“5 Minutes With”- where each week we poke and prod the minds of Stanford affiliates with a series of questions, both causal and serious as well as personal, pertaining to Stanford and news around it. If you have any suggestions for interviewees or any specific questions you’d like to see asked, leave a comment.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met at the farm?
I’ve met like 20,000 people during my time on the Farm, so who isn’t interesting! Professor Kennell Jackson, he was a history professor and was the RF in Branner from 1980-2005. He made you think. He was interesting because he was always questioning the things around him. You could go out somewhere with him in the world and he would say: “Hm, I wonder why this is that way” and you might not have noticed it, and you might not be ready with an answer but he was always prompting and always asking questions. He had a curiosity that was fascinating. He brought lots of interesting people as the RF through dorm visits from Spike Lee to a congressman, to the guy who invented Dungeons and Dragons. He was interesting and he brought interesting people into our lives.
In our college applications, we have to use 5 words to describe ourselves. Could you do the same for Stanford?
Entrepreneurial. The Silicone Valley is here because Stanford was here first. Our way of doing things gave birth to this concept of entrepreneur, or enabled it to flourish. Irreverent, and by that, I mean, within its context as a world-class university. We just do silly, fun, absurd things as a matter of course and I think that keeps us young as an institution and not taking ourselves overly seriously. It means we are willing to see possibilities. If we take ourselves too seriously or are too narrowly focused, we miss all the things that are in the margins that other people may think are crazy or weird. Paradisal. Stanford is like a paradise: the weather, the people, the vibe, the everything. It feels like paradise. Caring. This to me is a place where students aren’t nameless, faceless numbers. This institution is not an institution in their lives. It is a place that cares and I think that shows up in a lot of ways. Life-changing. For all of us, if we are lucky enough to be a part of it.
What is the best advice that you could give to current and future Stanford students?
The world needs each one of us to be the best version of ourselves. My advice in that context is to really get to know yourself: what you’re good at, what you love and honor what you hear. Go do those things in furtherance of your getting to show up as your best self.
What would you over if you could go back to your college experience?
Go to every class. I get to go back to school this next year and I am so excited to show up as a student again. I don’t plan to blow off a single class…talk to me in November though.
What’s the best change that you have seen at Stanford?
By far, the best change has been the commitment that undergraduate teaching will be one of the university’s highest priorities. In a lot of institutions, undergraduates are taught my TAs and the faculty is way too busy with other things. In the mid 1990s, Stanford said: “no, that is not what we want to be.” We want to put our tenure faculty into the lives of our youngest undergraduates: freshman seminars, sophomore seminars, sophomore college and undergraduate research. Those are the biggest, most pivotal paradigm changing enhancements to undergraduate education that happened in the time that I was away that has enabled us to state confidently that we are for the best undergraduate education in the country. That and the football team being really good.
Do you think you will be back on the farm any time soon?
I plan to be back in 2 and a half years for when the last truly great class, the class of ’89, will show up for its 25th reunion. I hope the class shows up large and breaks a lot of records. So I will definitely be back for that.
Do you think you’ll be back in any greater way?
Who knows…I can’t know what lies ahead. This sounds so corny, but I was going to say that I can’t know what lies ahead, but Stanford will always be in my heart. But it is so true. So true. I live just down the street so I’ll be back for football games. I already have my season tickets and I think I’ll have more time to come to more sporting events.