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One of the success stories of Stanford University, with it’s premises in Silicon Valley outside San Francisco (US), is, it’s said, to be its close relation to the businesses in Silicon Valley. It’s a symbiotic relationship. They nurture each other and many success business stories have started at Stanford; Google, Facebook, Instagram, Apple, Hewlett-Packard.
Leland Stanford, a Republican governor in the late 1800s and who made a fortune from Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads, and his wife decided to found a University in their late son’s name. Stanford University opened its doors in 1891 and the device was that the University should not become an ivory tower, but ”qualify students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life”. From the start, the close relationship to private funding, corporate research funds, and venture capital for start-ups, first for innovations in radio and broadcast media to todays digital technology, has been a base for the University.
The story can be read in The New Yorker (April 30, 2012) and gives an interesting light on the success story behind business ideas developed at Stanford and the philosophy behind it. But also the dangers of such a focus on success and making money.
The campus life and the atmosphere at Stanford is described as open to ideas, easy going, ”people are willing to try things”, risk-taking, access to venture and risk capital, creative. But there are also questions raised if Stanford has the right balance between commerce and learning, between getting skills to make it and intellectual discovery for its own sake? Is corporate money stearing research priorities?
David Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, who has also taught for many years at Stanford, express his worries that students uncritically incorporate the possibilities of Silicon Valley, but it’s a lack of students devoted to the liberal arts and the idea of pure learning. The one and simple question stearing choices is: What will I get out of it?
The philosophy now promoted at Stanford is the ”interdisciplinary education” and getting students to become ”T-shaped”, that is they have depth in a particular field of study and breadth across multiple disciplines. Social skills are put forward and an effort is to put together students with different majors (engineering, business, medicine, science, design) to together solve real or abstract problems.
David Kelley, the founder of design firm IDEO, is also director of Institute fo Design at Stanford (d.school), and is driven by the mission to lift empathy in his students. He wants the students to learn to see the human side of the challenges posed in class and that way provoke creativity.
Still, fewer students get into liberal arts and humanities and many become, as said by a senior Miles Unterreiner, ”slaves to the dictates of a hoped-for future”. Students become instrumental and only get majors in subjects that lead to jobs, something also supported by Universities.
It’s an interesting development. Reading Steve Jobs story and listening to many of his talks, he puts two processes next to each other as crucial for his success: The development of technology and the liberal arts.
The post is based on the article in The New Yorker (April 30, 2012) ”Annals of higher education. Get rich U.There are no walls between Stanford and Silicon Valley. Should there be?” by Ken Auletta. The photo is from a TED talk on the web.
Read more from posts on IDEO, San Francisco, and the Arts from our visit in 2008 here and posts on other interesting US visits here. Read also here the report from Svenskt Näringsliv which last year promoted less money to humanity education in Sweden, a very criticized report.
For those interested in trying the New York Art world, the magazine New York (April 30 2012) is giving some handy tips in a nineteen rules handbook. Maybe worth looking through…?
1. Reject the Market. Embrace the Market. Hm. That contradiction. Always present.
2. Stay on Trend…Things we’ve seen a lot of lately, New York says, is Trash art, Cindy Sherman-esque, Neon Words, Candy-Colored Sculpture and Video-Game Art…
5. Survive With your head down. Artist Alex Katz (84) remember how it was: ”A lot of people respect me” he says ”But people used to really hate my work. As late as 1975, I had a show in Paris and people were screaming in the gallery. They were saying this is terrible art and I should go back to art school”. Sort of Don’t Give Up.
6. Outsource to China. Artist Kahinde Wiley came to Beijing in 2006 and has set up a studio which has become his main production hub and second home.
7. Know These 100 people. An insider’s list of art insiders. The necessary list of gallerists if you are to make it in New York or perhaps the US…
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Trade Up. When a bigger gallery comes calling, listen. Since the recession, three powerhouse galleries have been especially aggressive in grabbing talent. And those are: David Swirner, Larry Gagosian, Sean Kelly.
9. Show up. Mainly: When you mingle and network, make sure you are caught on photos (and look cool…).
10. Pick Your Artists and Stick with Them. Whole-life art patronage – collecting work is just the start.
11. Buy the Same Thing Everyone Else is Buying. A shoppinglist would include, according to New York and art collector Adam Lindemann: Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, among others.
12. Get Born into It. The inheritance class.
13. Don’t Let a Gallerist Take Half the Profit. The collective gallery Reena Spaulings is an example of how to organize and show work in a different manner.
14. Be Ruthless. Making a killing in the art world’s dark market.
15. Pretend You’re and Outsider Even When You’re at the Center of Everything. The gallery Family Business is a gallery – but not.
16. Pack Your Bags, Fly Around the World, and Hang Out With Everyone You Know From New York.
17. Be Everywhere at Once (But Rarely New York). On the same theme as Rule no 16. Be there but look busy.
18. Join the Establishment. Cling to Your Street Cred.
19. There Are No Rules. Break barriers. Do what you have to do.
The thirty-five students at the final year at Kulturverkstan, the two-year International Culture Project Management Training Programme, just finished their seminars of their final internships and are at this moment celebrating their examination dinner.
As always the students have held a variety of interesting seminars on topics they have studied during their internship. Independent Culture House, gentrification, industrial cool – What does the connections look like?, A music life for all?, The heterogenic team, Participation and engagement within performing arts are just a small selection of all the different topics, all interesting to dig into.
Figures from the last group of graduated students (June 2011) shows that 82% got jobs or run their own business within the field they educated for. Many of the jobs are project work, either short- or longterm, but still. We are quite proud.
Read the different seminar topics here (in Swedish): Program_Kulturverkstan.pdf.
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