2022: The Year in Review
Photos, clockwise from left: The 2022 Rural West Conference announcement; "The Dreamt Land," a book by one of our 2022 speakers, Mark Arax; Corinne Thomas, our new Education Manager; Jas Wheeler, '25, during her Lane Center internship at Yellowstone National Park's Heritage and Research Center; a tram approaching a railway stop in Switzerland, a country whose highly efficient public transit system inspired our February SwissCal conference with Seamless Bay Area (Photo by Tim Adams via Flickr); Advisory Council Chair Hope Eccles at the 2022 Rural West Conference in Pocatello, Idaho; group photo of our 2022 Stanford to the Sea participants; the 2022 Sophomore College Assistants (SCAs), Sarah Bloom and Adam Nayak.
Dear Friends of the Bill Lane Center,
After a rather tumultuous two years of pandemic and transition, all of us at the Bill Lane Center are grateful to have returned to a year of relative normalcy. In-person events and classes have resumed, we have hired some wonderful new staff members, and we even brought back some signature programs like the Rural West Conference, Stanford to the Sea, and Sophomore College.
Nineteen was our lucky number in 2022, as we placed 19 interns at organizations throughout the American West and supported 19 student researchers who took on projects of immense importance to the region. These RAs worked with faculty and graduate student mentors on topics such as the willingness of rural communities to allow carbon capture facilities to be located nearby, the readiness of localities to deal with electric vehicle transition, water infrastructure needs along the Central California coast, the history of water disputes in Monterey, the writings of Cormac McCarthy, and more. Perhaps most importantly, BLC students have started gathering again on Fridays for a lunch seminar to share research results and get feedback on their projects from faculty and peers. Bringing back that community connection has been rewarding to all.
In events, we kicked off 2022 by co-hosting the SwissCal conference with Seamless Bay Area, a non-profit dedicated to transforming public transit in the San Francisco Bay Area. The February conference explored what California might learn from Switzerland’s world-class public transportation ecosystem. Our first in-person Rural West conference in two years brought us to Pocatello, Idaho, for important discussions on the climate and economic challenges facing the rural parts of the region, and Stanford to the Sea 2022 was a joyful opportunity to connect with friends of the Center on a 22-mile hike from Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve to San Gregorio State Beach. Our Sophomore College class on Energy Policy in Hawaii was the envy of the class of 2025. And while they did get time to learn how to surf, the students had a hectic schedule of meetings with various energy operators and experts on two of the islands, including a nearly one-hour session with the Governor.
More recently, with the leadership of David Kennedy, we launched a Western History Lecture Series, co-sponsored with the History Department. We look forward to hosting more talks by distinguished Western historians and hope that you can join us for the rest of the series in 2023. Also on the horizon for next year is the onboarding of our new events manager, Tina Lathia, an in-person State of the West conference with SIEPR, the American West course, a Rural West conference in Colorado, and of course, the spring Advisory Council meeting, dinner, and hike to the sea.
We hope everyone has a restful winter break and joyful holiday season. From all of us at the Bill Lane Center, wishing you good health, happy trails, and a Happy New Year.
Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director
Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences
Sophomore College students pose for a photo during a break from learning about clean energy technology and policy in Hawaii.
As always, we offered our course on the American West’s past, present and future in the spring of 2022. Hailed by David Kennedy as “the most interdisciplinary course on this or any other campus in the United States,” it brings together professors from history, English, political science, and civil and environmental engineering to examine how the West came to be viewed as such a distinctive region. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the syllabus, you can do so here.
Given our commitment to cultivating future leaders of the West and helping students understand the immediate impact they can have on their communities by engaging in local politics, we have also added a new section to our website highlighting Stanford’s courses on local government. In this section, we profile a number of Bill Lane Center alumni who have taken these courses and pursued careers in policymaking at the local and regional level. Their paths are inspiring, and you can read more about them here.
Another way we offer both meaningful academic and career experiences for our undergraduates is through our robust student internship program. In 2022, we placed 19 interns and Shultz Energy Fellows at organizations across the West. These students supported the work of national parks, nature conservancies, nongovernmental organizations, state regulatory agencies, research institutes, publishing companies, and other important bodies in the region.
Perhaps most excitingly, in the fall, we took 14 students to Hawaii for the return of Sophomore College. While traveling to various field sites across the island state, students learned about clean energy technology and policy. They also had the opportunity to meet with policy experts and public officials from governmental agencies, utilities, universities, and public interest groups. The course concluded with group presentations by the students and a featured story on the University’s Instagram channel. We encourage you to check out that story, and while you’re there, follow the BLC Instagram account to stay connected with us all year round.
In January, Traci Bliss joined us virtually for a talk on her book, "Big Basin Redwood Forest." The following month we hosted historian and filmmaker Laurence Cotton for a look at the life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted, master designer of public parks and a founder of the field of landscape architecture. Spring brought John Leshy to us in conversation with Felicity Barringer for a new historical look at America’s public lands, and Mark Arax – called a “21st Century John Steinbeck” – spoke to a rapt audience in May about his California book, "The Dreamt Land."
As mentioned above, in November, David Kennedy launched a new Western History Lecture Series with the History Department, and we welcomed our first speaker, Louis Warren, for “Blood Money: California's Indian War Bonds and the Financing of the Settler State.” Shortly thereafter, Judge M. Margaret McKeown led another successful talk on her new book “Citizen Justice: The Environmental Legacy of William O. Douglas—Public Advocate and Conservation Champion.”
Bill Lane Center author talks are some of our most popular events. But we also continue to produce larger conferences on complex topics impacting the region. In a first for the Center, we partnered in February with the nonprofit Seamless Bay Area, an organization dedicated to creating a world-class public transit system in the Bay. With them, we hosted the “SwissCal” conference, which aimed to apply Switzerland’s transportation best practices to California’s transit ecosystem. Among other things, the European country enjoys a high level of federal and regional coordination, which allows Switzerland’s transit network to boast one of the highest riderships in the world. It was an exciting opportunity for California transportation policymakers to learn from Swiss transit experts about what makes Switzerland so successful.
SwissCal provided a unique opportunity for California policymakers to hear directly from Swiss experts over multiple days, and also begin to collectively identify how to make meaningful progress in California within the next one to two years.
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, we also brought back our Rural West Conference in April, traveling to Pocatello, Idaho, for an event on “Pressing Climate and Economic Challenges in the Rural West.” It was a great feat to organize travel, lodging, dinners, keynotes and panels with scholars and practitioners from across the region, particularly as we emerged from the ever-changing COVID restrictions on flights and gatherings, but we were able to bring together a stellar group of panelists and audience members. Highlights from the conference can be found here. We remain incredibly grateful to the Spencer F. and Cleone P. Eccles Foundation, whose support makes our Rural West Initiative possible in the first place.
As soon as we were off the plane from Idaho, we readied ourselves for the annual hike to the sea, during which we communed with magnificent redwoods and heard talks from author Erica Gies and advisory council members Suzanne Case and Rhea Suh. The 22-mile trek finished at San Gregorio State Beach, where weary walkers boarded a bus for TomKat Ranch. We thank our friends Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor for their ongoing generosity in hosting such a marvelous post-hike dinner at their Pescadero ranch.
Finally, shortly after the hike, we held our Ninth State of the West Symposium, focused on the Colorado and Rio Grande River Basins. Panelists Anne Castle, David Wegner, and Pat Shea discussed “Climate Change and the Future of the Colorado River,” and long-time friend of the Center Phil Polakoff moderated a second panel with Angelina Esparza and Ivan G. Melendez on “Envisioning a Healthier Rio Grande Valley.” If you missed the online symposium, you can watch it and access the agenda here.
RESEARCH AND REPORTING
This year, the Lane Center published new research on federalism and foreign policy in California with a grant from the California 100 project. California 100 is a statewide initiative aimed at building innovative, sustainable and equitable strategy for California’s next century. It’s based out of both UC Berkeley and Stanford, and director of research for the project is my friend and colleague, Berkeley professor Henry Brady.
With Henry Brady and the late Iris Hui, we issued a report on improving the coordination of California’s state and local government bodies, which is essential to solving pressing problems such as climate change, water, housing, and health. Our research also looked at how California might interact with other states, with the federal government, and even with jurisdictions outside the United States to move forward its distinct vision of governance. That research can be found here.
Student research explored several topics ranging from literary analysis of Western writer Cormac McCarthy to the electrification of the transportation sector and water issues in the California Central Coast. We are immensely proud of the scholarship our students continue to produce, and we know many of them will take their experiences at the Lane Center and go on to become future scholars of the West.
With outstanding reporting from Writer in Residence Felicity Barringer and the entire & the West team, the growing body of work produced by the Center continues to push the envelope of impactful, relevant regional study. You might want to check out this piece on wildlife crossings in the West, an article on efforts to increase reservoir storage in California, and an "Up Close" on land return to Native American tribes, all in our online magazine. Moreover, you can read about our recently-selected Western Media Fellows here, who will also be producing journalism illuminating key environmental issues facing the West, with support from the BLC.
TRANSITIONS AND LOOKING AHEAD
Our former Events and Education Manager, Stephanie Burbank, moved on to a position in the Economics Department in May, and we are grateful for the time, dedication, and expertise she gave to the Center. Subsequently, we split her education and events responsibilities into two new roles.
We're thrilled to have brought Corinne Thomas on as Education Manager. She comes to us from the King Center on Global Development, where she managed faculty, student, and predoctoral programs. And just this month, we hired Tina Lathia as our Events Manager, which will allow us to bring you more of the fascinating speakers, panels, and conferences for which the Lane Center is known. Tina has over thirteen years of event production and management experience, most recently at the Parks and Recreation Department for the City of Kirkland, Washington. We hope you'll join us in welcoming Tina to the Bill Lane Center family next time you're in Y2E2.
In other fun news, Surabhi Balachander, '17, our program coordinator who is simultaneously pursuing a PhD in English, has been appointed the Bill Lane Center's "book critic at large!" In her spare time, Surabhi will be reviewing literature of the American West (any book that somehow occupies itself with a theme related to the region) and posting her incisive reviews to Instagram with the hashtag #WesternReads. Surabhi can be found at @surabhi.reading, but we'll be co-posting her micro-essays from our own account, @billlanecenter. See you on social, and feel free to share your own #WesternReads in the comments.
Please come by in the new year to check out our upcoming events, meet new staff, learn about student programs, or just say hello. We value your continued support of the Bill Lane Center, and we look forward to sharing meaningful scholarship, programming, and connections with you in 2023.