What is SymSys Society? 

The SymSys Society is a student group that seeks to provide community, academic guidance, and intellectual engagement to students who are interested in SymSys-y topics. The group hosts a number of events throughout each quarter, including faculty-student dinners, coffee chats with professors, academic reading groups, and student lunch socials. Though most students in the group are declared or tentative Symbolic Systems majors, we also have a sizable number of students within other majors, including CS, STS, MCS, philosophy, and economics.

What is Symbolic Systems?

Symbolic Systems is an academic program at Stanford that seeks to understand and quantify age-old questions about the mind and its relation to the world it creates. Symbolic Systems is composed of many sub-fields, including (but not limited to): artificial intelligence, cognitive science, neuroscience, human-computer interaction, applied logic, linguistics, and philosophy. Students who study Symbolic Systems are typically interested in questions relating to intelligence (both natural and artificial), language, meaning, information processing, and consciousness. Our program is analogous to cognitive science at other schools. 

For more information, visit the About page on the Symbolic Systems website here. If you'd like to talk to current SymSys students, feel free to message a current board member in the major or any of the advising fellows here


The first meeting of SymSys Society was in October 2013, and was called a “Sym Sys Students Town Hall Meeting.” Program Director Ken Taylor and Associate Director Todd Davies attended this meeting along with 10-15 students, and money was allocated to allow students to form a group and organize events. From then on, students met regularly, led by Erik Brockbank (BS ‘13, MS ‘14). Weekly lunches and quarterly happy hours recurred throughout the year, and occasionally the group organized special events such as an alumni panel.

At the end of the first year, a subgroup formed the board, whose role was to focus on activity and event planning. From then on, new and more formal activities were developed. The name for Springsgiving, now an annual tradition, was coined by Sydney Maples (‘17), and the idea of having coffee chats with faculty was developed by Jon Gauthier (‘17).

Thanks to Blue Sheffer and Harshitha Holmes for contributing information on the history of SymSys Society.