When Leland Stanford founded his university in 1885, California was caught up in the frontier, in the prime of the Gold Rush. Now, Stanford University is caught up in a new Gold Rush--the Internet era that may have the power to push Stanford above its peer schools and into serious contention with Harvard.
Now, more than a century after its founding, the university is still widely viewed as a pioneer. The seed of practicality that Stanford planted at its founding is bearing fruit in overwhelming abundance. The quick financial fix of the Internet is luring students away from more traditional pursuits, and technology is becoming integral to education, as both a tool to enhance teaching and as an area for further study.
And at the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford University is in the perfect place to take advantage of the country's latest and perhaps most enduring innovation.
Although almost all of the nearly 20 university officials and professors interviewed for this story shied away from saying their schools "compete" with the Californian powerhouse, Leland Stanford's education startup has become one to watch as technology grows increasingly important in higher education.
Can Stanford challenge Harvard? That may all depend on whether the information superhighway hits a dead end--or keeps going forever.
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With the Internet booming on its Silicon Valley doorstep, recent years have seen Stanford in headlines more than ever before--a draw for students and professors. A snapshot of this year alone is startling.
The academic community took notice two weeks ago when Stanford chose a Silicon Valley entrepreneur as its 10th president. John L. Hennessy is currently Stanford's provost. Soon to be the school's first president with an engineering background, he is the co-founder of a successful microprocessor company, MIPS Computer Systems--and he's wealthy enough to never work again.
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