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Managing difficult times at the School of Engineering, and in the world

A letter from Dean Jennifer Widom
Jennifer Widom
Jennifer Widom

Dear School of Engineering graduate students,

These are challenging times for all of us, and here in the engineering school we know that our graduate student population is being impacted by Covid-19 in a number of important ways. You can receive the most up-to-date information about university-level decisions and policies at the site, but there are a few items I’d like to share directly with you.

First, for PhD students we formalized a policy last year that all PhD students in good standing are to be funded to their department’s PhD standard, which is equivalent at least to the university’s 20-hour RA salary plus tuition. I want to reassure you that this policy remains unchanged. If you are encountering issues, please contact either a student services officer or the director of graduate studies in your department, or don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of the School of Engineering student services office.

Second, for those of you conducting research, we appreciate that the current shelter-in-place restrictions have made research progress challenging, and the frustration is particularly acute for those of you doing experimental work. Additionally, some of you may have family who require a great deal of your attention. Please know that I communicate regularly with faculty about ratcheting back expectations for their trainees (just as you may need to do with your advisors, who could have their own challenges). Also know that I am working closely with other university leaders to develop a plan for restarting research activities at Stanford. In this ongoing conversation, we are taking into account the particular concerns of graduate students, and balancing them against the critical need to protect your safety and that of our entire community.

Finally, we want to hear from you. One of the things that comes up over and over in my meetings with faculty and staff is concern for the health and well-being of our graduate students. Without a regular schedule of coming to campus, I know it may feel sometimes as if you’re on your own. We are with you, and I encourage you to connect with your departments, student organizations, your advisors, and the School of Engineering staff and deans. 

We have scheduled Zoom office hours over the next few weeks with myself and senior associate deans Tom Kenny and Ken Goodson. We welcome any engineering graduate student to sign up for a 1:1 discussion about issues or challenges you may be facing, or questions you may have. We are thinking of you, and we are looking forward to having the opportunity to speak with you directly.

Jennifer Widom