How Many Have You Done?
Okay, so it's not scientific. But think of our list of the 101 things you must do before graduating as something between a dorm debate and a shameless nostalgia-fest. You can argue with it, add to it, even get mad at it. But we bet you won't be able to resist it.
We started gathering ideas for the list more than a year ago, helped by suggestions from students, staff and alumni. Before long, the nominations sorted themselves into three broad categories. There were the "only at Stanford" entries (learn the Axe cheer, get kissed at Full Moon on the Quad). Then came the Serious Endeavors (learn a new language, get to know a Nobel laureate, volunteer through the Haas Center). Finally, there were the generic college experiences (stay up all night talking in your dorm hallway, get into a bike accident).
A few alumni were willing to flesh out their memories -- from Jen Davis, '99, recalling the day she shrieked at a parking officer as her car was towed for nonpayment of a string of tickets, to Tom Flattery, '58, reminiscing about his adventures in the steam tunnels. The list, imperfect though it is, will surely evoke more such stories. But the question -- one you can answer using our scorecard below -- remains: how many have you done?
7. Get to Know a Nobel Laureate
Even in his first week at Stanford, Gavin Polhemus was launching his life in physics. He planned to skip the first-year physics courses but ran into resistance -- from almost everyone but Professor Douglas Osheroff. "He had an attitude that if you want to get in over your head, that's your own business," says Polhemus, '95, who did indeed skip the introductory sequence and graduated in a whirlwind three years.
In 1996, Osheroff won the Nobel Prize for the co-discovery of superfluidity (molecular movement without resistance at very low temperatures) in helium-3. Polhemus recalls Osheroff's antics trying to convey the discovery and other concepts to a lab class in 1994. "He'd bounce around, making nitrogen snowballs and superfluid fountains," says Polhemus. "He's very high-energy for a low-energy physicist."
When Polhemus married Kate Knepper, '93, just days after receiving his diploma, Osheroff attended the wedding -- and gave the couple a multimeter. "It wasn't something we had registered for," quips Polhemus. But the instrument, which measures voltage differentials and current resistance, has come in handy for home rewiring jobs.
52. Read a Book for Fun
There's no excuse: Stanford Libraries estimates that its 7 million holdings include at least a million works of fiction. And there's plenty of light fare in the Bookstore's 10,000 fiction titles -- its current bestsellers are, gulp, Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss. There are e-books, too, but how much fun is that?
27. View an Item in Special Collections
Walk-ins aren't encouraged, but among the treasures that you can see by making arrangements a day ahead: 100 books printed before 1501; playing cards that Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, turned into library catalog cards; first editions of Jane Austen novels; a book owned and annotated by Isaac Newton and a dictionary that belonged to John Hancock; a leaf from a Gutenberg Bible; a collection of proclamations issued in the 17th century by England's King Charles II; Stanford student diaries and scrapbooks going back 100 years; and an illustrated 1581 edition of 400 Aesop fables.
23. Take a Freshman or Sophomore Seminar
"I'm okay, except for they've been getting to me lately."
"Who's been getting to you, George?"
"The government. They got these radio waves they send to my head, to get me to do stuff."
Twelve pairs of eyes opened a little wider at this matter-of-fact statement. None of the sophomores around the seminar table had ever interviewed a schizophrenic before. But George, a visitor from the Palo Alto VA hospital, was part of the lesson plan in "Psychosis and Society."
I was lucky enough to squeeze my way into this sophomore seminar in the spring of my second year, the first year Stanford offered its Introductory Seminars and the last year I was eligible for one. Out of scores of students who apply, only 12 are chosen for each class.
The purpose is to give underclassmen the chance to really get to know some professors, and it works. By the end of the quarter, I had brought mine to Toyon Faculty Night, and she knew me well enough to write a glowing recommendation letter. I only wish the program had begun my freshman year, so I might have had a chance to take another.
--CHANEY RANKIN, '00
72. Play the Game
There are no television cameras, no tribal councils, no million-dollar prizes. But participants say "the Game" is every bit as exhilarating as Survivor -- and it relies more on brains and creativity than bikinis and brawn.
The Game is a weekend-long, Bay Area-wide scavenger hunt full of cryptic clues. It dates back to the early 1980s, when two Stanford grads got inspired by the all-night L.A. scavenger hunt depicted in the film Midnight Madness. Fifteen years later, the Game has evolved from a cultlike ritual to a tradition, drawing hundreds of tenacious students and alumni who thrive on adrenaline, donuts and caffeine.
Prospective gamers compete for 100 to 200 spots in teams of five or six, chosen by self-appointed organizers. Clues are usually in code -- Morse, Braille, binary, semaphore, Base 3 -- so players tote computer manuals, constellation maps, even chemistry texts as they speed down local freeways.
Hints can take hours to decode. One sent team members scrambling up a tree to discover six speakers emitting animal noises in a pattern the team translated to Braille. Other clues are playful -- participants might eat through a lollipop or chocolate bar and discover a message inside.
But the Game is more than code and candy. Owen Ellickson, '00, a four-time veteran, recalls some difficult moments for his sleep-deprived team. "At 5 in the morning, you end up on some abandoned playground in Marin County. All of a sudden, everything is terrifying. But when you solve a hard clue in a clean fashion, you feel on top of the world."
68. Get a Parking Ticket
Students shouldn't get parking tickets, but it's inevitable: there are too few spaces for too many permits. I know; I spent three years trying to change, then beat, the system. Every time I called the transportation office, they dismissed my creative solutions. So what else could I do but park illegally?
I started innocently enough, using metered spots without paying (I had already purchased a pricey permit, hadn't I?), then driveways, then fire lanes -- never, ever, handicapped spaces. I got away with parking illegally a few times and was hooked.
So even when I started getting those pesky yellow $25 tickets on my windshield every morning, I couldn't stop. I'd look for a legal spot first; but when I couldn't find one, I'd park anywhere I could. That seemed fair, and there was no way I was paying the tickets. Shouldn't students spend their money on books or at least entertainment? Yes, I'd read the fine print warning that five unpaid tickets could get your car impounded, but I believed the campus rumor that the parking police couldn't tow out-of-state cars. So on and on I went, accruing fine after fine and smugly ignoring them.
Then, one day after spring break my senior year, I biked home to find my legally parked car being towed. I screamed at the officer writing out a citation, then pleaded with him. His reply: "It's about time, missy. Our entire department knows this car by heart." It took my life savings to get my '88 Beemer out of the pound -- more than $1,000, including towing charges and more than 35 tickets going back to sophomore year.
Right up to graduation, I kept up my crusade with the transportation office and quietly cursed every parking official who crossed my path. But I vowed never to park illegally again. Now that I live in space-starved San Francisco, I know it's one of the most practical lessons I learned at Stanford.
--JEN DAVIS, '99
70. Write a Letter to the Daily
Big-city newspapers occasionally honor an inveterate letter-writer with an obituary. But the main point of sounding off in the Daily's pages is to make waves in this life, and no topic is too trivial or too weighty for publication.
In October 1955, four first-year women complained about a "crude and vulgar" football rally. A flurry of responses accused the writers of prudishness; those letters goaded other readers into defending the frosh. Correspondents taunted each other for a week, until the editor closed the debate.
Every so often, a letter will make a lasting impact. In January 1961, a graduate student told of her humiliation as landlord after landlord on the housing office list refused to rent to her because she was black. Although Stanford didn't accept listings from lessors who declared their prejudice, the writer called for a more forceful stand. Other readers rallied -- and a group of nine faculty, including Wallace Stegner and Yvor Winters, wrote suggesting Stanford require all who listed to sign a nondiscrimination pledge. In 1963, Jing Lyman, the president's wife, started a campaign that would end housing discrimination in Palo Alto.
34. Study Abroad
Stanford's Overseas Studies Program started in 1958 in Beutelsbach, Germany, with 63 students. Today there are nine campuses on four continents, some operating year-round, and nearly a quarter of Stanford undergraduates will spend a term abroad.
The choices are nothing short of global: Berlin (37 slots available each term), Buenos Aires (15), Florence (35), Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies (35), Stanford Center for Technology and Innovation, also in Kyoto (35), Moscow (25), Oxford (46), Paris (50), Puebla, Mexico (25), Santiago (40).
92. Go Steamtunneling
As Encina freshmen in 1953, my roommates and I found a hole in the wall behind an entanglement of pipes in the basement. It opened into an eerie passageway headed toward Hoover Tower. I am sure that many predecessors had made the same discovery over the years. It was part of a maze of brick-lined tunnels that once delivered steam heat to the original campus buildings.
We spent late hours mapping the tunnels under the Quad, Green Library and the engineering buildings and searching unsuccessfully for a branch to Roble and Lagunita women's dorms. The tunnels were -- and presumably still are -- hot, humid, cramped and dirty, but nevertheless have held an allure for more than a century. We were inspired by the 1947 exploits of a student who had entered Hoover Library via the tunnels and performed three impromptu midnight carillon concerts.
My daughter Jennifer, '83, used my old map to continue tunnel exploration in the early 1980s. But while I conscientiously worked into the night to gather material for a paper I was writing on the underground campus, she squandered her tuition by frivolously frolicking in the tunnels.
--TOM FLATTERY, '58
63. Volunteer to Be a Subject in a Research Study
It's a simple equation: porn + $25 = a worthwhile investment of two hours. Recognizing myself in an ad seeking right-handed heterosexual males aged 18 to 25, I called the psychology department and enrolled in the dubiously titled Sex Study.
After 30 minutes and a few hundred pages of paperwork ("no, I am not on immunosuppressive medication; yes, I am right-handed; no, I have never lost a finger to an ill-tempered sea bass . . .") I thought I was ready for the MRI session in which I would be shown the researchers' "hottest stuff" -- until I was told that I would be wired up with an, ahem, erectile monitor.
I had nightmare visions of a pacemaker gone awry, but, at the urging of some friends in the LSJUMB, I finally agreed. The 45-minute session itself was a bit anticlimactic: I was monitored as a series of images flashed on a small screen inside the MRI tube. Without revealing too much about my tastes, the most exciting image was a Kevin McHale low-post move in the 1988 NBA playoffs, from the control group of sports and nature scenes. (That's the hottest stuff you've got?)
And while it wasn't cold fusion in a test tube, I'd done my bit for science.
--EVAN MEAGHER, '01
97. Dance with the Band
It was the first night of freshman orientation, and I was talking with my new roommates in Branner Hall when the Band stormed our courtyard. It was love at first sight. Saxophonists in grass skirts, a beefy guy banging on an empty beer keg, white-gloved Dollies who clearly weren't part of a plastic cheerleader set -- and all of them fueled by a shopping cart stocked with adult beverages. They belted out a few tunes, then yelled, "Follow us to Wilbur." I did -- and I've been following them ever since.
There's nothing on campus more polarizing than the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band. Sure, you can get a reaction if you call for a return of the Indian or a debate over Western Civ. But if you want to provoke really strong emotions, bring up the Band. For me, there's nothing to discuss. Yes, the Band is sophomoric, sometimes offensive. (A few years ago, the drum major showed up at a Notre Dame football game dressed as a nun. 'Nuff said.) I find them refreshingly raw and occasionally hilarious. Plus, they're having so damn much fun you can't help but go along for the ride.
I confess that I sometimes planned my academic life around Band performances. On fall-quarter Saturdays, I'd study on the fourth-floor sundeck of Meyer Library. When I heard the opposing band start its halftime show, I'd pedal my bike to the stadium in time to see the LSJUMB show. Then I'd stay for the second half -- and the postgame Band rally. I loved swaying to a semi-soulful "Hail, Stanford, Hail" before rocking out to the Band's trademark repertoire.
A few months ago, I was in Redwood City for the July Fourth parade ("The Biggest Independence Day Parade West of the Mississippi"). Among the revelers was a small but vibrant contingent of the LSJUMB. The crowd cheered them noisily. I felt pride and nostalgia. And I knew exactly when to jump during "All Right Now."
--BOB COHN, '85
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