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 the door-opener known as STS 1: The Public Life of Science and Technology

John Willinsky

This is the “gateway” course for the program in Science, Technology and Society. It means that I and two colleagues have the chance to introduce students to this interdisciplinary major that is committed to studying how the sciences and all aspects of technology affect, for better or for worse, the way we have lived and the way we do live, what we make of the world and how we use it. While my two co-instructors teach in their areas of great expertise: bioethics and the history of technology, I teach the ins and outs of intellectual property.

Why I Teach Using "Big Data" to Solve Social Problems

Big Data's definition illustrated with texts. By Camelia.boban - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33124418
Raj Chetty
Stanford and Silicon Valley are at the epicenter of the new economy, transforming the world with technologies and ideas that change the way many of us live.  My goal in teaching the course “Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems” is to harness this talent and energy to tackle challenging social problems – chronic poverty, disparities in life expectancy, underperforming schools – that have traditionally fallen outside the focus of the tech sector. 

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. 


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