Bill Lane Center for the American West
The Bill Lane Center for the American West is dedicated to advancing scholarly and public understanding of the past, present, and future of western North America. The center supports research, teaching, and reporting about western land and life in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The center’s vision of the West extends from San Francisco Bay to the fabled 100th Meridian, from western Canada to all of Mexico, and outward to the Pacific World.
We work with Stanford students and faculty and partners outside the university to bring their energy, enthusiasm and knowledge to bear on the challenges facing our region. Each year, Stanford offers students more than a hundred courses that touch on the American West in significant ways across dozens of departments and programs from anthropology to history to geological and environmental sciences to public policy. The center is where all of those subjects come together.
Students from a wide variety of disciplines regularly work at the center as research assistants and spend summers on internships from Monterey to Missoula, Yosemite to Yellowstone. These students bring their experiences and enthusiasm back to campus, where the center creates a welcoming home for training, encouraging, and supporting future leaders who care about the region and are eager to put their Stanford education to work in the West.
We do this work in three broad areas:
History and Culture
The Center was co-founded by two leading scholars of American History, Richard White and David M. Kennedy, and we continue to collaborate frequently with Stanford scholars in history, anthropology, and the arts. Our Comparative Wests project examines the simultaneous expansion of 19th-century settler colonies into the western United States, western Canada, and western Australia, and the rapid cultural, economic, and environmental transformations they set off, as well as the enduring legacies of that history.
Environment and Resources
The Center works closely with the Precourt Institute for Energy, the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and others at Stanford on crucial environment and resource challenges in the American West. Together with the Woods Institute, we have embarked on a major long-term initiative on Water in the West. This research and policy program is focusing on making western water systems sustainable by improving groundwater and surface water management; broadening adoption of water recycling and reuse technologies; and improving information systems, performance measurements, and best practices for managing water in the West. The center also supports research and dialogues with decision makers on emerging challenges and opportunities in conservation, land use planning, energy, and environmental education.
Economy and Public Policy
The Center is led by the distinguished political scientist Bruce E. Cain and maintains close ties with policymakers and decision makers in the public and private sectors around the West. These relationships allow Stanford students and faculty to engage directly and constructively in finding solutions to the region’s challenges through research, internships, and dialogues. In partnership with the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the center co-sponsors an annual State of the West Symposium on the economic and fiscal health of the broad western region that brings students and faculty together with public officials, investors, and business, labor, and nonprofit leaders. The center is also engaged in efforts to improve governance at the state, regional and national levels in the West.
A common thread that links together all of our areas of interest is innovation in digital communication in scholarship, teaching, research, and the media. The Center is deeply engaged in exploring digital mapping, spatial history and analysis, data analysis and visualization, multimedia storytelling, social media, and collaborative research and teaching using new digital tools.