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Key priorities for the School of Engineering

Dear colleagues,

Since becoming dean 18 months ago, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many of you, as well as numerous others from throughout the Stanford community, including faculty from Stanford’s six other schools, staff, students, and alumni. These conversations have informed my thinking about where Stanford Engineering is today, and where we can go from here.

So, as we begin the school year, I’d like to share with you two key priorities that have emerged from these discussions and that will shape our agenda in the years to come.

One of our most important priorities continues to be increasing diversity at all academic levels. Doing so was a key pillar of the SoE-Future strategic planning process that began in early 2015, and I am pleased to say we have made great strides since then. Our incoming class of graduate students is the most diverse in our history. We are also making great progress in increasing the diversity of our faculty.

Yet this good news cannot lull us into complacency. We are committed to continuing to diversify our faculty and student bodies, and – critically – to ensuring that all of our students, regardless of their background, have access to programs and initiatives that draw them fully into our community and enable them to thrive academically and socially.

A second major priority is building even stronger bridges to Stanford’s six other schools, thereby enabling us to take advantage of Stanford’s extraordinary breadth across disciplines.

Among the initiatives that will help us reach this goal are the Catalyst for Collaborative Solutions, which creates programming and incentives for faculty with shared research interests to come together to tackle major global challenges; and the further development of the d.school, which brings its creative problem-solving and design-thinking methodologies to the rest of the university and beyond. We are also exploring new avenues in our undergraduate curriculum for students to better integrate engineering with other disciplines.

Our priorities tie in with the university’s Long-Range Plan now under development. The LRP research initiatives with a strong Engineering component, in such areas as data science, human-centered artificial intelligence, and sustainability, will, by design, draw together faculty and students from across campus.

The creation of shared platforms and infrastructure for imaging, nanoscale experimentation, data and computational services, and maker spaces is also a key part of the Long-Range Plan, and one that is critical to the development of Stanford Engineering and the university as a whole. And, we are proud to play a role in the Presidential initiatives on ethics, society, and technology; inclusion, access, and diversity; and purposeful engagement with the region, nation, and world.

I will share more details on these priorities and initiatives in the months to come. Until then, I look forward to many more conversations with you, and I welcome your thoughts about how together we can achieve our goals.

Jennifer Widom

Frederick Emmons Terman Dean, Stanford School of Engineering 
Fletcher Jones Professor in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering