Founded in 2002, the Bill Lane Center for the American West is a home for teaching, for research, and for collaboration among scholars, policy makers, journalists, and civic leaders. Four driving principles shape the Center’s programs and events: fostering interdisciplinary partnerships; promoting scholarship that speaks to larger cultural questions and political debates; making transnational connections across Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.; and reframing the region’s image and identity in national media, politics, and culture.
An Interdisciplinary Center
Just as the study of the North American West cuts across scholarly and professional disciplines, the Bill Lane Center is multi-disciplinary in its programming and outreach. Our programs involve academics across the humanities and social sciences, the biological and environmental sciences, and law and public policy.
Bringing Together Public Intellectuals, Scholars and Policymakers
Because some of the most vital thinking and writing about the West goes on beyond the academy, the Center’s programs involve public intellectuals as well as leading academics, and link the research going on within academia to major public policy questions. By bringing together people who usually do not have the opportunity to talk to one another, we foster new connections between scholarly work and larger cultural and political conversations.
A New Transnational Focus
The Center’s scope of inquiry extends beyond the United States and into northern Mexico and western Canada, as well as the broader Pacific Rim connections that are common to these areas. As Western ecosystems and population flows extend across national borders, the Center promotes a transnational approach to Western history, culture, and policy.
Reframing the West
The West, through Hollywood, has an enormous influence on popular culture, but otherwise it generally lacks an intellectual, cultural, or social presence within either the country or the continent. The Center is committed to changing this through collaboration across Western institutions, intellectual exchanges between scholars and practitioners, research initiatives that reach across disciplinary and geographic boundaries, and wider dissemination of scholarship that reflects the diversity of the West.
Our Programs and Activities
To these ends, the Center hosts conferences and symposia on a wide range of topics, from the environment and urban growth to politics and governance to depictions of the West in national media and culture. We bring prominent national figures to Stanford for public forums on major questions facing the North American West. We are broadening the Stanford curriculum in the West, providing students new opportunities to study the region through regular courses, internships and research fellowships, and hands-on research seminars. And we are promoting scholarly research and writing by co-sponsoring the Risser Prize for Western environmental journalism and grants for new interdisciplinary research projects.