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Finding community over the holidays and throughout the year

A letter from Dean Jennifer Widom

Dear Stanford Engineering graduate students, 


I hope your fall quarter was a successful one given the circumstances. I also hope that after a long and exceedingly challenging 2020, you’ll take time over the next few weeks to relax and recharge. Based on the news reports, it looks like we’re in for a particularly difficult period this winter, but I’m hopeful and cautiously optimistic that better days lie not too many months ahead.

In last month’s letter I mentioned my continual reminders to faculty that after this very stressful year, graduate students really do need to take some time off, and advisors should be respectful of that need. In turn I’d like to remind you that our hardworking staff are also in great need of a break. You’re likely aware that Stanford is officially closing for three weeks beginning Monday December 14. For those of you who may be working on campus during the break in any capacity, I urge you to be even more diligent than usual, as there will be fewer people available to help right away if issues arise. 

Even under the best of circumstances the holiday season can be stressful and difficult for many people. I know it may be particularly hard for some of you this year, especially those who would normally be with family. Once again, please take care of yourselves and those around you — and again, don’t hesitate to use Stanford and other resources if you need them. The Graduate Life Office (GLO) will be on call throughout the break for students both on and off campus, and the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) will be offering support as needed, including urgent/crisis support.

We hear over and over that community is very important to graduate students. Finding and building community has been particularly difficult during the pandemic, and the coming weeks may be extra challenging in that regard. The Community Associates in GLO have organized a wide variety of winter break virtual events for building connections, and the VPGE office has curated a list of virtual Stanford opportunities, Stanford@Home, to help you “engage a different part of your brain” and take a break from academics. 

Finally, as Provost Drell noted in a recent university communication, the prevalence of COVID-19 on our campus has remained very low. I’m incredibly grateful for that, and sincerely hope that those of you who are studying and conducting research from off campus are staying equally safe and healthy. I’m looking forward to the day we can be together on campus again, hopefully in the not-too-distant future. Until then, please take some time for yourself over the holidays, and know that you’ll hear from me again in early 2021. 

Jennifer Widom