The exceptional resiliency of Stanford students, instructors: A message from Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Sarah Church

Dear parents and families of Stanford students, 

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share a Winter Quarter greeting and update with our parents and families of Stanford undergraduates.

As you likely know, Stanford opened the quarter with three weeks of online instruction. This transition to the return of in-person classes that began on Jan. 24 ensured academic continuity as our undergraduates got settled back on campus and managed any early-quarter health concerns. This bridge period aimed to support students who had tested positive over the holiday break and weren’t able to travel back to campus as planned or who tested positive upon arrival and thus were required to isolate. While we know that students and instructors are glad to be back in person now, we are confident this transition helped minimize missed classes for many students. 

Students were also able to access any number of other support resources online during this period. For instance, during the first three weeks of January alone, 2,259 unique students engaged in 3,875 academic advising interactions, which included email and text exchanges with their academic advisors, as well as virtual office-hour drop-ins and appointments. These kinds of interactions reflect the support students receive on decision-making around course selection, major exploration, and experiential learning opportunities such as future research, service, study away and more.

In-person classes for undergraduates began as planned in the fourth week of January. Stanford has an exceptionally high vaccination rate among students, faculty and staff, and safety protocols in place, such as required face coverings in the classroom and other common indoor spaces. Therefore, we are confident that the classroom remains a safe place to gather, and our teaching and research mission continues as it has for more than a century. 

As we approach the two-year mark of this global pandemic, I find myself reflecting on the exceptional resiliency, tenacity and adaptability demonstrated by our students and instructors. 

Both communities quickly adjusted to the entirely new terrain of online teaching and learning in the outset of the pandemic which made the early-January transition this year one in which our students and instructors again demonstrated their agility and understanding. While we knew this was a temporary pivot, our faculty and our students worked diligently, and collaboratively, to make it the best experience possible. Whatever the methodology, our instructors love to teach, and our students are passionate about learning. This will never change.  

Throughout this pandemic, not only have we discovered and reaffirmed how much we missed and value our in-person interactions, but we also have come to appreciate new conveniences that some virtual connections offer. For instance, many students have told us that they really like the convenience of quick virtual office hour drop ins with their instructors or academic advisors rather than spending time traversing campus, particularly for quick practical transactions or during their busiest times of the day when they’re darting to other classes or commitments. For other interactions and circumstances, students prefer engaging in person, and we are glad to be able to offer both options.

Thank you for continuing to be such great advocates and partners as your student moves through their Stanford journey. I hope to see you on campus again soon.

Sarah Church

Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

The Pritzker University Fellow in Undergraduate Education

Professor of Physics