One of the fun things about living so close to Stanford now is that SPL and I take a lot of bike rides around the place. Some of it is exploring new stuff for me, some of it is talking with SPL about my own experiences there, and some of it is really just trying to find the biggest hills to ride down.
This morning SPL and I took a special Commencement ride. We rode over to the stadium to watch the long column of undergrads and graduates and professors and families make their way in. It’s a fun tradition, full of things to talk about (including seeing Mark Madsen walk in to get his MBA on his way to joining the coaching staff!). Then we rode around the (amazing and getting more amazing) campus looking at each of the setups for each school’s graduation ceremonies.
(Above is a picture of the ceremony for CS, which to my eyes looks like 2 or 3 times the size it was when we left in 1995. And, for the alums out there, worth noting that Claire Stager was there, moving chairs around, making everything perfect just like she has for decades now. Amazing.)
It’s really an incredible day each year at Stanford, and it’s hard not to be completely inspired.
It’s easy right now to be cynical about the role of the University in our society. To say that the economic value of the academy is overwhelmed by the cost. There’s no doubt that higher ed is in for some very big changes, and those right quick.
I’m excited about the changes that will come to higher ed and primary ed as well. But I’m also excited about and inspired by what’s happening at Stanford and other institutions today. Stanford is 100 year old institution, led today by John Hennessey, a computer scientist and entrepreneur himself. The commencement speech today is being given by Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, and a 1991 grad who’s changing the world from inside our government. And in just a few hours there will be 5,000 new degree holders in engineering, medicine, law, business, humanities, education and a myriad of other pursuits.
Stanford, in 2012, is in its absolute power zone. Led by an entrepreneur, but with wide ranging ambitions across many, many disciplines.
The role of universities is undoubtedly to prepare us for the economic challenges ahead. But more than that, it’s about helping students figure out how they want our world to be, and about helping them figure out how to start doing that.
It’s easy to be cynical about lots of things in our society today — trivial, really. But taking a quick spin around graduation day at Stanford it’s just impossible to be anything excited about these 5,000 students getting their degrees, moving out and getting on with it.
Commencing what’s next. The best will figure out what world they want to live in, and then they’ll go make it that way.