Stanford University
Dean Stephan Graham

Dean's Desk

Posts for faculty, students, and staff from the desk of Steve Graham...

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A busy summer and thoughtful reading

ClockJune 25, 2020

Well, it’s summer. Classes have ended, students have graduated, and things should be slowing down – but guess what? They are not! Dean’s office faculty and staff are immersed in Stage 2 Research Restart that began this week, the sustainability initiative, and planning for a complex, hybrid-format Fall quarter. Indeed, all of you in the departments and programs, including our postdocs and graduate students, are enmeshed one way or another in these endeavors as we move through a summer that will appear abnormally quiet on campus but in reality is humming.

Nadja Drabon and husband Matthew Schnuth married by Steve Graham
Marrying Nadja Drabon and her husband, engineer Matthew Schnuth, in our back yard on June 21. Nadja heads to Harvard  as an assistant professor in September. Photo by Jan Oakley.

That said, with all that has happened, I hope each of you finds time to pause and reflect on the people and relationships in your lives. I was able to do that last Sunday – when I officiated the wedding of GS postdoc Nadja Drabon, who earned her PhD with Don Lowe in 2018, and her husband Matthew Schnuth among the redwoods in my back yard.

I’ve been marrying students and friends for 17 years—more than 20  couples now—and it’s one of the things I most enjoy doing. I love the idea that two people, at least one of whom has typically spent time here at Stanford, are going off to launch a new path. I imagine all the exciting discoveries and challenges, personal and scientific, they have ahead of them. And the knowledge and values they will bring to their new family and future collaborators along the way.

Our Stanford Earth Matters summer reading list

Speaking of values, there’s nothing like a good read in the summer to help process what we experience – especially this year. Once again our Stanford Earth Matters magazine managing editor Josie Garthwaite has curated a diverse and compelling summer reading list based on recommendations from our faculty and staff.

Among them I would draw your attention to two books recommended by Jonathan Payne: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, a novel that takes a journey through three generations of a family in rural Mississippi, and Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by NatGeo science writer David Quammen, which was written several years before COVID-19 appeared. Also on the list is An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, a novel about what happens to the love of a couple when the husband is arrested for a crime he did not commit, suggested by Paula Welander. Superior: The Return of Race Science by science writer Angela Saini, a timely discussion of the re-emergence of scientific research into racial differences, was recommended by Jane Willenbring. Those are just a few to whet your appetite. Check out the list!

Thinking about our graduates

A word about our graduates’ sendoff: The university’s virtual celebration was well done. If you didn’t see it, I urge you to check out in particular the short interviews with alumni who graduated into other crisis periods: World War II, the Civil Rights struggle, Vietnam War protests, and the 2008 financial crisis. Here’s why: They talk about what tough times teach you. They are examples of resilience and proof that we can all get through the tunnel and come out the better for it. I thought Irene Ibidapo and Elizabeth Choi, both ’09, gave especially poignant interviews. The university celebration also included “moments” snapshots submitted by Stanford Earth students and you can find our school-level department and program slideshows on our Stanford Earth website here.

Town Hall and Stage 2 Restart

Two final notes: First, please save the date for our next Virtual Town Hall at 3 PM July 16. Vice Provost and Dean of Research Kam Moler will join me again.  Second, if you missed my email about Stage 2 Research Restart yesterday, please be sure to review the protocols on this still very gradual expansion of return to research activity. 

Our INSIDE Stanford Earth newsletter will be on hiatus until our welcome back issue in September. Have a great summer! I’ll be here. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me in email if you need to.


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