Sunday Message: Priorities for the New Academic Year

Dean Jon Levin updates the Stanford GSB community on efforts to make the school more inclusive and school priorities for the academic year.

September 13, 2020

Between the pandemic, the catastrophic wildfires, and the electrical fire that cut off GSB power, it was quite an orientation week. I know our thoughts are with those in California, Oregon, and Washington whose lives and homes remain threatened by the fires.

Campus glowing orange during wildfires

Photo by Tricia Seibold.

With the start of the quarter, I would like to articulate three priorities that are on my mind for the GSB community as we move into an unprecedented year.

Priorities for the New Year

  • First, and most pressing, is to maintain campus health and safety while delivering an outstanding educational experience and advancing the GSB’s research mission. We have made significant investments in infrastructure and planning to enable this. With responsible behavioral norms, and the remarkable flexibility, adaptability, and goodwill that everyone at the GSB has displayed throughout the pandemic, I am optimistic that we can meet the challenge.
  • Second, this year has highlighted urgent societal challenges — inequities in health, income, and education; political and social division; and the legacy of anti-Black racism — that call out for leadership and fresh solutions. We have a responsibility at the GSB to engage with these problems, to think about the role of business in addressing them, to debate with a spirit of inquiry, and to ensure that our students emerge as leaders for society. At the same time, we must continue our efforts to& make the GSB more inclusive, through efforts such as the Action Plan for Racial Equity.
  • Third, it is essential that we continue to& advance longer-term priorities: investing and innovating in our MBA curriculum, supporting pioneering faculty and PhD research, and strengthening our university connections, including with the newly announced Stanford School of Sustainability. I especially look forward this fall to receiving the recommendations of the Beyond COVID Task Force. The faculty and alumni on the Task Force have been working to identify new opportunities the pandemic is creating for the GSB to leap ahead in virtual education, lifelong learning, and other areas.

I’m excited to talk and work with all of you on these priority areas. I also have a few additional updates for this week.

School Updates

Santa Clara County

California’s updated reopening guidelines have introduced a tier status for counties. On Tuesday, Santa Clara transitioned from Purple (“widespread”) to Red (“substantial”). Our position is a bit tenuous: the threshold is 7 daily cases per 100,000 population, and Santa Clara’s adjusted case count is 6.9. However, if we remain Red, the County will have the authority to permit some hybrid indoor classes, and Stanford is working with our County public health officials. The next status update is scheduled to come out on Tuesday.

Stanford Rebuild

We launched the Stanford Rebuild program in June as an “innovation sprint” for entrepreneurs around the world who wanted to help rebuild from the pandemic. More than 5,000 teams enrolled from over 150 countries, and had access to online curriculum and tools developed by GSB faculty, and live sessions with faculty and alumni entrepreneurs. The final showcase last week featured ventures tackling mental health, financial inclusion, and home healthcare. Congratulations to the faculty and staff in CES and Executive Education for organizing and pulling off an amazing success!

Democracy Matters

We are less than eight weeks away from the U.S. Presidential Election. In the run-up to November 3rd, I know all of us are eager to hear and learn from some of the extraordinary experts at Stanford. Almost 40 faculty members, including from the GSB, will be speaking this quarter in the Democracy Matters webinar series organized by the School of Humanities and Sciences. It is open to all members of the Stanford community. The first event is Tuesday at 12.30 p.m. on “Challenges Facing Democracy in the U.S.,” featuring California Supreme Court Justice Tino Cuéllar and Stanford faculty members Ran Abramitzky, Larry Diamond, Margaret Levi, and Condoleezza Rice. Registration is required.


The new school year brings excitement and energy, but also the recognition of the effort, flexibility, and resilience that will be needed to make this a great year at GSB. I would like to ask everyone to keep this in mind in their interactions, and to remember to be forgiving in the face of novel challenges and problem-solving.

With anticipation and enthusiasm for the fall quarter,

Jon Levin

More Updates from the Leadership

June 17, 2023
At this year’s graduation ceremony, Dean Jon Levin offers perspectives on what it means to live a good life.
May 01, 2023
Dean Jon Levin writes about how being exposed to differing views is essential in business education — and business leadership — for Stanford Business magazine.
October 24, 2022
Dean Jon Levin writes about the ingredients needed to create an innovative ecosystem for Stanford Business magazine.