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Elisa Stephens
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Dr. Elisa Stephens became President of the Academy of Art University in 1992, the third generation Stephens to lead the university since its founding by her grandfather in 1929. Under her leadership, the Academy of Art University has become the largest private university of art and design in the United States, with over eleven thousand undergraduate and graduate students on a unique urban campus in downtown San Francisco. Dr. Stephens has pioneered the creation of online education programs in art and design, which have propelled the Academy of Art University to its premiere position in the digital education world.

Dr. Stephens, and the Academy of Art University faculty and students, embrace a socially responsible role within both the city of San Francisco and the world of art and design. Dr. Stephens actively supports a wide spectrum of community outreach programs, and makes it possible for students from the Academy of Art University to contribute their artistic efforts for maximum impact. Current projects include significant contributions to the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s “Discarded to Divine” fashion fundraiser, the DIFFA “Dining by Design” AIDS fundraiser and the senior low income housing Bethany Center 40th anniversary event, among many others.

Dr. Stephens acknowledges the importance of extending scholarships within the greater Bay Area community and beyond. To that goal, the Academy of Art University has numerous full degree scholarship programs benefiting San Francisco Police and Fire Departments; John O’Connell High School; and “Back on Track,” in partnership with District Attorney Kamala Harris. In addition, Dr. Stephens has significantly increased the Academy of Art University High School Scholarship Program, offering thousands of current high school students tuition free classes that count towards college credit.

Under Dr. Stephens’ leadership, the Academy of Art University has taken a prominent role in addressing environmental and sustainability issues. On campus, industry experts and professional faculty have created a dynamic curriculum focus across all 13 majors. The school’s transportation department is converting to bio-diesel buses. Academy of Art University, in partnership with San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, has pledged a 20% reduction in electrical usage, and is actively supporting San Francisco’s 4th Annual Anti Junk Mail Campaign. To bring awareness of recycling, biodiversity and sustainability issues, Academy of Art University students partnered with DeLoache Winery to create art that has been featured both in the U.S.A. and Europe.

Dr. Stephens is a member of the Young President's Organization, San Francisco City Club, Metropolitan Club, University Club, San Francisco Rotary Club, San Francisco Junior League, Nob Hill Association, Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS Foundation) and the Royal Society of Arts. She sits on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Lyric Opera, and is a Trustee of Menlo College. She also recently completed a two-year term as President of the Nob Hill Association in January 2005.

Blog Entries by Elisa Stephens

The Value of a College Degree in the Innovation Economy

(2) Comments | Posted May 23, 2012 | 10:24 AM

If you haven't noticed, the tech sector is on fire. Venture funding has led to new rounds of hiring in California, while startups are maturing into established companies, with many eyeing IPOs.

Some of today's successful tech industry executives have taken unorthodox paths to becoming tech...

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Attention Students Making Summer Plans: Think Resume First

(1) Comments | Posted April 23, 2012 | 1:51 PM

Summer is right around the corner and millions of high school students and their parents are starting to think about summer plans. Decisions about travel, camps and summer jobs will be made in the coming weeks as the school year winds down.

In today's competitive global economy, it is never...

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Honoring The Arts In San Francisco

(0) Comments | Posted July 14, 2011 | 9:55 PM

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

It seems to be a fair assumption that Albert Einstein, the author of the quote above, would...

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Good News for 2011 College Grads: Businesses Want You

(1) Comments | Posted May 25, 2011 | 3:20 PM

Graduation is always an electric time of year as students celebrate what they've accomplished as well as the excitement of beginning the next chapter of their lives.

This year, students and their families have one more reason to smile: businesses are hiring. A national survey of businesses released...

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An Artist Ahead of Her Time

(0) Comments | Posted January 24, 2011 | 11:58 AM

In my hometown of San Francisco, we are very fortunate to be at the center of a vibrant art community. We are home to some of the world's best galleries and museums as well as some of the most successful companies in the world that depend on creative minds to...

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Education: The Heart and Soul of Our Nation's Economic Recovery

(1) Comments | Posted October 12, 2010 | 10:16 PM

The United States economy - as well as the global economy - has been through a very tough couple of years, and it is hard to predict when we'll fully recover.

I believe we will bounce back - and we will bounce back strong. And I believe education is...

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A College Degree Is More Important Than Ever, So Long as It Is the Right Degree

(17) Comments | Posted June 21, 2010 | 1:37 PM

Over the last month, hundreds of thousands of college graduates have picked up their diplomas and begun the challenging search for a job in today's sluggish economy. Growing up, today's graduates were told that if they worked hard in school, played by the rules and graduated from college, they would...

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Higher Ed Institutions Must Keep Up With Ever-Changing Technologies

(1) Comments | Posted May 26, 2010 | 10:02 AM

New technologies and innovations constantly improve the way we communicate, work, and live our lives in the 21st Century. Every few months, we read about the latest and greatest cell phone or hybrid vehicle that will hit the market - and consumers wait in line for days (for phones) or...

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Universities Should be Rated Based on Output, Like the Rest of Society

(29) Comments | Posted May 26, 2010 | 1:57 AM

It is the second half of May -- the traditional season for the pomp and circumstance of university and college graduation ceremonies.

As the Class of 2010 picks up its diplomas and heads out into the "flat world" -- and into the midst of one of the more challenging job...

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Higher Education and America's Economic Growth

(1) Comments | Posted April 19, 2010 | 1:20 PM

America's ability to educate our people for the jobs of the 21st Century is going to be the determining factor in our country's economic future. Everyone knows that is a fact -- from the President of the United States and academics to the business and educational communities around the country....

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A Higher Education Model for the 21st Century

(11) Comments | Posted March 9, 2010 | 12:25 PM

In recent days, President Barack Obama has rightfully focused our nation's attention on one of -- if not the single -- greatest threat to America's economic strength, the prosperity of our people and the future of the American Dream: the state of our education system as reflected by the nation's...

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