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dance performance of The Show Must Go On

Gloria Chua, '17, rehearsed more than 50 hours for French choreographer Jérôme Bel's The Show Must Go On, cosponsored by Stanford Live and ITALIC, and supported in part by a new VPUE Innovation Fund. PHOTO: Jonathan Poto

New Opportunities for Undergrads

Donors to a new Innovation Fund are powering experiments in the arts, leadership, overseas study, and more. 

Summer 2014

"Stanford is not resting on its laurels," says Jesse Rogers, '79 (Parent '13, '16), chair of the Task Force on Undergraduate Education. The group, which includes alumni and parents of current students, is helping to pilot recommendations from the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES), a two-year review completed in 2012.

To date, more than a dozen Stanford families have made significant gifts to the Innovation Fund, providing a total of nearly $5.5 million to the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) for a variety of bold new undergraduate programs and initiatives. 

"The Innovation Fund will allow the vice provost and his office to explore the most promising methods of teaching and learning for undergrad students," says Janet Montag (Parent '15, '17), a member of the task force.

Reviewing 128 pages of the SUES report and implementing its recommendations is no easy task. But the project is now well under way.

In the fall of 2013, Stanford introduced Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture (ITALIC), a yearlong residential learning program for freshmen. The program is designed to showcase the arts as an essential part of scholarly and public life.

Freshmen and sophomores can now enroll in Designing Your Stanford, a class that uses design thinking to help them craft a more satisfying college experience—from picking a major to navigating extracurriculars.

This coming September, a new three-week Leadership Intensive course will help juniors build leadership skills. Another September Studies course, the Leland Scholars Program, supports incoming first-generation college students and students from underserved high schools who plan to study the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Three new staff members known as Directors of Community-Engaged Learning, or D-CELs, are working with both faculty and students to expand community-engaged learning opportunities. And the Bing Overseas Studies Program recently added a community health program in Oaxaca, Mexico, and will soon add programming in Istanbul.

The innovation doesn't stop there. Dozens of new ideas or programs are now being embedded into the Stanford undergraduate experience.

Phil Halperin, '85 (Parent '11, '13), a member of the task force and an expert in the field of education, notes the value of the expendable nature of the VPUE Innovation Fund, which has a goal of raising $6 million over the next six years. As an expendable fund, it provides vital flexibility without taking resources away from other needs, such as financial aid.

"Some of the most important gifts Stanford can receive are those that allow it to test initiatives right away, and the VPUE Innovation Fund is a great example of this," he says. "These are impressive experiments that could significantly benefit students."

Harry Elam, the Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities, and Bass University Fellow for Undergraduate Education, says the changes are designed to help Stanford teach a new generation of learners.

"The needs of students have changed over time, just as the world has changed," Elam says. "Excellence in education means giving today's students the tools they need to pursue a purposeful, lifelong path of learning."


The VPUE Innovation Fund is supported by gifts from:


Sarah and Rich Barton, '89

Kate, '83, MBA '88, and Bill Duhamel, '83, MS '83, MBA '87 (Parents '14, '17)

Laura, '88, and John Fisher, MBA '89 (Parents '13, '14)

Cathy and Brad Geier, '79 (Parents '08, '11, '13)

Maurine, '84, MA '84, MA '85, and Phil Halperin, '85 (Parents '11, '13)

Annie Huntress Lamont, '79, and Ned Lamont (Parents '13)

Patty, '83, and Ken McKenna

Janet and Tom Montag, '79 (Parents '15, '17)

Chrissi and Mike Morgan, '90, MA '90

Anna Spangler Nelson and Tom Nelson, '84

Susan, '78, and Bill Oberndorf, MBA '78 (Parents '12)

Tricia and Jeff Raikes, '80 (Parents '10, '14, '16)

Mindy, '84, MBA '88, and Jesse Rogers, '79 (Parents '13, '16)