Posts Tagged ‘Harvard’

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.

When Did Stanford Join the Ivy League?

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

It’s that time of year again – internship time. It is filled with hours of technical training and semi-menial labor for temporary bosses. It is (possibly) the first time one is introduced to the full-time 40 hour work week, and the 9 to 5 job. And it is also a time for a bunch of strangers to get a chance to judge you based on where you go to school.

Even if the lines are blurring between Stanford and the official Ivy League schools, its nice to know that Stanford will always look better. Palm trees will always trump winter.

I’m not saying that the judgment involves any censure, but people always get a specific impression of you from where you go to school. And for some reason, the impression our school has been adding to my general persona is “Ivy League.” I say Stanford, and because people consider it prestigious and align it with the Ivy League, they automatically think that Stanford is a member of the group. I have gotten this reception from students and adults this summer. I correct it only half  the time – I’ve seen the interest feign in people’s eyes if I say it isn’t Ivy League without the long saga on what membership entails. I don’t know this for certain, but I think that when I denounce the claim, they think I’m referring to a different Stanford. Some people can’t seem to separate our school from its Ivy League peers. Students at our own fine institution admonish the title. Even though these schools are a country away, we still crack jokes about them at Gaieties. We still feel that being a part of the East Coast through more than a satellite station is somehow bad for our school (I don’t actually agree with that sentiment, maybe because I am from the East Coast and see more of its potential, but that’s for a different blog post). The  Ivy League is foreign to our West Coast mentality and ways. Yet from the outside (and maybe even a little from the inside) I don’t think things are quite as different anymore.

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Weather Win.

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

To quote Forrest Gump:  “and that’s all I have to say about that.”

Hennessy and Harvard President Call for Passage of DREAM Act

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Stanford president John Hennessy and Harvard president Drew Faust have penned an op-ed in Politico calling on Congress to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The law would allow undocumented students who meet certain requirements to be allowed to obtain temporary citizen status so they can get student visas, work in the US, or join the military. The Senate will likely vote on the DREAM Act today.

Hennessy and Faust write:

The DREAM Act would throw a lifeline to thousands of promising students, part of our communities, who, through no fault of their own, face uncertain futures due to their lack of immigration status.

Read the whole op-ed here.

It’s (Unfortunately) Sunny in Cambridge.

Sunday, April 11th, 2010
john harvard cold

"I like the frost. It keeps me on edge." - John Harvard

Cloud, wind and rain have certainly put a bit of a damper on the first few weeks of the spring quarter. Meanwhile, our friends on the East Coast have been enjoying some much needed sunshine.

In this opinion piece published last Wednesday, however, a writer for the Harvard Crimson embraced bad weather as a cornerstone of academic success. Some excerpts:

Picture a rainy Saturday night with temperatures just above freezing. You were planning on going out, but by the time you walked across campus you would not only be soaked but shivering as well. To avoid this potentially traumatic experience, you decide to stay in and work on that problem set you had been putting off all week. End result: one completed problem set and one less awkward drunken hookup.

So we pale and dry-skinned Harvard students may not be able to boast a vacation-like climate, but we can rejoice in knowing that because of the bad weather in Cambridge we ultimately grow closer to the superhuman individuals we expect ourselves to become. Each dismal day takes us farther down the path of success, eliminating distractions and thankfully giving us no option but to concentrate on our studies. The occasional cheery days that Cambridge does enjoy are not enough to distract us from our main purpose at Harvard—to become wealthy future world leaders and save people from poverty and other injustices across the globe.

Delusion, rationalization, or simply satire fallen flat, this is strange logic for cold times. What’s more, we pride ourselves on saving the world without giving up that perfect tan. The comments on the piece display a similar sentiment. Perhaps reader “kickinincali” put it the best:

Well there’s the difference between a Stanford student and a Harvard student. Stanford students take their work seriously, but not themselves.

Thanks to ASSU Senator-elect Juany Torres for discovering the article.