This letter from the dean was originally published in the print edition of Stanford Business in August 2020.
At their finest, institutions are places where people come together to take on generational challenges. In recent months, we have faced two of these challenges: the global coronavirus pandemic and the national uprising against anti-Black racism.
These events have compelled us to ask what solutions we, at Stanford GSB, can bring to the world and how we must transform ourselves internally. On both counts, I have been inspired and humbled by the response of our community. Let me share a few highlights.
At the beginning of March, we shifted Stanford GSB to virtual instruction in the span of 60 hours. By the beginning of spring quarter, faculty were teaching more than 100 MBA, MSx, and PhD sections virtually. It wasn’t what any of us would have chosen, but our faculty, staff, and students responded with resilience at every turn.
One student group, Team Positivity Contagion, responded to shelter-in-place orders by organizing dozens of virtual events “to preserve the GSB’s uplifting social community during this moment of universal anxiety,” as one founder wrote on Medium.
Other students started nonprofits, including ventures to help procure healthcare equipment from China, coordinate grocery deliveries and supplies to at-risk populations, and send donations to families impacted by the virus.
Stanford GSB alumni responded to our call to help create summer internships and full-time jobs for current students by offering more than 200 opportunities in just a few weeks. Alumni also spoke in classes, volunteered for student mentoring, and of course set examples in leading their own organizations through the onset of the pandemic.
Faculty responded with incredible innovation in their teaching and research and added new courses, including Reflections on History in the Making, Business and Society Lecture Series: COVID-19, and Civic Workshop. You will find many stories in this issue of the magazine on how Stanford GSB community has responded to the pandemic.
At the end of May, the violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black Americans forced us — both individually and collectively — to confront racial injustice. The multi-generational protests that followed the pain of their deaths signaled a moment of opportunity and urgency for the country to take action.
Again, Stanford GSB community was galvanized by the desire to contribute to racial equity on our campus and across the country. Discussions with many members of the community led to a set of ambitious initiatives that were announced in July. These include collaborating with Stanford’s other schools in hiring faculty who study the impact of race in America; creating a new financial aid fund to support students from less affluent backgrounds; building a more diverse portfolio of courses, cases, and guest speakers; and designing a new Racial Equity Initiative in collaboration with an alumni task force.
I am excited to lead the school in this effort and to see what we will accomplish on our own campus and beyond.
As we look ahead to the fall, we anticipate a year of both challenge and innovation. We will be developing new modes of hybrid learning and interaction and will be working to ensure campus safety and health. We will need to draw on the school’s full resources of creativity, optimism, and resilience. I am confident that we will.
In preparing for an unprecedented year, we remain grounded in the school’s core values and our continuing vision of educating leaders for society.
At a time of historic global challenge, it has never been more important to educate students to appreciate the power of business to innovate and create wide-spread opportunity, to take seriously their civic responsibilities, and to equip them as principled and purposeful leaders.
I wish you all health and optimism in the coming months.
Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business