Dedicated to advancing scholarly and public understanding of the past, present, and future of western North America, the Center supports research, teaching, and reporting about western land and life in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
With the California Constitutional Reform project's deliberative poll of over 300 randomly selected citizens set to kick off this weekend, the Stanford News Service has a story about the developer of this innovative methodology, communications professor James Fishkin.
Opinion polls typically ask members of the public how they stand on the issues, whether they know much about the issues or not. That seemed like a flaw in the process to Stanford communication professor James Fishkin, who pondered the question, "Would people have the same response if they took the time to learn about the issues?"
The answer, it turns out, is that many people, once they gain a grasp of the issues, change their minds. In 16 countries, Fishkin has surveyed random samples of ordinary citizens and then brought them together for days-long discussions with each other and with competing experts on the topics.
This weekend, June 24-26, Prof. Fishkin will be at a hotel in Torrance working with researchers from the Center and its partners in the California Constitutional Reform project, who include the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford and NextCA, whose website will provide running coverage of the event through Facebook and Twitter.
PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff will moderate the event, and MacNeil-Lehrer Productions will be shooting a documentary program about the project.
As the Class of 2011 was enjoying commencement week celebrations, we hosted a lunch at the Center for our ten undergraduate and graduate summer interns. These students have been placed at organizations throughout the West to spend the summer working on a variety of projects that run parallel to our own research initiatives back on campus, like water management, regional governance and cooperation, environmental sustainability, and the culture and history of the North American West.
The internship program began in 2005 with five internships, and we are excited to expand our reach to three new organizations this year: the Peninsula Open Space Trust, Seattle City Light, and the Western Governors' Association.
Updates All Summer Long
Throughout the summer, the Center's interns will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work, all of which we'll be posting on our new blog, "Out West." We're excited to highlight our students' work, and the work of our distinguished partners this summer, and we hope you find their posts informative, entertaining and inspiring for the future of the West.
Interested in Future Internships?
If you're a current Stanford undergraduate student who's interested in finding out more about the program, please visit our internships page and feel free to contact me with any questions.
Interested in Hosting a Center Intern?
If you are at an organization interested in collaborating with the Center by hosting an intern during the summer of 2012, please don't hesitate to get in touch!
The following report is re-posted from the website of the Huntington Library in Southern California, where the Center's Faculty Co-Director Richard White and Executive Director Jon Christensen helped facilitate a history dissertation workshop on June 11.
By Matt Stevens
School’s out, which means most doctoral candidates are busy researching, writing, and revising their dissertations. Five lucky graduate students got a master class last Saturday at The Huntington in the sixth annual Western History Dissertation Workshop, organized jointly by five of the nation’s premier programs for the study of California and the West.
The structure was simple. After applying and gaining acceptance to the workshop, the grad students circulated one chapter each in advance and then took turns on Saturday summarizing their dissertations and subjecting themselves to probing questions and sage advice from some of the most noted historians in the field, including a Pulitzer Prize winner and a recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant.”
“It’s like carpenter talk among a room full of carpenters,” explained Jon Christensen, the executive director of Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West. “It’s the kind of conversation you wouldn’t necessarily share with your readers, but we can have it with each other.”
Christensen and Lane Center co-director Richard White led the critique of Ruth Morgan’s dissertation, which dealt with the historical perceptions of the changing climate in southwest Western Australia. Morgan had traveled to the workshop all the way from the University of Western Australia, expanding the bounds of the group’s definition of “the West,” but providing plenty of common ground for a lively discussion about water, environmental history, and risk management.
Photo: L.A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
We would like to extend a special congratulations to all the Stanford students who worked with the Center throughout their undergraduate years. Four seniors, Lee Anderegg, Nicole Bitler, Siddhartha Oza, and Emily Turco all did research as part of the Center's Water in the West project. Along with a few of our other undergraduate researchers and interns, they earned numerous department and university accolades. Thanks for all your hard work and congratulations to the class of 2011!
- Nicole Bitler, 2011: Sandy Dornbusch Award for Excellence in Research Related to Families and Children
- Emily Bookstein, 2011: Pi Beta Kappa
- Cindy Guan, 2011: Roger G. Noll Award for Outstanding Performance in Economics and Quantitative Analysis
- Sydney Gulbronson, 2011: Pi Beta Kappa
- Travis Koch, 2011: Robert M. Golden Medal
- Rachel Kolb, 2012: Pi Beta Kappa, Creative Non-Fiction Prize
- Leander Love-Anderegg, 2011: Pi Beta Kappa, David M. Kennedy Honors Thesis Prize, Dean's Award for Academic Accomplishment, Firestone Medal, Joshua Lederberg Award for Academic Excellence
- Siddhartha Oza, 2011: School of Earth Sciences, Dean's Award for Undergraduate Academic Achievement
- Michael Pearce, 2013: Chappell-Lougee Scholarship
- Chris Rurik, 2011: Pi Beta Kappa
- Emily Turco, 2011: Pi Beta Kappa
- Bethany Wylie, 2011: Pi Beta Kappa
White's approach uses novel methods to open up new ways of telling history. White and his assistants went to the same sources as a traditional historian would have--letters, freight tables, books, newspapers, accident reports, ledgers, and so on. Only, when something seemed too complex, he didn't cast it aside. He entered it into a database, and georeferenced it with ArcGIS, geographic information system software.
John Bryson, an energy executive and member of the Center's advisory council, has just been nominated for Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration. If confirmed by the Senate, Bryson would replace the departing Secretary Gary Locke, who has been nominated as ambassador to China.
According to Bloomberg news, President Obama hailed Bryson as "a fiece proponent of alternative energy." Developing a green energy industry is a top administration goal not only for energy policy, but – as evidenced by this nomination –the nation's economic policy as well.
Currently the chairman of BrightSource Energy, a developer of solar power plants, Bryson has long experience in industry, law and public administration. He has served as president of the California Public Utilities Commission, chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Board, and as CEO of Edison International.
For more details:
Bloomberg News: Obama Picks Bryson for Commerce Chief »
Photograph: Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr
As part of California's first statewide "deliberative poll," 300 individuals representing a scientific random sample of the entire state will be transported to a hotel in Torrance for a weekend of face-to-face discussions in small groups and in dialogue with competing experts.
The poll draws on methodology developed by Stanford's Center for Deliberative Democracy, and is intended to show how regular citizens can come up with surpringly pragmatic solutions by working with their peers.
The weekend will be moderated by Judy Woodruff of the PBS Newshour and videotaped for an upcoming documentary.
For more details:
• San Francisco Chronicle: Californians brainstorm state's political issues »
• What's Next California website: NextCa.org »
• Center projects: California Constitutional Reform »
Did the transcontinental railroads save the Union? Were they a triumph of innovative capitalism? Did they cut the cost of moving goods across the country? "No," says Richard White in his new book, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (2011, W.W. Norton & Co.).
The book, an iconoclastic history of the transcontinental railroads, is now available in print and for order on Amazon.com and other retailers.
Prof. White will appear at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, together with fellow Center faculty co-director David M. Kennedy, to talk about the railroads and their present-day parallels, from Wall Street bailouts to California high-speed rail. "Myths About the Transcontinental Railroad and the Building of the American West" will take place on Wednesday, June 8 at 6:00pm.
For more details, please see the Events Page ».
John Ford, who served Stanford’s development efforts for more 30 years and rose through the ranks to become the university’s chief fundraiser, has joined the Advisory Council of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford.
When Ford retired in 2008, Stanford President John Hennessy said: “Under John’s leadership, Stanford has been higher education’s development leader for the past 20 years, launching the first billion-dollar campaign, The Centennial Campaign, followed later by the first ever billion-dollar effort focused exclusively on undergraduate education, The Campaign for Undergraduate Education. Finally, The Stanford Challenge again is setting the pace for 21st-century fundraising campaigns.”
That campaign is still underway, as Ford joins the Bill Lane Center for the American West, which seeks to establish itself as the go-to center for understanding the past, present and future of the region that gave birth to Stanford.
Ford, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Stanford in 1971, began his development career at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago. Joining Stanford in 1977 as a development officer at the Medical Center, he served as director of Medical Development from 1980 to 1986. He became the university’s associate vice president for development in 1986 and vice president for development in 1988.