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2016-17 Class Fills the Hill

Nov 14 2016

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The 2016-17 class, the Center’s largest in years, comprises 38 fellows, five visiting scholars, and seven research affiliates representing a variety of fields within the social and behavioral sciences. (You can read class biographies and sketches of each scholar’s proposed research project here.) They, as with classes before them, constitute a primary pillar of the CASBS enterprise.  They also are the first class in which a large percentage – approximately one-quarter – is affiliated with an ongoing project or network, the Center’s second, newer pillar. 

The Berggruen Institute’s Philosophy and Culture Center supports five fellows – Ruth Chang, Owen Flanagan, Chaihark Hahm, Fenrong Liu, and Robin Wang. Four other CASBS research programs also help fund fellows: Barry Zuckerman is a Mindset Scholars Network fellow; Tara Behrend is the Center’s first Stanford Cyber Initiative fellow; Eric Klinenberg and Andrew Lakoff are part of the climate change program, which is in collaboration with the Stanford Woods Institute and partially supported by the Hewlett Foundation; and Salar Kamangar, a CASBS board member, funds Teppei Yamamoto as the first fellow connected to our developing evidence-based policy program. Restricted endowment and traditional partnerships cover other fellows. Five fellows – Steven Feld, Mark Greif, Terry Maroney, Brenda Stevenson, and Noelle Stout – receive support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment, and three more – Sapna Cheryan, Miyako Inoue, and Jennifer Petersen – receive support from the Annenberg Foundation Endowment. The class also includes one Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellow, Brooke Blower, and one William T. Grant Scholar, Donald Chi.

Stanford faculty among this year’s CASBS fellows include political economist Steven Callander, historian Zephyr Frank, anthropologist Miyako Inoue, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jack Rakove, and professor emeritus and National Humanities Medal winner Arnold Rampersad. Stanford-based research affiliates include Arnold Milstein, professor of medicine and director of Stanford’s Clinical Excellence Research Center; Roberta Katz, former associate vice president for strategic planning and current interim chief of staff to Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne; and Abraham Verghese, professor of medicine and recent National Humanities Medal winner.

The class took residence in September and quickly began developing the cohesion and camaraderie that the Center cultivates and for which it is renowned. (The typical pace of bonding accelerated on November 8, as the bulk of the class gathered together to watch and react to the presidential election returns…) The class members interact regularly through daily lunches, weekly fellows’ seminars, and a host of other activities, developing a sense of community that encourages an open exchange of ideas, theories, and methods.

Several open, cross-disciplinary groups have formed already. A strong environmental studies contingent consisting of Eric Klinenberg, Andy Lakoff, Deborah Lawrence, and Jesse Ribot (pictured below) meets weekly to discuss each other’s work and their points of tangent and intersection. A new “poverty and development” reading group engages collective thought and ideas about the way we frame the causes and responses to poverty and vulnerability to poverty. A larger group brings together at least 15 fellows whose work involves or seeks to explore the role of emotions from a number of perspectives. A “Causal Friday” group of more than a dozen fellows, scholars, affiliates, and other Stanford researchers reviews models of causality in the statistical, philosophical, and general social science literatures. Individuals connected with one or more of our ongoing projects initiated several of these discussion groups. 

Fellow Teppei Yamamoto and research affiliate David Yeager also participated in a CASBS-hosted, Knight Foundation-sponsored evidence-based policy workshop on Saturday, November 5. One of the key components of the workshop’s agenda was better identifying causal effects using policy data. Many of the methods used for such analysis are based on the fundamental purpose underlying the “Causal Friday” group, according to Yamamoto. Such creative synergy between informal groups of fellows and organized projects and workshops exemplifies what CASBS attempts to achieve in serving as a magnet, convergence point, and nursery for ideas. 

At least two more formally organized groups of collaborative scholars continue to use the Center as their research base: the Mindset Scholars Network, which studies and promotes a growth mindset to enhance learning and achievement; and the Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center, which explores both the theory and the practice of cross-cultural ideas concerning key questions of our time.

The five Berggruen fellows already have held a number of meetings and seminars open to the entire CASBS community. Robin Wang, Chaihark Hahm, Fenrong Liu, and Owen Flanagan have given seminars on Daoism, Confucianism, Mohism, and Buddhism, respectively. Hahn and CASBS fellow Jesse Ribot led a meeting on “Governance, East and West.” Visiting speaker Wenquing Zaho of Duke University spoke on “Feminism in China.” And, in an intersection with another CASBS grouping, fellow Batja Mesquita and Stanford professor Jeanne Tsai conducted sessions on “Emotions, East and west,” and “Cultural Shaping of Emotion, East and West,” respectively.

All this just two months into the academic year! Who knows what kind of cross-disciplinary interactions and collaborations, idea generation, problem solving, serendipitous discoveries, friendship formation, and unabashed fun will occur in the coming months...