Visions of a Stanford University campus beneath a Manhattan skyline were sketched out by Stanford President John Hennessy Thursday in a presentation on the university's bid to develop a research center in New York City.
Stanford's plan for a New York campus -- starting with 475 students and professors in engineering and computer science, and growing to 2,100 in many disciplines -- comes in response to a preliminary request from proposals by New York City's Economic Development Corporation.
Stanford is among 27 institutions, including Cornell, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon and New York University, responding to the request. New York City officials are due to select a bidder by the end of the year.
Hennessy and other Stanford leaders laid out a three-phase plan for a 10-acre campus on Roosevelt Island, a two-minute subway ride from Manhattan. The presentation came in Hennessy's annual address to the university's Academic Council, which was followed by a panel discussion of the New York proposal.
Stanford's Big Apple vision includes 20-story residential towers and a collection of 200,000-square-foot academic buildings situated around an open green space "not unlike Stanford." Cafes, recreation and gym space, an auditorium and retail would line the East River facing Manhattan.
Stanford New York would be "integrated" with Stanford Palo Alto, not just replicating things on a smaller scale, Hennessy said.
Through videoconferencing, students in both Palo Alto and New York would take classes and interact, in real time, with professors in one or both locations.
"Rather than have two computer science departments, for example, we envision one department with perhaps 25 percent of its faculty at the New York campus," Hennessy said.
The far-flung campus would exemplify a "massive transformation" in higher education and industry that is being driven by technology, he stressed.
"This is the future. This is the direction we're going in.
"It has already happened in companies. You simply go down the (Silicon) Valley and look at how many companies have distributed engineering teams that are collaborating across the world," said Hennessy, who sits on the boards of Atheros Communications, Cisco Systems and Google.
"Why this will occur is because the technology will make it possible."
The New York venture will be a test of three propositions, said James Plummer, dean of Stanford's School of Engineering.
"Can a world-class research university in the 21st century really be geographically distributed?
"Can distance education systems work well enough so that a campus in New York City can look and be and feel part of this (Palo Alto) campus?"
Plummer said the venture also will answer the question of whether "the entrepreneurial culture and character of Stanford and Silicon Valley (can) be replicated in another site."
Though starting with Stanford's strengths in electrical engineering and computer science, the New York campus eventually could grow in a variety of disciplines, the officials said, naming history and financial mathematics among others.
Hennessy also proposed, to laughter from the faculty audience, "an undergraduate study program in banking and ethics."
Hennessy said Stanford has received many invitations to establish campuses and programs around the world, particularly in Asia. New York is especially appealing, he said, because it is closer in time zone and does not present language barriers or difficulties with academic freedom.
New York also presents research opportunities to solve some of the problems of 21st century mega-cities, he said.
Though Stanford officials Thursday described a plan for Roosevelt Island, they said they have not ruled out other New York City sites, including Manhattan proper.
But alluding to Roosevelt Island, Robert Reidy, Stanford's vice-president for real estate, noted, 10 acres "in close proximity to Manhattan is really hard to come by."
A mechanical engineering student said any Stanford campus in New York would have to have a fountain so that people will say, "That's so Stanford."
Hennessy added, "As a native New Yorker, I'm looking forward to New York pizza."