Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University III

Fall-Winter 2019
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Strategic Planning
Organization Type


The Haas Center for Public Service inspires Stanford University to realize a just and sustainable world through service, scholarship, and community partnerships. It is the hub of Cardinal Service, a university-wide initiative to elevate and expand service as a distinctive feature of a Stanford education. Since its founding in 1985 by Stanford President Donald Kennedy, the Haas Center has engaged students in local and global public service across diverse pathways and served as a model for how universities prepare students to be of greater service to the public.


In 2009 ACT worked with the Haas Center to develop its 2010-15 strategic plan, a plan that helped lay the groundwork for Cardinal Service. Most of the team’s recommendations and goals that came out of the plan were accomplished by 2015. In 2015-16, thanks to the success of the earlier plan, Stanford launched Cardinal Service, a campus wide initiative to elevate and expand service as a distinctive feature of a Stanford education. Cardinal Service is a networked campus approach to making public service a core part of Stanford’s DNA, and includes four elements: Cardinal Courses (taking courses that apply classroom knowledge to real-world social problems), Cardinal Quarter (dedicating a summer or quarter to full-time service), Cardinal Commitment (making a long-term commitment to service), and Cardinal Careers (pursuing work in the public interest or integrating service into any career). The Haas Center’s leadership and implementation of Cardinal Service has broad support from the President, the Provost, the Senior Vice Provost for Education (the unit in which the Haas Center resides) as well as deans, faculty and students.

Project Objectives

The Haas Center has returned to ACT with a request to help develop its new five year strategic plan that aligns with Cardinal Service, is forged in parallel with Stanford’s new vision and meets the needs of its myriad stakeholders. Questions the Haas Center would like to address include:

1. What is the perceived role of the Haas Center across campus? What role should the Haas Center play in “strengthening communities on campus and beyond”, and other key areas, of the University’s vision?

2. How might the Haas Center and the University take their interlocking, catalyzed by Cardinal Service, to the next step?

3. How can the Haas Center strengthen its networked approach to foster Cardinal Service?

4. How might growth areas for Cardinal Service that Haas Center staff and faculty recently explored manifest, and what other high impact programs/initiatives should Haas consider moving forward?

5. How might the Haas Center structure (or restructure) to achieve the goal of a) elevating and expanding service as a distinctive feature of the Stanford education and b) inspiring Stanford to achieve a more just and sustainable world?

Project Overview

The ACT team interviewed Stanford stakeholders across the University to understand Stanford’s Purposeful University Vision and future priorities and gain input on how Haas can best align with and support those priorities. The ACT team also assessed Haas strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats through interviews with students, faculty, community partners, and Haas staff. The team interviewed other leading Universities that have similar programs to gain their views of Haas and gather ideas on possible innovations. To more deeply understand Stanford student motivations around public service, the ACT team conducted several student focus groups. The ACT team then partnered with the Haas Strategy Task Force and the Haas National Advisory Board to define a theory of change and identify key strategic priorities and initiatives for the next 5 years, which were adopted by Haas. 

Key Recommendations

  1. Further integrate public service into Stanford academics and culture
  2. Strategically expand student participation in Cardinal Service
  3. Deepen student participation in the Haas Center
  4. Build the breadth and impact of community partnerships
  5. Strengthen Haas’ organizational capacity and financial sustainability

Final Report Outline

  • Project Background
  • Situation Assessment
  • Theory of Change
  • Recommended Strategies FY2021-2025