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About the Center


The Bill Lane Center for the American West is 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.

The Center's vision of the West extends from San Francisco Bay to the fabled 100th Meridian, from western Canada to all of Mexico, and outward to the Pacific world. We work with Stanford students, faculty, and outside partners to address the challenges facing our region. 

Students from a wide variety of disciplines regularly work at the Center as research assistants and spend summers on internships from Monterey to Missoula, Yosemite to Yellowstone. These students bring their experiences and enthusiasm back to campus. The Center aims to support future leaders who are eager to put their Stanford education to work in the West. The Center is also deeply engaged in exploring digital mapping, spatial history and analysis, data analysis and visualization, multimedia storytelling, social media, and collaborative research and teaching using new digital tools. 

We work in three broad areas:

History, Arts, and Culture

The Center was co-founded by two leading scholars of American History, Richard White and David M. Kennedy, and we continue to collaborate frequently with Stanford scholars in history, anthropology, and the arts. Our ArtsWest Initiative highlights the literature, art, and culture of the West. The Center also sponsors the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, a Stanford-based effort to understand the lives of the thousands of Chinese immigrants who were instrumental in the creation of a transcontinental railroad.

Environment and Energy

The Center works closely with the Precourt Institute for Energy, the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, and others at Stanford on crucial environment and resource challenges in the American West. Together with the Woods Institute, we have embarked on a major long-term initiative, Water in the West. This research and policy program is focusing on making western water systems sustainable by improving groundwater and surface water management; broadening adoption of water recycling and reuse technologies; and improving information systems, performance measurements, and best practices for managing water in the West. The Center also supports research and dialogues with decision makers on emerging challenges and opportunities in conservation, land use planning, energy, and environmental education.

Western Governance and Policy

The Center is led by the distinguished political scientist Bruce E. Cain and it maintains close ties with policymakers and decision makers in the public and private sectors around the West. These relationships allow Stanford students and faculty to engage directly and constructively in finding solutions to the region’s challenges through research, internships, and dialogues. In partnership with the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the Center co-sponsors an annual State of the West Symposium on the economic and fiscal health of the western region that brings students and faculty together with public officials, investors, and business, labor, and nonprofit leaders. The Center is also engaged in efforts to improve governance at the state, regional and national levels in the West.