Sunday Message: Fall Quarter Updates

Dean Jon Levin writes to the Stanford GSB community about virtual Admit Day and plans for Fall Quarter.

April 26, 2020

Dozens of current students and faculty pitched in to help the MBA Admissions team, and I had the pleasure of watching Keith Hennessey keep more than 200 prospective students on their toes with cold calls about Covid-19 economics. A big thank you to everyone who helped create an amazing experience for the admits and inspiring them to join us.

In the spirit of looking ahead, I am writing this week with early thinking about Fall quarter, and other GSB updates.

Fall Quarter

We plan to start Fall quarter on schedule in September, and to enable students to live in the GSB residences. Our intent is to work toward in-person instruction and social activity, putting in place precautions and protocols to ensure the safety of the community. Some virtual learning may be required. To the extent that it is, we will leverage the lessons from this spring to make the quarter as vibrant and engaging as possible.

With five months to plan, we expect to learn much more about effective ways to ensure health and safety, and to see advances in testing, contact tracing, and hopefully, treatment. County and state guidelines also will evolve. So we are planning for contingencies, and working closely with the university and Stanford Healthcare. With that in mind, I will share some early thoughts that may be helpful to envision the fall.

  • Limiting exposure. We hope to have expanded testing, contact tracing, and isolation protocols that will limit the number of infected people interacting in the community. Stanford continues to ramp up testing capacity, and is looking to health monitoring apps to enable contact tracing. These are important both for restarting campus research and in-person education.

    This quarter at the GSB, we used self-isolation procedures to ensure safety as students returned to campus, and established quarantine rooms in Schwab on behalf of the university, which happily have seen very limited use. Hopefully, improved testing will shorten self-isolation times by the time we reach the fall.
  • Limiting transmission. We anticipate a number of public health measures may be needed, including the sanitization of public spaces, restrictions on gathering sizes, wearing of masks, and adherence to hand-washing practices and physical distancing. Some further strategies that have been proposed to limit transmission include mixing virtual and in-person learning, keeping student sections together, and work rotations. We will be thinking creatively about mechanisms and solutions over the summer.

We are fortunate to have faculty and school leadership already hard at work identifying and exploring these and other strategies. The GSB also is participating actively in Stanford’s Fall Planning process convened by the Provost. That group is looking at programs and protocols across the university, including the special challenges of undergraduate residences, with their shared bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining spaces. You can read more about early university thinking in the recent Stanford News article about last week’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Other Campus Updates

  • Stanford Seed. Stanford Seed operates across Africa and India, which are now experiencing extensive impacts from Covid. In response, Seed has shifted its focus toward helping the 750-plus current and former Seed entrepreneurs navigate the pandemic. To enable this pivot, Seed has canceled the final Immersion Weeks of this year’s Seed Transformation Program. The Seed internship program, which sponsors summer jobs for dozens of Stanford students in India and across Africa, will go virtual wherever possible.
  • Executive Education. We have canceled in-person Executive Education through July given continuing restrictions on gathering and travel, and are developing new virtual offerings that will begin to roll out in coming weeks. We continue to run our online programs. I am delighted that our Spring LEAD cohort has a record 298 participants, from 43 countries, and with close to 40% women — a continuing progression toward gender parity. Congratulations to our LEAD faculty and staff!
  • Return to Work. The Santa Clara County shelter-in-place order is currently in effect through May 3; we will learn this week if the order will be extended. In anticipation of renewed activity, Stanford has been planning a gradual return to work. The first step will be to slowly reopen some laboratories, with stringent public health restrictions and limited interaction. I expect further communication about these plans to be forthcoming in the near future.


I would like to conclude on a reflective note. This week, you may have read about Don Kennedy, the former President of Stanford, who passed away after contracting Covid. Don had a luminous career as a long-time Stanford faculty member, educational leader, commissioner of the FDA, and editor-in-chief of Science magazine. I had the great fortune to be his student and advisee as a Stanford undergraduate. He was an extraordinarily warm, thoughtful, and kind person. In a serendipitous link with the GSB, the beautiful house he built on the Stanford campus is currently occupied by MBA students.

Don closed every Stanford graduation with a quote from Adlai Stevenson: “Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends. And don’t forget when you leave why you came.” It is a lovely sentiment for everyone looking ahead to graduation, and a fitting farewell to Don himself.

Wishing you good health and optimism,

Jon Levin
Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean

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