Annual Report 2014
A Commitment to Sustainability
by President John Hennessy
In 2015, Stanford University will become one of the most energy-efficient research universities in the world with the campus-wide completion of Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI).
Such an achievement is the result of Stanford’s long-term commitment to sustainability and to research that helps address real-world problems. That commitment was evident throughout 2014. It was a year of wide-ranging achievement, including significant advances in sustainability, academic developments, fundraising records, and major recognition for our faculty — including a historic Fields Medal and the fifth Nobel Prize in three years.
I will begin with a discussion of our advances in sustainability, after which I will review some notable accomplishments of the year.
The issue of sustainability is one of this century’s great challenges. As SESI demonstrates, we put our research advances to work on our own campus, as well as encouraging implementation by others.
SESI is the largest construction project in Stanford’s history. A comprehensive system designed for the 21st century, it will leverage a range of energy options, accommodate future technologies, and save the university approximately $300 million over the next 35 years. The advanced energy management system software that will be used to operate SESI was developed at Stanford.
In April, a new Central Energy Facility will replace the 27-year-old Cardinal Cogeneration plant. When fully implemented, SESI will cut the university’s carbon emissions in half. Just as significant in light of the ongoing water shortage, it will reduce the university’s water consumption by another 15 percent, on top of the 21 percent reduction Stanford has achieved since 2000.
A four-year, university-wide project, implementation of SESI has involved extensive disruption to campus, with much of it occurring in 2014. The installation of 22 miles of underground piping and 5 miles of electrical duct bank resulted in many detours and road closures; the conversion of 141 buildings and connections to more than 100 buildings meant the occasional temporary loss of power and water. While there has been some “construction fatigue” among the campus community, the project’s implementation has been remarkably smooth, thanks to the careful planning, strong management, and commitment to collaboration by the university’s office of Land, Buildings and Real Estate.
In addition to our implementation of SESI, our “Guidelines for Sustainable Buildings,” developed several years ago, have helped us make both existing buildings and new facilities — such as the Shriram Center for Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering — more energy efficient. Dedicated in September, the Shriram Center completes the Science and Engineering Quad (SEQ), and like the other buildings in the SEQ, it meets high sustainability standards, using half the power and one-tenth the water of more traditional buildings.
In addition to new construction, Stanford is a careful steward of its lands and physical plant. Wherever possible, we find new purposes for existing facilities. One of the most exciting examples is the re-purposing of “Old Chem.” At 111 years old, it is one of the oldest buildings on campus, outside of the Main Quad, and is currently being renovated for a new and exciting role. In winter 2016, it will re-open as an undergraduate Science and Teaching Learning Center, providing teaching space, laboratories, and a library, focused on the needs of our undergraduate students in the sciences.
These are just a few of the many sustainability efforts under way. Stanford’s faculty and students also are tackling a variety of projects. In 2014, we broke ground on the William and Cloy Codiga Resource Recovery Center at Stanford, which will focus on developing water-recovery technologies. For urban areas in California, water recycling offers one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce freshwater usage.
In November, the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment marked its 10th anniversary with a symposium, “Breaking Through to Global Sustainability.” A hub for cross-cutting environmental research, the Woods Institute has had a wide-ranging impact over the past decade. California’s historic groundwater legislation passed in 2014 is just the most recent example. Lester Snow, California’s former Secretary of Natural Resources and current executive director of the California Water Foundation, credits the work done by the Woods Institute’s Water in the West program.
Other Academic Initiatives
Besides milestones in our sustainability and environmental efforts, 2014 was also a year of progress in other crucial areas. The Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies — or SEED — launched the Global Development and Poverty Initiative (GDP). With support from the GDP, Stanford faculty will explore innovative strategies for combating global poverty.
One of our newest efforts is the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. In October, the institute hosted its inaugural symposium, featuring some of the world’s leading neuroscientists discussing the latest developments in the field. The institute also launched a Big Ideas competition in support of ambitious proposals that extend beyond the usual boundaries of neuroscience.
Stanford’s faculty are doing remarkable work, and that excellence was reflected in a number of prestigious honors this year. In May, Stanford physics Professor Andrei Linde received the 2014 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics, along with colleagues Alan Guth of MIT and Alexei Starobinsky at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, for contributions to the theory of cosmic inflation.
In August, Stanford mathematics Professor Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal for her “striking and highly original contributions to geometry and dynamical systems.” In October, Stanford chemistry Professor W.E. Moerner won the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry — the 11th Nobel Prize awarded to a Stanford faculty member since 2001. The following month, mechanical engineering Professor Sheri Sheppard was named U.S. Professor of the Year for doctoral and research universities for her work teaching and mentoring undergraduates — demonstrating that Stanford’s faculty excel in the classroom as well as in their research and scholarship.
These are just a few of the many honors awarded to our faculty in 2014. Their excellence attracts the world’s brightest young minds and makes Stanford the university of choice for many. We continue to see huge increases in the number of applicants — 2014 was another record-breaking year in undergraduate applications — and corresponding decreases in our admit rate.
We also are making progress in implementing recommendations in the Study for Undergraduate Education at Stanford and further strengthening the undergraduate experience. Last year, we piloted a new Joint Majors Program. Collaboration between departments — as seen in the new CS+X joint majors in computer science and the humanities — will help students develop cross-disciplinary knowledge and skills, and we anticipate more joint majors in the future.
In September, we announced a new program modeled on our successful Bing Stanford in Washington program. Opening in fall 2015, Stanford in New York City will give students an opportunity to live and study in one of our nation’s great urban centers.
The Arts at Stanford
Last year also saw continued development of our Arts District. The Anderson Collection at Stanford University, located next to the Cantor Arts Center, had its grand opening in September. Featuring some of the most innovative works in 20th century American art, the Anderson Collection is a tremendous gift to the community and an extraordinary resource for our students. On the other side of the Cantor near the Rodin Sculpture Garden, construction of the McMurtry Building is well under way. The new home of the Department of Art and Art History, the McMurtry is expected to open in fall 2015.
Support from the Stanford Community
Stanford’s alumni and friends have been tremendously encouraging of these and other efforts, and I have had the pleasure of meeting and thanking many of them for their support.
Through a series of events called Stanford+Connects, we are visiting 16 different locations over several years. In 2014, we traveled to Seattle and New York City, as well as to Los Angeles, Monterey, and San Diego. In 2015, we will be in Chicago, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C. The events have been extremely successful, attracting thousands of alumni and friends — thanks to the participation of our faculty and students and the efforts of the Stanford Alumni Association.
The Stanford community’s strong support of the academic mission was also reflected in their continued generosity. In fiscal year 2013, a record number of donors — more than 82,000 alumni, parents, and friends — provided $928.5 million in support of financial aid, research, faculty, and facilities. Of that total, more than $260 million was raised for Stanford Medicine, which includes support for the new Stanford Hospital, patient initiatives, and medical research. That support puts us in a strong position to address the challenges of the future and is a testament to the excellent work being done by our faculty and students.
In June 2014, in one of the most powerful Commencement speeches I’ve heard, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates used the word “optimism” to describe the Stanford spirit, saying, “There’s an infectious feeling here that innovation can solve almost every problem.”
Throughout the university — in our classrooms and laboratories, in our policies and operations — we are engaged in an optimistic search for sustainable solutions. The events and accomplishments of this year reflect Stanford’s ongoing commitment to make the world better for future generations.