By Olivia Moore
Stanford+Connects, a four-year outreach initiative launched by the Stanford Alumni Association, recently kicked off an 18-city event tour as part of an effort to bring University content and connections to alumni communities worldwide.
The tour’s first event, which took place in Scottsdale, Ariz., on April 20, featured a range of Stanford faculty and alumni speakers, including President John Hennessy and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor ’50 LLB ’52.
Approximately 300 alumni attended the five-hour event, which was hosted by Dan Klein ’90, a lecturer in the drama department and at the Graduate School of Business (GSB).
Participants listened to 10-minute micro-lectures, which Klein compared to TED talks, before attending one of four in-depth seminars led by Professor of Law Hank Greely ’74, Professor of Surgery Jill Helms, Professor Emerita of Art History Wanda Corn and Klein.
The event also featured a Q&A session with Hennessy and a discussion between O’Connor and current Law School dean Elizabeth Magill. Hennessy will attend all of the Stanford+Connects events over the next four years, traveling to cities around the world including Paris, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul, South Korea.
“We’re not fundraising, we’re friend-raising,” Klein said about the Stanford+Connects tour. “It’s about reconnecting people to Stanford, reminding them what they value in it and letting them know what’s going on today.”
Klein, who led a seminar about improvisation, has participated in events for the Alumni Association before. He became involved with Stanford+Connects last year after he was invited to a discussion about “innovative new ways” to engage alumni and help them reconnect with the Stanford community.
“I talked to some younger alumni and they said, ‘The price is kind of amazing for everything we get. We wanted to hear all the talks. It was really fun to interact with people and be here at the hotel,’” Klein said. “They seemed to all have really positive experiences.”
The Stanford+Connects initiative also includes a web component, where alumni can view Stanford-related content including articles, social media postings and videos. The website will soon host live webcasts of Stanford lectures and events.
“Stanford+Connects, as the name would suggest, is all about connection—with ideas, with fellow alumni and with the University,” wrote Howard Wolf ’80, president of the Alumni Association, in a statement. “Quite simply, Stanford+Connects will bring the best of Stanford to alumni around the world over the next four years in person and online.”
According to Wolf, Stanford’s “top faculty” will appear at Stanford+Connects events. Different faculty members will be selected for each city based on online surveys from alumni about topics that they would like to learn more about.
Wolf said that cities were chosen for the tour based on several factors, such as the size and growth of the alumni population in certain areas and the length of time since the Alumni Association last visited the region.
The next event, which will take place in Minneapolis, Minn., in May, will feature lectures by Dean of Undergraduate Admission Richard Shaw, Professor of Environmental Earth System Science Rosamond Naylor Ph.D. ’89, Professor of English Elaine Treharne and Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program Tina Seelig Ph.D. ’85.
Wolf said that while the Alumni Association has previously hosted a variety of outreach projects, he believes Stanford+Connects is unique in its “use of technology both at the events and online,” citing the use of iClickers to allow alumni to answer questions during the faculty sessions as one example of technology’s integration.
“Stanford+Connects is a more interactive outreach program than many of the past,” he wrote. “This is our attempt to mimic what is happening in many classrooms today on campus, where classrooms are being flipped and [Introductory Seminars] are some of the most popular courses at Stanford.”
Corn, who said that she has participated in many alumni lectures in the past, agreed that the Stanford+Connects event “had more variety and was faster-paced” than other alumni meetings.
After the Arizona alumni gathering expressed interest in learning more about contemporary art, Corn was invited to speak about the future of museums. She also held a seminar titled “Dressing Modern: Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Clothes.”
“I would have loved to have gone to any one of the other three breakout seminars but I had to give my own,” Corn said. “I found from talking to the alumni that they were pleased. They felt a little tugged, they said, as to which direction to go for the seminars because they found it all so interesting.”
Six student ambassadors, who also spoke to alumni about their Stanford experience, assisted the speakers and presenters. Klein, who brought two students from the Stanford Improvisers, an improvisation troupe that he coaches, said that both he and his students enjoyed attending the event.
“I loved it. It was a little bit stressful, there were 300 strangers in the audience, but it was really nicely put together and it was exciting and it was a neat location,” he said. “It was fun to get to do.”