Faculty Stories

My Senior Thesis

Jonathan Levin

In the spring of 1993, I decided to write a senior thesis on Norman MacLean. MacLean had been an English professor at the University of Chicago, and late in life wrote two books: The River Runs Through It, a beautiful reflection on MacLean’s family in Montana, the death of his brother Paul, fly-fishing, and religion; and Young Men and Fire, an account of a 1949 forest fire in Montana that killed 13 fire fighters (“smoke jumpers”). I loved MacLean’s books, and especially the story of his brother. 

How I Came to Love Teaching Microeconomic Theory

Chris Makler

I was a Humanities major in college: to the 19-year-old me, figuring out “what made the world go round” meant studying art, philosophy, literature and especially theater. Plays give us concrete models of human behavior: they show us a collection of characters driven by their own motivations, and then bring those characters into the same physical space to interact with one another -- to combust or deflate, fall in love or argue, kiss or murder. Characters’ actions, while voluntary, seem subject to Newtonian-like laws of motion beyond their understanding or control.

Why I Teach Theatre and Performance Studies

Students work through an exercise in the Cantor Auditorium for the class Rodin and the Dancing Body. Photo Credit: Linda Cicero
Janice Ross

The arts, and particularly the performing arts, have always been for me the most essential gateway we have for understanding how the world works. My particular passion is dance studies, which involves closely attending to how dance over time and across global communities records the most profound aspects of ourselves, how we think, feel and process information and share that with others through the moving body.

Why I Teach Archaeology

Tools used in an excavation in a bucket. Credit:  Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service
Krish Seetah
I love multidisciplinarity. My brain works in a ‘multidisciplinary’ way, and I find it useful to be able to tap into different knowledge bases in order to think about topics like disease and health, or the environment, in new ways. This pretty much describes archaeology. The subject is inherently attuned to pulling in a range of perspectives from different disciplines, and using these to enrich how we study the past.

What Are Office Hours? Why Go?

Desk with a placard that reads "Nothing is Impossible"
Alice Staveley

When I was a college student many years ago—before any of you were born, or your parents had ever met—I almost made it through four years of college never having talked to a professor outside class (and, given that our classes were large, not much in class either).  And to think I was an English major!  The discipline where we talk about talking all the time.  About narrative, stories, identity, meaning.  Until, one day, a college friend, Mike, who shared a Shakespeare class with me and used to tease me about spending long hours alone in my room conjugating Latin verbs (this was true), said

Research Gave Meaning to My Undergraduate Years

Green Library's west stacks. Credit: Ian Terpin
Todd Davies

I knew I was interested in research from the day I arrived as a freshman at Stanford, in 1980. I specify that because I know not all Stanford undergraduates are interested in research, and that is fine too. The university has much to offer undergraduates. But if you are interested in research, you are especially fortunate. Research is at the core of what Stanford is about, and I do not think there is a more welcoming place than Stanford for undergraduates who want to work with faculty doing research. 

Why I Teach History

Book from late professor of English Jay Fliegelman's renowned collection of ‘association copies’ acquired by Green Library's Special Collections. A 1703 edition of Pliny the Younger’s Epistolae et Panegyricus bears the bookplate of John Quincy Adams.
Jonathan Gienapp

For many, history is a set of facts, a collection of events, a sequence of happenings locked in the past. For me, history is far more than these things; it is a way of seeing the world. By learning how to see the past on its own terms, how to transform the strange and unfamiliar into the logical and the comprehensible, we acquire a crucial skill for the present: a way of seeing the world that enables us to make sense of its complex currents.

Why I Teach an Introsem

Students in a seminar
Bert Patenaude

I teach a variety of courses for various Stanford departments and programs, both on the main campus and through the Stanford Medical School, both undergraduate and graduate students.  To my mind there’s nothing that compares to teaching an IntroSem, something I have done each year for the past four years.  IntroSem students are relatively new to university life, and perhaps they’re more idealistic because of that.  They sign up for an IntroSem because they’re looking for an introduction to a topic that interests them, maybe even fascinates, or perhaps especially challenges them.


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