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The Way We Work

BEAM office layout

South of the Law School, near the Munger Graduate Residence, sits a two-toned gray building that houses BEAM, Stanford Career Education. This Student Services building is a great example of how workspaces on Stanford’s historic campus have evolved to meet the needs of today’s employees.

On the second floor, as you walk down the hallway toward traditional offices, you pass an office suite with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. What used to be a dark storage room and one small individual office is now a bright workspace filled with natural light, a half dozen workstations, an informal seating area, a breakout room, and one individual office with a glass door that is rarely closed.

Staff on BEAM's Career Catalysts team utilize every inch of this varied space as they develop and incubate mentoring and experiential education programs for students. Breaking down the physical barriers to collaborative work has been important for this group, and for other groups across Stanford.

“As new and existing spaces on the Stanford campus are programmed and designed, we are encouraging users to embrace this style of work environment,” says David Lenox, university architect and executive director for Land, Buildings & Real Estate. “The Stanford Redwood City Pilot Workplace is a strong working prototype of how to build an energizing environment that enables our employees to work productively across a variety of spaces. This way of working is important at a place like Stanford, where many employees can spend less than 60 percent of their work day at their desk, constantly transitioning between focused and collaborative work."

David adds that the new hub for Residential Education offices in Tresidder Memorial Union, the Law School Centers on the third floor of Crown Hall and the administrative areas in the new Central Energy Facility are other recent examples of groups transitioning to this more open and collaborative environment.


Varied workspaces allow for more quick conversations between teams.
View a photo gallery to see more of the Career Catalysts team space.


Reconstructing Where We Work

Until recently, the BEAM building was mostly individual offices, with a few common areas for meetings, explains Danielle Wood, associate dean and director of Career Catalysts. In 2013, Farouk Dey, associate vice provost and dean of career & experiential education, led a transformation in structure and mission that moved away from the idea that the career center just offers students job placement, and instead embraces a "connections model," where students learn how to shape their own professional journey and parlay their education and ambition into meaningful work.

This was a complete reformation of how Stanford approaches career education for students, which led to a physical reconstruction of the BEAM workspace and the hub for newly created Career Catalysts program.

The space was designed much like the program itself, to be agile and iterative, with furniture on castor wheels and an “ideation room” with whiteboard walls. The cubicles allow for individual focused work, with sit-stand desks and storage. Career coaches Margot Buck Gilliland and Marlene Scherer Stern say that the informal lounge area is inviting and useful to staff, students, faculty and alumni.

Rethinking How We Work

Due to the confidentiality of their work as coaches, Margot and Marlene sometimes sit in small offices nearby, where they can hold one-on-one private conversations. But in working to create career communities that emphasize the connections model, they also hold workshops and events all over campus, and need input from, as well as face time with, the Career Catalysts team. “I like that I can just walk in," Margot says. "Otherwise, impromptu conversations might only happen in the hallway outside my office.”

Ahmad Wright, assistant dean of career education and associate director of Career Catalysts, has a workstation in the open space, and says one benefit is that you rarely have to go looking for people because you can see everyone walking past. Of course, some days you are busy or don't feel social, he adds, which can create some awkward moments. This group is also acutely aware their space is highly visible, so they have to work to keep it tidy, Danielle says.

But both Danielle and Ahmad agree the space’s versatility makes it worth the effort. And, in many ways, Danielle adds, the space has made her rethink the way she works—for the better. “When I need to take a call, I grab headphones and go for a walk outside, or sit on a bench. I really think the fresh air helps my creativity,” she says. “It’s almost like all of Stanford is my office.”

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