Business is an economic institution but also a social institution that ought to be used to solve some of the world's most difficult challenges including health of the planet and environmental sustainability, Dean Robert L. Joss told Stanford alumni gathered in London for the March 10-12 Stanford Alumni Conference.
Sixty percent of the alumni conferees attended the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and 2,300 Stanford University alumni in Europe hold degrees from the business school or have participated in one of its short executive training programs. Joss spoke about the importance of seeing business "not only as an economic institution but also as a social institution" that ought to be used to solve some of the world's most difficult challenges.
"It is not enough to just push the boundaries of knowledge; we need to use this to impact the world," said Joss. "A university with this breadth of knowledge and talent in one place needs to work in an interdisciplinary way to affect the world."
Stanford GSB is indeed pioneering new styles of teaching and fostering collaboration with other Stanford University schools including the School of Education and the School of Engineering. There have been numerous partnerships made between academic scholars and industry practitioners to create a richer classroom experience for business students. With regard to teaching entrepreneurship at Stanford, Joss remarked, "The difference between 10 years ago and today is phenomenal."
Jerker Johansson, MBA '86, chair of the University's European Advisory Board, welcomed guests and expressed hope that the conference would give alumni "a better sense of the exciting cross-disciplinary collaboration the University is now involved in."
Understanding Abuses of Power in Organizations
Conference attendees heard Roderick M. Kramer, the William R. Kimball Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford GSB, describe bullies who abuse their power or position in organizations; they ranged from historic figures to more recent personalities in the areas of politics, business, and entertainment. He explored the rationality and mechanism of bullying behavior, which 84 percent of Stanford MBA students report having been affected by, according to a survey conducted in 2004.
Also on the program was a panel discussion titled "Geopolitics: The United States, Iraq, Europe and Democracy." The panel was composed of faculty member David Brady; Coit Blacker, director of the Stanford Institute for International Studies; and constitutional law expert Gerhard Casper, former president of Stanford University.
The panel focus was on the development and spread of democracy worldwide and challenges that the Bush administration will face in its second term. Panelists took questions from the audience on events in Iraq, North Korea, and Afghanistan.
Pamela A. Matson, the Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth Sciences and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor of Environmental Studies in the Stanford Institute for International Studies, presented a faculty seminar on reconciling the needs of people and the planet in the 21st century. Matson is leading the new Stanford Environmental Initiative, charged with understanding how to meet the needs of people today and in the future by sustaining the atmosphere, water systems, climate, and ecosystems.
Matson outlined a number of broad areas under investigation by the Stanford Environmental Initiative, including developing clean and sustainable fuel alternatives, reducing energy demand, and increasing understanding of global climate systems. She emphasized the need for cross-disciplinary and international collaboration to solve these challenges. She also stressed the importance of "educating the next generation of leaders and problem solvers" and "increasing public understanding of the environment."
Discussion of environmental issues continued among alumni between seminars and at a luncheon where faculty members were available for more intimate conversation.
Stem Cell Research: Prospects for the Future
School of Medicine alumnus Dr. Irving L. Weissman, director of the Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, and the Karel and Avice Beekhuis Professor of Cancer Biology, described new work on stem cell research being carried out at Stanford.
The Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine was established in October 2002, making it one of the first stem cell research institutes in the United States. University researchers recently isolated skeletal muscle stem cells, and the principal author of this paper was a Stanford undergraduate, Richard Sherwood, BS '04, now a first-year doctoral student at Harvard University.
A concluding faculty-alumni panel led by the school's John Roberts, the John H. Scully Professor of Economics, Strategic Management, and International Business, was followed by a reception at the Royal Academy of Arts.
John Browne, Sloan '81, Lord of Madingley and group chief executive of BP plc, opened the panel discussion by saying that businesses and corporations have a social responsibility for alleviating world poverty. Sir Dominic Cadbury, MBA '64, chairman of the Wellcome Trust and director of Misys plc after serving as chairman of Cadbury Schweppes plc, followed Lord Browne's remarks and called for balancing the norms of the country with first-world standards. Sir Deryck Maughan, Sloan '79, a director of GlaxoSmithKline and former CEO of Citigroup International, said, "We will only crack the problems of malaria and AIDS in Africa when NGOs, [charitable organizations, and businesses] work together."
The Stanford Club of Great Britain, combining members of the Stanford Alumni Association and the Stanford GSB Alumni Association, offers a way for the 1,400 alumni based in the United Kingdom to continue their strong association with Stanford through a variety of cultural, professional, social, and sporting events. Derrick Chow, MBA '97, current president of the voluntary organization, says that the club is "a relatively small but cohesive alumni group." In the past the club has attended the Royal Ballet, polo matches, and panel discussions with ambassadors.
The next scheduled alumni event is the school's 2005 Leadership Award Dinner in New York City on April 12 honoring Herbert M. Allison Jr., MBA '71, chairman, president, and CEO of TIAA-CREF. Other Stanford alumni events will be held this spring in New York on April 16 and in Chicago on April 30.