Stanford University

Dean's Message

Summer 2020

Photo by Stacy Geiken

July 7, 2020

Dear Stanford Earth Alumni and Friends,

Classes have ended, students have graduated, and things normally might be slowing down right now. Instead, our abnormally quiet campus belies the rate at which we are ramping-up in several important ways:

Steve Graham video screenshot
Click here to view Dean Graham’s four-minute video to the Class of 2020.

Reckoning with anti-Black racism
As I said in this short video  to our 2020 graduates, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others have highlighted the extent of anti-Black racism and our responsibility to recognize and remedy unjust institutional biases. I hope that you have had a chance to read President Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s recent letter sharing the university’s planned actions to remedy these issues within our own institution. Among other measures, the administration is making an exception to the current hiring pause and initiating broad searches for 10 new faculty who specialize in studying the impact of race in America. Environmental justice is, appropriately, one of the fields in which the university aims to boost its expertise, and I expect our school to be very involved in this process.

In the immediate moment, we are leaning in to accelerate and expand on the plan we rolled out earlier this year to increase the scope of our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in the school. With my encouragement, many in Stanford Earth paused for learning and reflection on June 10 as part of #ShutDownSTEM. We are engaged in ongoing, structured conversations across the school, supported by resources for education and action supplied by our DEI office. As we step up this work, we would like to invite you into the process: If you would like to become involved or have ideas, insights, connections, or mentorship to share, please contact Nick Heinzen, our point person for alumni affairs in the dean’s office. He is coordinating closely with our DEI director, Lupe Carrillo.

Designing a school to support Stanford’s long-range vision
I am pleased to report exciting new developments in the sustainability initiative under discussion for the last year. President Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced that Stanford will move forward with a plan that will center on a school organizational structure for sustainability that will align expertise across academic units and enable us to enhance our impact. Dean of Research Kam Moler and I are leading next steps to create a blueprint for how we can integrate that expertise across Stanford—a foundational School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, the Woods Institute for the Environment, the Precourt Institute for Energy, and the many other pockets of expertise in food security, environmental policy, business, law, and more around campus.

Over our 130-year history, we have evolved and changed significantly at crucial moments—from mining at the university’s founding to the advent of remote sensing and satellite imaging and the use of big data technologies. At each point, we were ahead of the curve, and this is another such moment. Many decisions are in front of us; I will keep you posted on our progress.

Phased reopening and preparing for fall
There are many reasons this does not look like summers past, which might have found me on research trips to Mongolia or New Zealand. Indeed, fieldwork is still suspended until at least September 1. The good news is that we have entered Stage 2 Research Restart, which allows a limited number of researchers to enter our labs. Our facilities team has worked tirelessly to establish new protocols, traffic flows, and occupancy rates for every single space in the buildings we operate. Of course, the situation remains fluid and we are closely following the county’s and university’s evolving orders, but it’s nice to see some activity resume.

We are also immersed in planning for a complex, hybrid-format fall quarter. I have been deeply impressed by the commitment of our faculty and educational affairs staff, who continue the sprint they began in March to adapt—and in some cases reinvent—curriculum and pedagogy to ensure our students receive the robust educational experience they deserve.

I wish you all good health and hope that you find time this summer to regroup and refresh.

Stephan A. Graham
Chester Naramore Dean
Welton Joseph and Maud L’Anphere Crook Professor

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