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Q&A: Education programs within the new school

Faculty leading efforts to design curricula within the new school discuss new courses debuting next fall and preview what might be different in new degree programs.

Students cooking at a facility on the O'Donohue Family Stanford Educatioinal Farm
Students make an egg pasta from scratch in the Liberation Through Land: Organic Gardening and Racial Justice class, held at the O'Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm.

The team working on education programs for the new school focused on climate and sustainability has released a progress report with details about new courses being developed and recommendations for undergraduate, master’s, PhD and professional learning opportunities. During winter and spring quarters, the team will be seeking additional community input on these recommendations before finalizing and submitting recommendations to Kathryn “Kam” Moler, Transition Dean of the new school, and Stephan Graham, Transition Vice Dean.

The school, which will formally launch in September 2022, merges and expands on existing Stanford organizations, including the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth), the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) will also join the new school as a joint department with the School of Engineering. The facilities of Hopkins Marine Station, which had been administered by the School of Humanities and Sciences, will also become part of the new school. 

Nicole Ardoin, associate professor of education and faculty director of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER), and Mark Horowitz, professor of electrical engineering and of computer science, have been co-leading the education workstream in the new school. Here, they discuss how students can join the new school, new courses that will be starting next fall and when new programs might be formed.

What will happen to students currently pursuing degrees within Stanford Earth or CEE?

Ardoin: Undergraduate and graduate students already in degree programs will continue in those programs in the new school. They will have the same degree requirements as when they declared.

Can students declare a major in the new school this year?

Ardoin: Students interested in declaring undergraduate majors in the new school should look at degrees currently being offered by Stanford Earth or the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Those degrees will be part of the new school starting fall quarter 2022.

For students currently pursuing degrees or who declare this spring, what will be different next year when they are in the new school?

Ardoin: Students will have access to new classes that we are developing now and that will be offered starting next fall. We’ve already confirmed more than 10 classes for undergrads and grad students, many of which are being taught or co-taught by faculty in the Graduate School of Business and in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

These new classes broaden the scope of available sustainability coursework to include an increased emphasis on sustainable development, environmental justice, planetary sensing and sustainable business practices. Those offerings will expand in the following years with anticipated new faculty hires in a number of areas, beginning initially with an emphasis on environmental justice, sustainable development and climate.

As departments form within the new school, students will see the expansion of existing offerings, additional new classes, and more and different research opportunities. They will also note an emphasis on engaging with community partners as part of their degree programs.

Will the school offer new degrees?

Horowitz: We expect that as new departments such as ocean science, climate science and global environmental policy launch over the next several years they may wish to create new degree programs. In addition, we expect gradual adjustments to existing programs. For example, the popular Earth Systems interdisciplinary undergraduate program could become a platform for a school-wide major.

We are also considering bolstering master’s programs to create more on-ramps to a PhD for underrepresented minorities and first-generation and/or low-income students. In addition, we are considering the development of one or more graduate certificates, which would enable any graduate student across campus to engage in critical sustainability topics. Those certificates would entail 9–12 units of courses that would fit within elective offerings of most master’s programs across the university.

When will students be able to enroll in those new degree programs?

Horowitz: Undergraduate students could declare one of the new majors as soon as the majors are announced. Graduate students will have a delay due to the application process.

We anticipate working with transitional school leadership to submit proposals for new degree programs as soon as this May. Those proposals will then go through review during the 2022-23 academic year, and they will need to be approved by the Faculty Senate.

Prospective graduate students applying during the 2022-23 academic year will apply to existing degree programs while new degree programs are in the process of being approved. If new degree programs are approved for fall 2023, incoming graduate students may request to change to one of the new degree programs at that time.

Once the degree proposals are approved, prospective graduate students can apply to those programs as soon as during the 2023-24 academic year, and will enroll in those new programs as early as fall of 2024.

As departments develop new programs, they will follow a similar timeline for enrollment in future years.

What is going to be different about the new degrees?

Ardoin: Over the past year, faculty tasked with thinking about education within the new school have been grappling with questions such as, “What do our students need to know and be able to do when graduating from the new school?” Groups ranging from the National Academy of Sciences to those focusing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have grappled with similar questions for over a decade, developing recommendations around sustainability competencies at various levels of education, including higher education.

We are in the midst of making recommendations for core competencies within the new school that mirror those made by many of those groups, yet tailored to address the Stanford context. These will underlie new school programs and courses. Students graduating from programs in the new school will graduate with skills in areas such as systems thinking and transdisciplinary thinking, among others.

The new school will also provide a rich array of experiential learning opportunities, building on those that exist in Stanford Earth and in the Woods and Precourt institutes. We are also considering developing an office of community-engaged education and research in partnership with the new school’s Accelerator and the Haas Center for Public Service.

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