How is Stanford so good at sports

Five reasons why Stanford is a top university

Stanford is known for its 30 Nobel Prize winners, for scientific, but also for top athletic achievements. The Cardinals are one of the best college football teams in the United States, and twelve Stanford athletes won gold medals at the last Summer Olympics. Germany only won eleven. But: Other universities are also successful in sport, and some of them employ more Nobel Prize winners (for example Harvard).

The Silicon Valley next door

What makes Stanford really unique is the close connection with the IT start-up scene in Silicon Valley. It all started with Bill Hewlett and David Packard in 1939, who founded HP with equity of $ 538. They were Stanford graduates, later Stanford patrons, and HP headquarters is still in Palo Alto within walking distance of the campus. Then came Larry Page and Sergei Brin, the founders of Google, and the Stanford myth gained momentum. Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Ebay, Netflix, Electronic Arts, Intuit and Lin kedIn are among the more than 5000 start-ups that Stanford is proud to point out. Snapchat and Instagram were recently developed to market maturity there.

The sticking point in the 70s

In 2012 Ken Auletta wrote about Stanford in The New Yorker with the telling title: "Get Rich U.": "If the East Coast Ivy League universities were the breeding ground for the elites of the American century, Stanford is the farm for Silicon Valley." Up until the 1970s, Stanford was a mediocre university that only had its strengths in engineering. Then two things happened, says sociology professor Woody Powell: First, Northern and Southern California began to diverge, and the north, especially the Bay Area, became the focal point of new technologies that needed an intellectual center and a new generation. Second, there were courageous university presidents at the same time who specifically recruited top scientists.

More MIT than Harvard

The five "Professional Schools" were decisive for Stanford's development into a top university: Medical, Engineering, Business, Law, Education - and not the classic human and natural sciences, which are stronger on the other side of San Francisco Bay in Berkeley. In this respect, Powell believes, it would not be appropriate to compare Stanford with Harvard, Yale or Berkeley. Stanford should be compared to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston and Caltech in Pasadena (California Institute of Technology). The discussion about rankings in these dimensions is of course pointless from an Austrian point of view. What is more exciting is what the rise of Stanford to the top league is attributed to.

Five points that give Stanford excellence

As is so often the case, there are many causes. First, courageous and devoted leaders (Presidents, Provosts): President John Hennessy, who has been in office since 2000, reduced his salary by ten percent after the financial crisis, when income from endowments at all top universities plummeted dramatically.

Second, lived interdisciplinarity: only 40 percent of the courses that undergraduates take are courses in their "school". Those who study law take more than half of their exams in completely different disciplines. Most professors have multiple assignments. In the Executive MBA program, only a fraction of the subjects at the business school have to be taken. There is much less permanent pressure to justify the disciplines here.

The freedom of choice indicates the third success factor: Students are taken seriously. You ask them to work hard, but you don't patronize them.

Fourth, a clear mission: "The air of freedom blows." Founding President David Starr Jordan and founder Amasa Leland Stanford liked this statement by Luther companion Ulrich von Hutten so much that they immortalized it as the motto of Stanford University. Right from the start, freedom, equal opportunities and justice were anchored in the culture. Stanford took women in straight away, although this was completely uncommon at the end of the 19th century.

Fifthly, an absolute commitment to innovation and top performance - in case of doubt for innovation: "Never ask for permission, but ask for your forgiveness if necessary" - that's what Woody Powell calls it.