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2017: The Year in Review

Photos from above (clockwise from left): The 2017 Eccles Family Rural West Conference in Santa Fe, which focused on health care; Santa Lucia Conservancy summer intern Catie Mong; Timothy Egan’s keynote address on World War II and the West; former Mexican President Vicente Fox at Stanford; Ron Pritipaul,'19, in the video "A Home for Undergraduates."  Credits: School for Advanced Research; Santa Lucia Preserve; Geoff McGhee; L.A. Cicero; Stanford Video


The Center enjoyed another full and rewarding year in 2017, featuring activities around the West, from the Grand Coulee Dam in eastern Washington to the College of the Northern Border in Tijuana, Mexico. Through our programs and travels, we continue to acquire a deeper appreciation for the region’s culture and history, as well as its profound contemporary policy challenges.


Undergraduate Opportunities

The Bill Lane Center remains strongly committed to undergraduate education in and about the American West though its internships, classes, and research opportunities. This year, we sponsored ten Stanford students to participate in public service and nonprofit internships across the region with such organizations as the San Francisco Estuary Institute, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Yellowstone National Park. In addition, in partnership with the Precourt Institute for Energy and Stanford in Government, the Center placed 12 undergraduate and graduate students in summer energy internships with agencies such as the California Energy Commission and the Western Interstate Energy Board. You can read about their experiences in our Out West blog for students.

Those interested in learning more about the impacts of these programs should view a short video in which students such as Ron Pritipaul ‘19 discuss the impact that our undergraduate programs have had on them.

Read more about our undergraduate programs

Media and Publications

The Center’s year-old ‘... & the West’ blog, led by Felicity Barringer, explores environmental and health topics including water deals on the Colorado River, the underestimated threat of Valley Fever, and land subsidence in the Central Valley. The stories included Geoff McGhee’s creative graphics, such as those showing California’s power plants and the decline of salmon runs in rivers feeding Puget Sound. Three Stanford students worked as editorial assistants, filing in-depth stories on Wyoming’s coal industry and California’s ambitions for green electricity, as well as digests of the best environmental writing elsewhere. The Center also welcomed John Upton of Climate Central as a Western Enterprise Media Fellow. Upton spent two weeks in California reporting on the nexus between wildfires and public health. His story, “Breathing Fire,” was published by Climate CentralPBS NewsHourKaiser Health NewsKQEDGristPacific Standard, and California Healthline

In September, we celebrated the publication of Walking the Farm. This book, written by the Stanford alumnus Tom DeMund, details 18 themed walks across campus along with several hikes in the surrounding area. The book was inspired by Director Emeritus David Kennedy’s campus walk for alumni each fall and the Center’s Stanford to the Sea hike each spring. It is available for purchase from the Stanford University Bookstore and direct from the publisher.

Center Research

Our academic research continues to explore the connections between water, energy, and transportation governance in the West. We once again hosted a strong group of undergraduates who worked during the summer on various projects related to the West under the supervision of Center researchers. Our faculty and research staff also had a very productive year publishing numerous papers related to western topics and obtaining competitive research grants. The topics we analyzed include adaptation to sea-level rise, stakeholder involvement in integrated water and transportation planning, and public receptiveness to new wind technology

Research Projects

Program Highlights


In March, we hosted the fifth annual Eccles Family Rural West Conference, which focused on critical issues and possible solutions to create A Healthier Rural West. Partnering with physicians and policymakers, we explored personal, public and population health in New Mexico. Back on campus, student researchers spent the summer investigating links between fracking, fires and respiratory diseases and how mobile technology can promote healthy living in rural communities. This work will continue in 2018 with a campus workshop and the sixth Rural West conference in Yakima, Washington. 


To mark the 75th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War II, the Center hosted a two-day conference “World War II and the West It Wrought,” in May. The war sparked a massive westward movement, ignited a quarter-century economic boom that redefined the West as the nation’s most economically dynamic region, and prompted increased government spending for higher education and infrastructure. The conference convened ten scholars from across the country presenting original research that will eventually become into a book. New York Times columnist Timothy Egan delivered a keynote address on the geography of hope.


Our new ArtsWest initiative continues to flourish, attracting hundreds of members from the Stanford community and general public to celebrate the many Great Writers and Artists of the West. In February, the Center hosted a lecture entitled “The School: Diane Arbus’s Untitled Photographs” with Alexander Nemerov. In the spring, we partnered with former English Department Chair Gavin Jones to highlight one-time Stanford student John Steinbeck in a symposium titled “Great Writers of the West: Steinbeck and the Environment.”

Experience Center Events from 2017

The Evasive Bodies of May’s Photo Studio

 Professor Marci Kwon’s lecture explores the remarkable body of photographs produced by May’s Photo Studio, one of the most prominent Chinese-run photography studios in San Francisco’s Chinatown. 

John Steinbeck and the Environment

Presentations from the ArtsWest symposium at Stanford University: the world seemed on the brink of catastrophe when John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. Today we are confronted with our own cataclysmic moment in time.

When the Geography of Hope Became an Engine of War

A keynote address by Timothy Egan opening the conference "World War II and the West It Wrought."

Friends We Lost in 2017

In December, Jean Lane, the conservationist, philanthropist, gardener, and wife of the Center’s benefactor L.W. “Bill” Lane Jr., passed away at the age of 87. Mrs. Lane was a tireless advocate of environmental education and conservation.

After a years-long battle with cancer, our dear friend and former colleague Heather West passed away in June. In association with Stanford Athletics, the Center has established a fund in her name for experiential learning.

Looking to 2018

On behalf of the entire Center staff, I share my sincere thanks for your ongoing support. We wish you the very best for the coming year, and hope to see you on the Farm soon.




Bruce E. Cain
Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director
Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences