a mortifying rival, and obviously second place is nothing to be ashamed of,  but the fact that one of the disciplines we pay the greatest lip-service to here on the Farm isn’t comparatively the best on campus does resonate a bit ironically.

That said, I could go on at length about the fallacy of rankings and the inconsistency of the methods, variables, and formulae (as well as frequent subjectivity and manipulation) that produce them. Rankings are not all-determining and should not be the primary mechanism through which we garner our self-esteem or evaluate ourselves as a school. But they do stand as a considerable litmus test that can testify to the strength of a program and should be reflective of the attention and respect that those departments should receive from students, faculty, administration, and, of course, the general public.

So the next time you find yourself smugly worrying about the future of your friend who’s an Art History major, try to catch yourself. The arts and humanities have not been extinguished in the wake of technology and scientific advancement. Their champions claim just as meaningful a place in our culture and society as do the engineers, programmers, researchers, and inventors.  And the work produced by the left-brained talent of the world might not thrive to the extent that it does without the help of the designers, writers, artists, performers, historians, anthologists, etc. who use the context of the human condition and sensibility to establish a place for those technologies in our lives.  I applaud Stanford for acknowledging the importance of bolstering such broad fields of study, and for taking such impressive strides to strengthen its departments and cultivate extensive opportunities for intellectual exploration and discovery. Thank you, Stanford, for yet again proving that your students really can have the best of all worlds.

Stanford in NYC Scrapped – Genuine Reasons or Well Played Game Play by the New York City authorities

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Manhattan skyline at nightJust last week I was all set to write about the very probable construction of a Stanford campus in the Big Apple. Stanford has been the long time frontrunner and the anticipated winner for this 2 billion dollar technical campus in New York City followed closely by Cornell University. Good thing that procrastination and finals week kept me busy enough to prevent me from posting about what is now a possibility that has faded into the oblivion, because it allows me to shed light on the recent development, or should I say back draw. It is true that slow and steady wins the race but sometimes it gets difficult to understand why the rabbit extremely close to finish line, not preoccupied with the illusions of overconfidence, failed to win.

The striking part about this issue was the fact that Cornell announced a $350 million gift shortly after Stanford decided to drop out of the race. This leads to the speculation that part of the reason for this sudden change of plans may be due to financial reasons. But was it so? I am skeptical about this reason since Stanford was poised to start a large-scale fundraising campaign, one of its kind, to meet the financial requirements of this project. Would the amount of the Cornell gift be a sufficient cause of concern?

Another reason for backing out of this contest was the attempted renegotiation of the terms of the project by the City’s authorities. This prompts one to think whether these attempts were made deliberately to force Stanford to withdraw out of frustration. With the huge gift, Cornell would potentially need lesser money from the city itself for the completion of the project while the Stanford proposal may have asked for more. Thus, in an effort to save this additional expense, the City might have pushed for new terms.

Whatever the reasons, this withdrawal ensures that the spirit engendered by Stanford in Silicon Valley will stay only in California, at least for the time being. Furthermore, it is yet to be observed whether Silicon Valley can in fact be duplicated in a State much different from California.

Out of My Element: Thoughts on the Chemistry 31 Series

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

The closest I'll come to Chemistry this year: stumbling for chemcat memes...

Oh, Stanford. I could write odes about the many, many, MANY things about you that I adore: the fact that it is December and a clear, breezy, perfect 74 degrees outside, the smell of eucalyptus wafting through campus, free laundry machines, the Nutella waffles at Coupa, the Bender room, the visual orgasm that is the quad and the oval, oh… and the beyond enviable world-class education that I am receiving and the oodles upon oodles of mind-blowing opportunities that gush out of the pipeline of resources that this university affords us. Don’t get me wrong. I am high on Stanford. I still wake up every morning feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I still bike through campus and marvel about how I stumbled into this incomparable place. I still wonder how on earth I could have survived without Ike’s. And I’m not usually one to complain. But I do have one teensy, eentsy question that baffles and frustrates me about the Farm: why is the Chem 31 series only offered in the Fall quarter?!

Admitedly, it’s probably my fault. I’m sure that the “Approaching Stanford” materials mentioned how, if you’re interested in bio/premed you should consider signing up for the series. But for those of us (I’m sure I’m not alone) who weren’t 100% sure the minute we set foot on campus that the bio/premed route was our intended path and consequentially didn’t submit ourselves to Chem 31A/B/X right out of the gun… well, it seems we are a little bit screwed.

Maybe I am a little neurotic, or confused, or needlessly freaking out. Perhaps there is an obvious solution that flew over my head before or after I realized my dilemma. But it just seems pretty absurd to me that if you don’t take chem in autumn quarter of your freshman year, there is very little you can do to catch up with everyone else. Yes, you can take it in the summer. I get that. But for people who don’t want to or can’t pay for summer classes… they’re in a bit of a pickle. I guess it simply amazes me that the primary prerequisite for the core of one of Stanford’s most popular majors is only offered the first quarter of the main academic year. I’m sorry, but this seems like no-brainer. I’m fairly confident that there would be a large group of students interested in taking either the 31 A/B or 31X track starting in the winter, thus still allowing them to enroll in the bio core, or higher level chemistry classes for a premed track in the beginning of their sophomore year.

Again, I realize the importance of being organized, of putting considerate thought into your academic plan before arriving at Stanford. But people are human. People change their minds. People are unsure. For those of us who have epiphanies later in the game and don’t realize that that they want to do the bio thing until say, week four of their freshman year – should we be penalized for our realizations or changes in heart? Doesn’t Stanford encourage exploration in different areas of study during the freshman year? Isn’t that one of the main reasons we have GER’s? Isn’t that one of the reasons we don’t declare until the end of sophomore year? I simply think that this is one issue that Stanford didn’t exactly think through. And if Stanford doesn’t want to add additional quarters where this class could be offered, the university could make it loudly, explicitly, and repeatedly clear that if freshman have even the SLIGHTEST interest in maybe, possibly, conceivably studying bio or going premed that they should SERIOUSLY and ABSOLUTELY consider signing up for Chem 31 or, if nothing else, take a placement test. And – AGAIN – perhaps the university does, and it’s 100% possible that I missed it. But for those of us who need a little extra use of bold, underlined, and indented fonts and reiterated messages to hear a message, it would be abundantly helpful.

I’m hopeful that there is considerate reasoning for the rather inconvenient organization of this series. But at this moment in time, I don’t get it. It frustrates me, and it is going to be one of my more demanding scheduling issues in the future. For the sake of future frosh, I simply hope this can be resolved in a better way.