Stanford University
Dean Stephan Graham

Dean's Desk

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Photo by Steve Castillo

Reasons to be thankful and hopeful

ClockNovember 19, 2020

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, and it will be a holiday the likes of which we’ve not seen. No doubt everyone is thinking, ‘Thank goodness that 2020 is almost over.’  There’s every reason to feel that way. 

Just this week the governor put an “emergency brake” on reopening with the highest-level restrictive protocols for COVID-19 for most of the state including Santa Clara County. That means back to lower levels of density (after just raising them a bit) in our buildings for what is left of the time before winter closure. 

It is critical that this Thanksgiving we take extra care to adhere to social distancing and mask wearing despite all our inclination to hug friends and family around a packed dinner table. If you are doing weekly testing, be sure to keep it up during Thanksgiving week and over winter closure, so that we can return to work at least at the levels we have now in winter quarter. 

Stay hopeful

In spite of the latest turn of events, we do have reason to be hopeful and thankful that an effective vaccine or vaccines may become widely available in mid-2021. And treatments for the seriously ill have improved greatly since March. 

Closer to home, while infection rates have risen at Stanford, they are still among the lowest in California. 

Working at the farm during COVID
This photo of farmer Will Chen harvesting flowers on our own Stanford Educational Farm while wearing a respirator against wildfire smoke says it all for me. Hope amid the difficulties. Thank you farm staffer Jessica Gonzales-Chu for framing and taking this good shot.

There has been a slight uptick in COVID hospitalizations at Stanford Hospital lately, but the number remains very low as of this writing. This speaks to the fact that people in the Stanford community and adjacent neighborhoods have been very responsible in their behaviors in suppressing spread of the disease.  I’m so impressed to see people wearing masks in public in our area, in great contrast to images we see of non-compliant behavior in groups elsewhere in the country.   

I am especially thankful for everyone associated with Stanford Earth. None of us had any prior experience that could have prepared us for the plague, yet everyone has responded so positively to the challenges that we’ve faced across almost all of 2020.  

Of course, I recognize that many individuals among us are facing tremendous personal challenges. The university and Stanford Earth are trying to help with as many of those situations as possible. But that said, I am truly thankful for our wonderful departmental and school staff members who have made it possible to keep our enterprise running, albeit in a highly modified manner. It’s now possible for our people, with care, to re-enter our labs to get critical research done. As long as protocols are followed, faculty and students can now access their offices.   

Faculty and students alike adapted very quickly to new teaching circumstances during spring quarter and have handled online education this quarter like old pros. Building on all of this accumulated experience, we may be poised to allow some undergrads back to the campus in January – pandemic permitting – for a modified residential college experience. The provost has promised a decision on this before Dec. 11. 

We’ve come a long way since COVID-19 first swept across the country in the first quarter of 2020.  There’s been much tragedy and hardship in the intervening months.  Nevertheless, we have things for which to be thankful and cause to be hopeful for the year ahead. I wish you all a quiet and restorative Thanksgiving break!  


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