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Historic number of Stanford courses apply learning to service

Oct 9 2018

A new video series showcases some of more than 150 faculty offering courses that integrate classroom learning with partnerships to address social and environmental issues.

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student presentation student interviewing geophysics student

CS 377E: Designing for Global Grand Challenges
Students develop web applications to assist with complex social and environmental challenges.
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CSRE 196C: Introduction to Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity
Students work with Bay Area nonprofits on community organizing and social justice campaigns.
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GEOPHYS 190: Near-Surface Geophysics
Students apply geophysical imaging methods and tools to sustainable water management in California’s Central Valley.
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Health students Storytelling student Environment students

HUMBIO 127A: Community Health Assessment and Planning
Students apply research skills to assessing a health program serving people with diabetes.
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TAPS 126: Sound Stories
Students learn nuances of storytelling through collaborations with community organizations.
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EDUC 332: Theory and Practice of Environmental Education
Students learn about environmental education amid iconic redwood forests.
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Stanford graduate and undergraduate students in GEOPHYS 190: Near-Surface Geophysics are applying the latest in geophysical concepts, imaging methods, and tools to assisting growers in California’s Central Valley with sustainable water management. The goal is to determine what approaches work best to replenish, or recharge, the groundwater supply without damaging produce—findings that may have broad application given water shortages across the western United States.

Taught by Rosemary Knight and Dustin Schroeder, the course is one of 189 Cardinal Courses, or community-engaged learning courses, offered each year at Stanford that integrate rigorous academic learning and research with real-world service experience.

“Through Cardinal Courses, Stanford is redesigning teaching and learning by placing community engagement at the fore of academic excellence,” said Senior Vice Provost for Education Harry Elam, Jr. “As we look to the future, these courses will play an instrumental role in strengthening and expanding the university’s mission of advancing knowledge and applying it for the benefit of humanity.”

Stanford faculty now offer more community-engaged learning courses than at any time in the university’s history. Annual Cardinal Course offerings have more than quadrupled in five years—from 46 courses in 2014, to 189 in 2018. Yearly enrollment has increased from 790 students to 2,786 in the same period. More than 150 faculty now teach Cardinal Courses spanning 55 academic departments and programs.

A series of new videos depicts the diverse ways these courses enable students to apply what they learn in the classroom to working with and learning from public service leaders, critically examining public issues, and getting hands-on experience in projects that address community needs.

In addition to Rosemary Knight and Dustin Schroeder’s GEOPHYS 190: Near-Surface Geophysics, videos feature faculty teaching a range of Cardinal Courses:

  • In CSRE 196C: Introduction to Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, taught by Paula Moya and Hazel Markus, students volunteer with Bay Area nonprofits on community organizing, voter registration and civic engagement, and racial and social justice campaigns.
  • In James Landay’s CS 377E: Designing for Global Grand Challenges, students design web applications to assist with complex social and environmental challenges, from coordinating a rapid response to refugee arrivals in Europe, to reducing unconscious bias in professional reviews.
  • In HUMBIO 127A&B: Community Health Assessment and Planning with Catherine Heaney, students learn the benefits and challenges of conducting program assessment through a partnership with Samaritan House's health clinic program that provides healthy food for diabetic patients and their families. 
  • In the podcasting course, TAPS 126: Sound Stories with Jake Warga, offered through a collaboration with the Menlo Park Police Department and LifeMoves, students learn the art of listening and storytelling as a means to deepen people’s understanding of complex and often contentious issues, such as community policing.
  • In EDUC 332: Theory and Practice of Environmental Education with Nicole Ardoin, students learn about educating visitors in California’s parks about the effects that shifting environmental conditions may have on iconic redwood forests for generations to come.

A catalyst behind the dramatic growth in Cardinal Courses has been a team of Directors of Community Engaged Learning (DCELs), who hold joint appointments with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Haas Center for Public Service. The DCEL team focuses on a range of thematic areas including education, engineering, environmental sustainability, health, and human rights. They consult with faculty to develop new Cardinal Courses or incorporate a community-engaged learning element in an existing course. In addition, the DCELs identify community partners, prepare students for work at partnership sites, and help organize logistics.

As Stanford University works to realize a vision for a purposeful university that builds on Cardinal Service, the Haas Center for Public Service will move from Student Affairs to report to Senior Vice Provost for Education Harry Elam, Jr. this November. The Office of the Senior Vice Provost will play a critical strategic role in advancing the educational aims of the institution, and this organizational structure, which emerged from the university’s long-range planning process, will enable the Haas Center to continue coordinating, synthesizing, and innovating with partners campus-wide to build a networked approach to public service as a distinctive feature of a Stanford education.