Stanford University
Dean Stephan Graham

Dean's Desk

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

Photo by Steve Castillo

Taking shape

ClockOctober 22, 2020

I am happy to report that a variety of important projects are moving forward and taking shape.

Sustainability initiative

Progress is steady. Expect to be hearing more from me on this, but for now a short summary of the moving parts:

First, an internal Blueprint Advisory Committee of 30 faculty from across campus is now advising Vice Provost Kam Moler and me on design for a school that embeds sustainability across a Stanford education and conducts research that is both foundational and can make rapid impact. Among the committee members are Stanford Earth climate scientists Noah Diffenbaugh and Chris Field, paleobiologist Jon Payne, Earth system scientist Paula Welander, E-IPER director and education faculty member Nicole Ardoin, energy resources engineering scientist Sally Benson, Earth system scientist Scott Fendorf, and geophysicist Greg Beroza.Other faculty committee members represent business, international relations, political science, materials science, sociology, infectious diseases, chemical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, and law, among others. All seven schools and five major institutes or centers are represented.

We are working on department and program organization, as well as weighing and defining cross-cutting themes such as oceans and climate. We expect to present blueprint options for the school to the provost and president early in 2021. In the meantime we are gathering input from the broad community through town halls, surveys, and personal discussions. We’re currently planning town halls specifically for Stanford Earth. Stay tuned for that. And in the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact me if you wish to give input.

Second, Kam and I gave a status report at the Oct. 8 Stanford Faculty Senate meeting. Faculty took up a discussion about the initiative, giving useful feedback with good questions about the impact of moving faculty from one department to another, but there was broad support for the general concept of the school.

Third, we have organized a Task Force of university alumni who are engaged in sustainability and climate, led by alumna Akiko Yamazaki, to advise and support the initiative. Yamazaki has been a member of the Woods Institute for the Environment advisory board and was one of the naming donors of the Y2E2 building. The Task Force had their second meeting this morning, at which Kam and I also spoke, and members are enthusiastic about the initiative. They are gaining a thorough understanding of Stanford’s assets and programs in the sustainability area and will discuss, among other things, how we can develop partnerships to give our students valuable experience and put our research into action in the local community and globally. The work of this Task Force is critical to the success of the initiative.

Finally, on September 24, following a process led by Senior Associate Dean Scott Fendorf and Civil and Environmental Engineering Chair Lynn Hildemann, we announced the first seed grant awards to come out of the sustainability initiative to get a variety of projects moving in anticipation of the initiative. I am really pleased that an incredibly broad array of faculty from across the university came together from 18 departments and received 17 grants. Find more on each of the grant topics here.

A new Policy on Respectful and Inclusive Behavior

I hope everyone had a chance to read my email Wednesday. Our new policy represents months, if not years, of discussions and work to create a document that states our values, defines what we believe to be inclusive behavior as well as what is considered harassment, and ways to report violations. I urge you to read the document either in PDF format or on the website.

A new Stanford Earth Postdoctoral Fellowship

As a tangible new step in our accelerated efforts to promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, we have created a new fellowship designed to support underrepresented candidates as postdocs to encourage diversification of the academic pipeline in the geosciences. The fellowship, which provides an $83,000 annual stipend for up to two years, is funded by the $2.5 million Morton K. Blaustein Visiting Fund. We start reading applications for the first cohort on December 1, so I urge you to share information on the fellowship with anyone you know within Stanford or at other institutions. 

Time to vote

My sign off this month is: Vote! I did. Election Day is right around the corner. It is still possible to register in person at the county registrar’s office. For those ready and registered, the campus polling place in the Oak Lounge at Tresidder Union will be open for voting from October 31 to Nov. 2 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and on Election Day Nov. 3 between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. It’s a valuable privilege. Let’s use it.


Last year's first place winner in the Field category by Shannon Switzer Swanson, E-IPER PhD candidate, is now the hero image on the department website, That's Shannon swimming with a school of sardines during a research trip to Indonesia.

Don’t forget our Stanford Earth Photo Contest 

I can’t wait to see the photos that come in this year from students, staff and faculty. There is a new fourth category, “Life in 2020,” for pictures that illustrate the experiences we have not encountered before: masked lab partners, a lonely campus, orange skies, longer than usual lines at the polls, backyard class experiments, unusual study nooks in your home, evacuating from wildfire threat, home-schooled children on your computer, and so on.


Of course, don’t forget any landscape beauties, shots from the lab, or working in the field shots taken any time in the last two years. The deadline is Nov. 5. Submit your shots here. We’ll announce the prize in the Nov. 19 INSIDE Stanford Earth newsletter before students end their quarter.


For inspiration, check out some of the best of the 2018 and 2019 photo submissions.   



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