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Banner image featuring In response to the warm weather Aku Ammah-Tagoe taught her English 161 students on the cool lawn alongside Lasuen Mall. Outdoor class.  Credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Our Most Important Work

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In fall 2017, Susie Brubaker-Cole succeeded Greg Boardman as vice provost for Student Affairs. Under Susie’s leadership, Student Affairs began the process of building upon Greg's successful “Future of Student Affairs” groundwork to develop priorities for the next three to five years. Called “Our Most Important Work,” this effort was designed to be highly interactive and action-based. 

Our Process and Statement of Work

Our Most Important Work logo featuring the works "Our Most Important Work" along with the Student Affairs logo centered in the middle of a white circle. On the outside of the white circle are the various Our Most Important Work tenants in assorted colors. The tenets are: Community and Belonging, Equity and Inclusion, House in Order, Integrative Learning, Mental Health and Well-Being, and Supporting Academics.

In developing the “Our Most Important Work” priorities, we heard from other Stanford community and educational leaders, including then Harry J. Elam, Jr., senior vice provost for education, Jane Shaw, then dean for religious life, Patricia Gumport, then vice provost for graduate education, and others. We also analyzed data from recent student surveys and demographic studies; worked with Stanford's Office of Institutional Research & Decision Support to understand that research; and reviewed recent student presentations on the most important issues facing the student community. We then intensively discussed and culled the ideas that surfaced. 

As we engaged in this process, we realized that our priority focus was on six key areas, which align with the mission statement we had developed in the “Future of Student Affairs.”

Our Most Important Work Priorities

In our next phases, we looked to people across the division to take collective responsibility for including these priorities in their work. Our belief is that there will be core practices, defined by evidence of success at Stanford and nationally, that we will all need to engage in to improve and advance student learning and the student experience at Stanford. 

Through alignment of practices across the division, we can create collective impact and a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. 

Students at the annual “Black Plaza” celebration. The noontime gathering was held in White Plaza and co-sponsored by the Black Student Union and several other organizations. Credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Community and Belonging

Our Goal: Foster experiences, relationships and environments to ensure that every student feels a firm and abiding sense of belonging and contributes to the good of our community. 

Our Challenge: Surveys suggest that many students feel a lack of belonging within the Stanford community.  Undergraduates’ satisfaction with the climate for racial and ethnic minorities on campus has steadily declined over the last several years. 

Admits got a warm Stanford welcome from their dorm hosts during Admit Weekend.

Equity and Inclusion

Our Goal: Design experiences and systems to ensure that students have equitable access to opportunity. Engage students, faculty and staff in critical thinking and practice around identity, diversity and inclusiveness. 

Our Challenge: Students, particularly those from historically underserved populations and graduate students, indicate to us that they often do not experience equitable access to opportunities and that they encounter systems and attitudes that isolate, exclude and marginalize.  

Associate professor of political science Rob Reich (seated at the end of the table in white shirt and glasses) and his students eat food they prepared for his Food and Politics course, part of Sophomore College. Credit Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

House in Order

Our Goal: Ensure that each department in Student Affairs embodies excellence in its core functions.

Our Challenge: Given the pace of Student Affairs’ dedicated student-focused work, it can be difficult to focus on core administrative functions, such as policies, protocols, budgets, management practices and organizational design. 

Orientation volunteers, from left, Caitlin Rugg, Mati Horava, Chris Olivaros, Jennifer Chin, Elena Cryst and Subhanu Samarajiva worked at Campus Drive West and Santa Teresa Street to welcome new students and their families to campus.

​Integrative Learning

Our Goal: Enhance opportunities for students to engage in purposeful learning that is mutually enhancing with the classroom. 

Our Challenge: There is unrealized potential to connect the realms of learning and development across domains of Stanford’s educational landscape.  Integrated learning currently occurs too often through chance rather than through intention and careful design.

Image showing 4 individuals walking at the Dish in the sunshine

Mental Health and Well-Being

Our Goal: Develop and strengthen the foundational conditions that support students to be engaged, powerful learners.

Our Challenge: Many undergraduates enter Stanford with low or vulnerable mental health and well-being. This worsens at Stanford and a sense of feeling overwhelmed is particularly pronounced for our first-generation college students.

Students in an outdoor classroom on stanford campus. Konadu Abena Amoakuh

Supporting Academics

Our Goal: Provide systems, services, and guidance that support student success and ease the academic journey from application to graduation and beyond.

Our Challenge: Today students must navigate through decentralized and disconnected applications, technologies, and services to explore, plan, enroll in and engage with their classes, programs, and experiential learning opportunities. This creates stress, inequity, and barriers to success.