Photo credit: Stephanie Burbank

Sophomore College

Sophomore College (known as SoCo in Stanford vernacular) is an immersive, three-week academic opportunity available to incoming sophomores. Students arrive on campus before the traditional start of fall quarter in early September and join a cohort of 12-16 students embarking on intensive study of one subject. The Bill Lane Center for the American West sponsors a SoCo course every year covering topics and issues central to the Western region. 

The course usually involves a week of on-campus learning and two weeks of field study somewhere in the West. Past courses have taken students to Utah and the Southwest, Washington and the Northwest, and Hawaii and the Pacific. We hope to be able to host this course and travel again soon.

Up Next

Water and Power in the Pacific Northwest — The Columbia River

This seminar will explore the nature of and coupling between water, energy and environmental resources in the Pacific Northwest.

Focusing on the Columbia River, we will explore the geographic, hydrologic, meteorologic, and geologic bases of water, energy, and other natural resources in the Columbia watershed; the historical determinants and consequences of their utilizatiion by indigenous peoples and later settlers; and the economic, social, environmental, and political  issues surrounding those resources in today’s Columbia Basin, including the impact of climate change as well as shifting cultural and legal standards for resource utilization.


David M. Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus





David Freyberg, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Past Courses

2019: Energy in Hawaii

In 2019, our SoCo trip spent two weeks in Hawaii studying the future of sustainable energy sources. Instructors: Sally Benson and Terry Surles. 

2018: Fighting Over our Common Heritage

We journeyed to the heartland of the American West to learn about public lands and the issues that surround them. Instructors: Bruce Cain and Buzz Thompson. 

2017: Water and Power in the Pacific Northwest

This course brought students to the Pacific Northwest to study the ever-important issue of water. Instructors: Sally Benson, David Freyberg, and Bruce Cain.

2016: Managing Natural Resources on Native Lands

This course traveled across the Northwest studying contemporary issues facing Native American communities. Instructors: Bruce Cain and Buzz Thompson. 

2015: Energy in the Southwest

This course examined the technical, social and political issues surrounding energy management and use in California, Nevada and Arizona. Instructors: Sally Benson, Bruce Cain, and David Freyberg.

2014: Energy in the West

Students travelled 1,500 miles across Wyoming to study energy generation and extraction. Instructors: Sally Benson, Bruce Cain, and David Freyberg.

Student Profiles


There are many ways to get involved with the Lane Center and each students' road will be different.  We invite you to read the stories of previous Lane Center students who shared their paths. You may decide to follow their lead or use their experiences as inspiration to write your own story.

Visit our student profiles page.