Stanford University

Board of Trustees visits Harvard and MIT

By Kathleen J. Sullivan

The Stanford University Board of Trustees, which traditionally holds a retreat in April, this year visited Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the annual event.

During the April 2-5 meeting, trustees spent a day at Harvard, where they heard presentations on topics including the importance of sustaining, enhancing and balancing the humanities, arts and social sciences with the physical sciences and engineering.

Trustees also spent a day at MIT, where they heard presentations on several topics, including the institute’s strategy for transforming teaching and learning on campus and around the world through the innovative use of digital technologies.

At MIT, trustees heard a presentation by Vladimir Bulović, associate dean for innovation and co-director of the MIT Innovation Initiative, which is collaborating with all five schools at MIT to strengthen its vibrant culture and programming of innovation and principled entrepreneurship. During the talk, Bulović, who was introduced by MIT Provost Martin A. Schmidt, discussed MIT’s plans to build a new center for nanoscience and nanotechnology that will be open to the institute’s entire community of faculty, researchers and students.

In addition, trustees heard a presentation about MIT’s highly regarded Department of Urban Studies and Planning. They also heard a presentation about technology and its social implications, including discussions about enhancing conversations in the era of social media, and what the transformation to a digital economy means for the domestic economy, the global economy and for society in general.

Stanford’s trustees visited Yale University, in 2010, where they learned about Yale’s student residential system, international programs, and its integration of arts into curriculum and campus life. Stanford has recently hosted trustees from several universities, including Yale and Duke University.

Steven A. Denning, chair of the Board of Trustees, described this year’s retreat in Cambridge as “informative, interesting, illuminating and energizing.”

“The American research university is the envy of the world, and it is something we need to protect, enhance and sustain going forward,” he said.

Denning said the visit to Cambridge was designed to give trustees some points of reference as Stanford proceeds with the long-range planning process that President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell launched last week.

“The visit to Harvard and MIT provided a rich context to assess the results of the faculty-led, long-range planning process,” he said.

Denning said President Tessier-Lavigne participated in the retreat, along with Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust and MIT President L. Rafael Reif. Stanford’s trustees also met with some members of the Harvard Corporation and of the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation.

Several members of Stanford’s leadership team also participated, including Provost Drell, who led a presentation on the critical role American research universities play in the underlying prosperity of the economy and society. Harry J. Elam Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education, took part in a panel discussion about affirming and renewing liberal education. Richard Saller, dean of the School of Humanities & Sciences, joined several Harvard deans for a discussion on sustaining and enhancing the humanities, arts and social sciences. John Mitchell, vice provost of teaching and learning, gave a presentation on Stanford’s digital strategy.

During the retreat, trustees also learned more about the vibrant and growing life sciences ecosystem developing in the Kendall Square neighborhood of Cambridge.

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