Renewing Our Community

Photo: Toni Bird

After postponing last year’s Reunion due to the pandemic, it was wonderful to host alumni for both 2020 and 2021 Reunions on campus in October. More than 6,000 alumni joined us for a celebration that was both fun and deeply meaningful, despite some raindrops. The campus really lights up when our alumni come back to Stanford, and I hope all who attended enjoyed the opportunity to reunite with old friends, reminisce about their college years and everything that has happened since, and learn about the exciting new directions the university is taking.

The joyful reconnections at Reunion were a highlight within a fall quarter that has been all about renewing our bonds with one another. After being dispersed far and wide for many months, our students, faculty and staff are finally together on campus this fall. For me, it has been energizing and inspiring to have our campus filled with many more members of our community, and it has been wonderful to settle into the routines of a more normal academic year. 

Though the pandemic is still with us—and with it, masking, testing, and other health and safety protocols—we believe we are well positioned to support our community’s health through this academic year. The protocols we have in place have allowed us to pursue as normal a fall as possible: Our students are attending in-person classes, our researchers are filling the labs and libraries, and our athletic fields and performance spaces are once again alive with competition and the arts. 

With our largest-ever undergraduate student body on campus this fall, ResX offers each student a neighborhood home base that reinforces belonging and provides a smaller community within the broader Stanford experience.

Our students have also returned to the residences, where we’re focused on strengthening the bonds of community through our new residential model, ResX. With our largest-ever undergraduate student body on campus this fall, ResX offers each student a neighborhood home base that reinforces belonging and provides a smaller community within the broader Stanford experience. ResX preserves the best of our traditions while prioritizing well-being, equity, and inclusion, as well as academic and intellectual enrichment. 

As we reconnect in person, we’re also applying lessons learned from a year of remote work and learning. The experience of moving our campus activities online has opened new ways of broadening access to Stanford’s resources in health care, education, scientific research and the arts. For example, before the pandemic, Stanford Medicine provided around 2,800 telemedicine visits a month; at the height of the pandemic, it was providing 60,000 a month. Likewise, the audience for scientific conferences grew by hundreds, even thousands, because attendees could log on from home. We’re embracing these opportunities to broaden our reach and connect Stanford with people from across our region and around the world. 

We’ve also learned a great deal about remote work and its benefits. While we’re delighted to bring our community back together in person, we also want to maintain the elements of remote work that were successful over the past many months. This fall, we’re experimenting with a more flexible work model for members of our staff, including hybrid work options. We believe we can strike a balance that retains the benefits of remote work and promotes the well-being of our employees while supporting our operations as a residential university.

As we come back together, it’s with renewed appreciation for the remarkable people who make up our Stanford community. Now that we’re together on campus once again, we’re focused on rebuilding a community that reflects the perseverance and innovative spirit that they have displayed over the past year and a half. As we look to the future, the talent and creativity within our community give me great hope for all that we can achieve.


Marc Tessier-Lavigne is the president of Stanford University.