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Winter letter to our community

Dear members of our Stanford community,

As we wound down for winter break, a playful Lamborghini-yellow sculpture was unveiled outside the entrance to our Cantor Arts Center. You can’t miss it. Two letters, each about eight feet tall, spell out OY, a term sometimes associated with dismay, on one side. The other offers a bright greeting: YO.

As a new quarter begins, I too would like to extend my bright greetings for 2020 and welcome you back. I hope that you are able to approach this time boldly and optimistically. Anytime those feelings of “oy” arise – and we all experience them – be assured that Stanford is committed to supporting your success and fulfillment.

We have many accomplishments and milestones to celebrate, and I’d like to spotlight just a few of them as well as the opportunities and work ahead.

Moving ahead, with a vision

Implementation of our new long-range vision for Stanford is picking up speed. Teams across campus are building and putting initiatives in place for accelerating our impact and transforming education, and I encourage you to read a recent story summarizing some of these efforts. In the fall quarter alone, our faculty took significant steps forward in outlining and debating a vision for undergraduate education; exploring new ways for Stanford to contribute to the science and design of learning; and advancing initiatives to both support fundamental discovery and accelerate the translation of research for the benefit of our health, society and planet.

The IDEAL – Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Environment – team has been focusing on recruitment, research, education and engagement across the campus community. Look for a full report on this work and an enhanced dashboard, with additional details and analysis, in the coming weeks.

In just over a month, we will dedicate a magnificent new research complex, the Stanford ChEM‑H and Neurosciences buildings, where top experts from different disciplines work together in shared laboratories to advance human health and well-being. That will be followed in March by the dedication of the Biomedical Innovations Building, a proving ground and springboard for scientific discovery and yet another demonstration of Stanford’s ethos of multidisciplinary collaboration.

The last few months have provided numerous inspiring stories of the accomplishments of our community. To just celebrate a few:

When the new Stanford Hospital officially opened, we saw more than 1,600 staff and faculty carefully and efficiently move hundreds of patients from the existing hospital. This seamless, three-and-a-half-hour transition culminated a decade of construction and planning that created a new healing environment that promises to transform the patient experience.

We cheered the selection of two Rhodes scholarstwo Marshall scholars and five Schwarzman scholars – prestigious honors that recognize these students’ achievements and provide them with new opportunities for leadership.

We learned about an array of projects by our students and faculty. Stanford researchers helped obtain the first-ever recording of a blue whale’s heart rate, which adds to our fundamental knowledge of biology and informs conservation efforts. Engineers collaborated with members of the blind and visually impaired community to design a touch-based display that increases access to 3D modeling and printing. An education professor launched an interactive tool for educators, parents and policymakers that shows how school poverty affects educational achievement. The new one-week Humanities Research Intensive takes first- and second-year undergraduates through a breadth of research possibilities, including examinations of colorful medieval manuscripts and archival documents related to war, revolution and peace in the 20th and 21st centuries. A medical student used a creative, collaborative approach to locate and survey members of a nomadic community in Ethiopia, and the data she collected overturned some commonly held assumptions about their health needs.

We applauded three national championships: our men’s water polo and women’s soccer teams – on the same day! – and our women’s volleyball team two weeks later. Winning two championships in a day is uncommon, but not without precedent. Our men’s and women’s cross-country teams accomplished the same feat in 2003 and 1996.

And we were heartened by the thousands of employees who volunteered in the Cardinal at Work Cares: Giving Essentials Drive. They contributed, sorted and assembled coats and personal care packs, and wrote notes of encouragement for people in our surrounding communities who are homeless, hungry, impacted by the North Bay fires or facing other serious struggles in their lives.

Vital work continuing

In addition to these celebrations and milestones, I also want to emphasize areas in which significant work remains.

One of the most important concerns is the well-being of our community.

As the need for mental health and well-being support increases on campuses across the nation, we are continuing to expand support and resources. Recognizing the critical nature of these issues, we are planning a two-day conversation on mental health and well-being for our entire campus community on Feb. 3-4. More details are forthcoming about this important opportunity for discussion and for raising awareness, and you can get updates here.

Our annual Title IX/Sexual Harassment Report provided a stark reminder that we have much more work to do in our efforts to create a culture free of sexual violence, sexual harassment and gender discrimination. That goal demands our highest attention and the commitment of everyone on campus. One of our actions this quarter will be conducting an external review of our programs to help determine where enhancements should be made, and the Provost will report out to our community upon its completion.

A committee representing students, faculty and staff will be reviewing the Student Judicial Charter and seeking community feedback on it. Another working group is being formed to review and explore ways to improve our Acts of Intolerance Protocol, which seeks to promote a climate of respect.

Affordability also remains a major area of focus throughout our community.

In December, our Board of Trustees continued the University’s ongoing support for undergraduates from the lowest-income families and expanded support for those in the middle-income range. For 2020-21, the university will cover the price of tuition for undergraduates from families with annual incomes below $150,000, up from $125,000.

New structures and purchases are also helping Stanford expand options for affordable and transit-oriented housing. Beginning this fall, the new Escondido Village Graduate Residences will provide on-campus housing for 2,400 students. In Redwood City, The Cardinal Apartments will offer housing for staff and postdoctoral scholars, and units designated for low-income households. We’re also pursuing additional off-campus housing in Menlo Park and Portola Valley.

In the coming weeks, the University leadership also will be reviewing recommendations of the Affordability Task Force, which will offer approaches for addressing near- and long-term issues involving housing, child care, transportation and benefits for our community.

Making an impact, together

The new year is a time of optimism, of celebration and of rededication. It is also a time for taking on exciting opportunities and complex challenges, often simultaneously.

I am proud of the dynamic work and the remarkable people at Stanford – and especially your commitment to making our campus community and our world better. Wherever you are in your Stanford journey, I look forward to seeing the exciting steps you take and the important contributions you make this year.

Welcome back, and welcome to winter quarter!