Spring Quarter: Letter from the Director
Spring is the season for change and transition. This quarter we are highlighting two courses that explore this theme from different vantage points. We are all greatly looking forward to having Stanford professors Michael McFaul and Robert Reich, along with European politician and scholar Marietje Schaake, present their course “Defending Democracy at Home and Abroad,” which will take a sobering look at transitions in the political landscape; specifically, how democracy has wavered in recent years while totalitarian and illiberal forces have gained strength. This team of instructors brings vast political and academic expertise to bear in helping answer the challenging question of what we can do, collectively, to reaffirm our commitment to democracy on both a local and global scale.
On another plane, Stanford art history professor Alex Nemerov returns to Continuing Studies with a new course, “The Book of Change: Ovid, Art, and Us,” an exploration of how Ovid’s classic poem, Metamorphoses, has influenced art throughout the ages. Here, stories and representations of the characters’ literal transformation from one form of existence to another are rendered as emotionally wrenching, anxiety provoking, and sometimes also freeing—conditions many of us can likely relate to as the world around us changes so swiftly.
Within Continuing Studies, we have experienced our own fair share of change lately in thinking about how we can best support students, instructors, and each other as we enter this latest chapter. While the pandemic no longer restricts most of us as it did before, it’s clear the changes we’ve undergone have left many of us in new places, both literally and figuratively.
Many of our staff now permanently reside outside the Bay Area—having sought out new places to call home or returning to hometowns they grew up in. Some of us who remain here have moved farther from campus now that more flexible work options are possible. This ability to place more attention on all aspects of our lives—especially relationships with family, friends, and community—is a cherished and much needed gift, but we also can’t help but miss the ease and comfort of gathering together more regularly in our offices at Stanford or meeting face-to-face for coffee or lunch. We are still learning how best to keep up camaraderie with one another even as half of us gather around our conference table while the other half joins in the conversation over Zoom. But when the room fills with everyone’s laughter, I feel quite hopeful and optimistic that this new world of work will continue to inspire and energize us all.
You’ll see similar experiments playing out in our Continuing Studies classrooms as well. As I write this, we are preparing to launch a course on the American West, organized by Professor David Kennedy, that will allow Continuing Studies students the option to participate in person in CEMEX Auditorium on the Stanford campus or stream the course live over Zoom. It’s been fun to see such great enthusiasm for both ways of participating, and we are curious to see how students and instructors will adapt to this new model.
Speaking of transitions, I’d like to highlight a few more courses we think you might enjoy that also explore changing worlds and new horizons. Two are taught by new instructors: Brianna Thompson, a Kenyon College visiting professor, is offering “Imagining Better Worlds in Literature,” and Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute Fellow Thomas Merrick will teach “The Reality of Being Virtual.” Please also be sure to check out our Stanford Monday University, which will include talks by Stanford lecturer Denise Pope on “Restoring Youth Mental Health” and by Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom on “The Future and Impact of Working from Home.” We hope you enjoy looking through our course lineup in this new digital format and will find within these “pages” a particular course that calls to you.
Director & Associate Dean