Why We Need a State and Regional Approach to Higher Education in Silicon Valley

Thursday, February 9, 2017
12:00pm- 1:00pm with lunch to follow
Academic Innovation Studio, Dwinelle 117, UC Berkeley 
Professor Emeritus of Education, Stanford University & President,California State Board of Education
Professor Emeritus,Sociology,Stanford University

Postsecondary education and the San Francisco (SF) Bay Area economy are varied and complex – and they are integral to each other’s success. Colleges and universities of all types educate and train a diverse workforce, and the Bay Area employs highly skilled workers. Faculty and graduates serve as innovators and entrepreneurs; industrial labs push the boundaries of research and knowledge. These two “fields” share important values, including a keen interest in developing and using knowledge and a reliance on networks of professionals. 

Yet higher education and the Bay Area economy are mismatched in many ways, and ill-suited for each other. The two fields have developed under different conditions, with different pressures, for different purposes, and so it is not surprising that they differ substantially in their values, norms, and pace of change. Most colleges developed in the 19th or 20th centuries and adopted bureaucratic structures that provide discretion to academic professionals. In colleges, the pace of change has been leisurely. In contrast, Silicon Valley has renewed itself multiple times in the past half-century, creating an industrial model that features an array of nimble, independent companies that rely on each other; a high degree of labor mobility across companies; and expertise and partnerships. This deep historical regional study of 350 Bay Area postsecondary institutions will be presented as a preview of authors’ Michael W. Kirst and W. Richard (Dick) Scott book Higher Education and the Silicon Valley: Connected But Conflicted to be published by Johns Hopkins Press in 2017.


Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University, and president of the California State Board of Education since 2011. He has been on the Stanford faculty since 1969.  Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard.  Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty, and Director of Program Planning for the Elementary and Secondary Education of the US Office of Education.  He was a former member and president of the California State Board of Education from 1975 to 1982.His two latest books are From High School to Collegewith Andrea Venezia,2009, and Remaking College:The Changing Ecology Of Higher Education, Stanford University Press, 2015 with Mitchell Stevens. He is a specialist in the politics of education and co-author of multiple editions of The Political Dynamics of American Education.

W. Richard (Dick) Scott, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Stanford University, is an organizational sociologist who has focused his studies on professional organizations, including social work agencies, health care systems, non-profits, and educational systems, both secondary schools and, more recently, higher education. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and maintains courtesy appointments in the Graduate School of Business, Graduate School of Education, School of Engineering, and School of Medicine, Stanford University. Scott has spent his entire professional career at Stanford, interrupted by visiting appointments at the Department of Sociology and at the Business School, University of Kansas; Copenhagen School of Business; Tromso University (Norway); Kellogg School, Northwestern University; Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Singapore Management University; and Said Business School and Green College, Oxford University.  At Stanford, he served as Chair of the Sociology Department (1972-1975), Director of the Research Training Program on Organizations and Mental Health (1972-1989), and as Director of the Stanford Center for Organizations Research (1988-1996).During the past three decades, he has centered his research and writing on the relation between organizations and their institutional environments.  He is the author or editor of about 20 books and more than 250 journal articles and book chapters.