Sophomore Seminars

Making Sense of Strategy


Get the strategy right, and the chance for success is great. Nowhere is this more evident than in today's world of major challenges. Strategy is at the heart of problem solving and achieving objectives, yet few people can define strategy, much less understand how to conceptualize, design, and execute effective strategies that yield the best outcomes. This course will meet once a week to focus on interesting and engaging case studies, each of which illustrates a key ingredient of strategy. Some are well-known historical events, while others are less obvious, but all have a strategic lesson to share. They are quite diverse, from the planning of a high-risk rescue in the Colorado Rockies, to a product crisis in a Fortune 500 company, to a little-known failed military mission of WWII, to a complicated federal regulatory issue. The ability to think through challenging and varied scenarios is both instructive and mind-stretching. There will be some pre-reading on each case study, and there may be a field trip for students to put their lessons into practice. The course is designed to be highly interactive—all to enable students to unravel the mystery and power of strategic thinking. Students will also have the opportunity to select and analyze a case reflecting interests of their own. This course can help students not only prepare for a career in a range of fields, but also as they meet the challenges of their current coursework. Problem-solving skills are central in every walk of life. This seminar can help students build a stronger foundation for sound decision making.

This course is offered in autumn and Winter

Meet the Instructor(s)

Prof. David Demarest

David Demarest

David Demarest is the vice president for public affairs at Stanford University. He has held senior positions in the fields of politics, government, business, and education. He served four years as an assistant to President George H.W. Bush and member of the White House senior staff, including as White House communications director. This followed his role as communications director of the 1988 Bush Presidential Campaign. Later, he served as executive vice president at BankAmerica Corp. and then as executive vice president for global corporate relations and brand management at Visa International. He founded AspenLine Reputation Strategies, a specialized reputation management and communications consulting firm. He also serves on the boards of the George Bush Presidential Library Advisory Council, and the Public Affairs Council in Washington, D.C., and the Arthur Page Society. In addition to lecturing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he enjoys backpacking, skiing, and creative writing.

Learn More About David Demarest