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Series of ‘We are Stanford’ events to welcome community back to campus

The “We are Stanford” event series includes Cardinal football’s first home game on Sept. 25, a staff appreciation luncheon on Sept. 27 and a festival of reflection and renewal between Sept. 30 and Oct. 10.

Thousands return to campus this fall, seeing people they may not have seen in months or even met in person before, freshening up work and study spaces unoccupied for more than a year and helping to rebuild Stanford’s community after a momentously challenging time.

Several events are being offered in person and online this fall to welcome the Stanford community back to campus, honor their perseverance during the pandemic and recognize a time of rebuilding. (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

Whether looking forward to seeing friends or the return of campus norms such as football, taking time to reflect on the past 18 months or renewing one’s sense of the campus’ future, there are several events being offered in-person and online to welcome the community back.

“I’m so excited for our students, faculty and staff to return to the office and classroom and to refill our campus spaces with energy and life,” said President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “I’m pleased that this series of events will help to honor their hard work and sacrifice over the past 18 months, as we renew our bonds of community and celebrate the opportunity to reconnect with one another.”

To honor the perseverance of Stanford’s community as it comes together, some upcoming events include a “We Are Stanford” festival of reflection and renewal, a lunch to celebrate staff and a Cardinal football game specially recognizing faculty and staff.

“These events are being held especially now to recognize this moment we’re in,” said Matthew Tiews, associate vice president for campus engagement. “This is part of an intentional effort to try to acknowledge the challenges we’ve all been going through and rebuild those connections and ties we know are so important to our community now and the work we do tomorrow.”

‘Honoring campus heroes’

Football returns to Stanford Stadium for its home opener “We are Stanford: Honoring Campus Heroes” on Saturday, Sept. 25.

To celebrate and recognize campus staff, Stanford Athletics is offering faculty and staff two free tickets for the Cardinal vs. UCLA game. All tickets are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis, and additional tickets will be available for $15.

“We are so excited to welcome the Cardinal community back to Stanford Stadium this fall,” said Bernard Muir, Stanford Jaquish and Kenninger Director of Athletics. “Following a year that did not allow us to enjoy Stanford football in person, it will be even more meaningful to celebrate the importance of our faculty and staff and welcome them back to Stanford Stadium.”

“Campus heroes” will be recognized throughout the game for their work and dedication to the Stanford community during the pandemic, according to Stanford Athletics.

Anyone who needs a disability-related accommodation, such as sign language interpretation, can email requests to by Sept. 17.

Details, such as how to claim tickets and game time, will be shared soon in Stanford Events. The full 2021 football schedule can be found on

‘Welcome to Fall ’21’

To welcome staff back and say thank you for their vital work at the university, especially during such a difficult year, all employees are invited to Frost Amphitheater for a special “We are Stanford: Welcome to Fall ’21” celebration of staff from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 27.

The event will include free box lunches, live music by the Latin Rhythm Boys, giveaways, photo stations for instant photos with coworkers, remarks from Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell as well as tables with representatives from staff-affiliated groups.

Those attending the event are asked to bring masks. Stanford strongly recommends wearing face coverings while outdoors in crowded settings when 6 feet of distance from others cannot be maintained, according to university policy.

In 2020, about 15,314 staff members supported teaching, learning, research and core operations at Stanford.

“Staff are a critical part of the university and the community. This event is really designed to acknowledge and celebrate that part of our community integral to the university’s successful functioning,” Tiews said. “It’s an opportunity to reconnect.”

The event planning team took care to craft it with safety in mind, such as choosing the spacious and outdoor setting of Frost Amphitheater where concerts and movie nights have been held throughout the summer.

Those who are attending the Sept. 27 event are asked to RSVP. For more event details such as parking, visit Stanford Events.

A link to a photo gallery of the festivities will be shared on Stanford Today after the event. Anyone who needs a disability-related accommodation can email requests to by Sept. 20.

Reflection and renewal

To process all that the community has been through, individually and collectively, over the last 18 months and prepare for a renewed expression of campus life, the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life has convened a wide range of campus partners to organize We are Stanford: A Festival of Reflection and Renewal to be held between Sept. 30 and Oct. 10.

“We can’t just start a new year,” said Anne Shulock, assistant vice president for the arts. “Too much has happened in the world, for our university and for ourselves as individuals. We need to create space for the community to reflect and actively shape what we want the campus to be going forward.”

The fall festival – offered in partnership with the Office of the Vice President of the Arts, the School of Medicine, Recreation and Wellness, and others – marks the return of the full Stanford community to campus and offers a diverse range of ritual, artistic, commemorative and celebratory programs.

The festival focuses on “how to tend to the soul of the university at this moment” with themes of grief, loss, remembrance, community, gratitude, hope and joy, said the Rev. Colleen Hallagan Preuninger, associate dean for religious and spiritual life and director of student engagement in the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life.

During the festival, about two dozen partners will provide more than 30 programs intersecting those themes at various sites across campus.

The festival opens with a ceremony at White Plaza from noon to 1 p.m. on Sept. 30 featuring music, snacks, information on upcoming programs and opportunities for artistic expression.

While the fall quarter is different than many imagined and hoped it would be, “we together have to decide and are deciding how we process and move forward,” Hallagan Preuninger said. “We ask people to reflect on their own desires to take up this serious mantle of ‘We are Stanford.’ The university will become what we make of it. ”

While grief often scares us, it’s “part of our DNA as Stanford,” Hallagan Preuninger continued.

“Stanford itself was created out of an enormous grief,” she said. “Jane and Leland Stanford lost their child, and in response to that great grief, they founded this place as an institution, as a place that would be regenerative and transformative … In a way, that’s what we are doing today. This is how we will use the intersection of this great grief, community and gratitude to build toward a season of health and wholeness of our communities in reflection and renewal.”

Some of the festival’s programs will require pre-registration. The festival’s full, detailed event schedule will be posted online in mid-September.

More to come

Plans are underway for additional events to be held either in person or online throughout the year.

The Rebuilding Community Workgroup making these events happen includes co-chairs Megan Pierson, chief of staff to the president and secretary to the board of trustees, and Patrick Dunkley, vice provost for institutional equity, access and community; Valerie Beeman, employee experience communications senior director; Emelyn Agnes dela Peña, associate vice provost for inclusion, community and integrative learning; Elaine Eggen, University Human Resources executive assistant; Megan Swezey Fogarty, associate vice president for community engagement; Brad Hayward, associate vice president for university communications; James T. Jordan, Stanford Alumni Association director of diversity and inclusion; Jeanette Smith-Laws, director of operations and student unions; Tiffany Steinwert, dean for religious life; and Matthew Tiews, associate vice president for campus engagement, interim senior associate vice president for the arts.