Stanford University: Transition leadership named for new school

Kathryn “Kam” Moler has been appointed transition dean of the new school focused on climate and sustainability with Stephan Graham as transition vice dean. Moler will be stepping back temporarily from her role as vice provost and dean of research, with David Studdert and Tim Stearns stepping in as acting vice provost and acting dean of research, respectively.


Kathryn “Kam” Moler and Stephan Graham have been appointed transition dean and transition vice dean, respectively, of the new school focused on climate and sustainability. Tim Stearns and David Studdert will be stepping in as acting dean of research and acting vice provost, respectively. (Image credit: Composite by Andrew Brodhead)

Moler has been vice provost and dean of research since 2018, and has spent the past 19 months also leading the efforts to create the new school, working with Graham, who is also the Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). They have also both worked closely with faculty leaders from across the university developing aspects of the new school. The appointments will be effective January 2022 and are expected to be in place until September 2022, when the new school launches and a dean for the school has been appointed.

Provost Persis Drell is currently leading the search for a dean for the new school.

“I’m very impressed with the work Kam and Steve and the entire faculty team have done developing our new school,” Drell said. “But there is an enormous amount of work that still needs to be done so that the new school can open its doors for business on Sept 1, 2022. To ensure a smooth transition, Kam needs to be able to put all of her formidable energy and enthusiasm into working, with Steve and the tremendous number of leaders and contributors in the new school community, through all the details that need to be resolved between now and opening day.”

As transition dean, Moler will be responsible for overseeing faculty teams developing all aspects of the school, including establishing the divisions and departments, determining faculty roles, initiating faculty hires, developing educational programs, integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into all school functions, launching an accelerator, creating a staffing structure and more.

As transition vice dean, Graham will continue working with Moler to develop the new school leading up to its launch. At that time, the programs of Stanford Earth will merge into the new school.

“Steve will continue to be a valuable partner during the transition, and I am very grateful that Tim and David are willing to take on major responsibilities in the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research,” Drell said. “This will free up Kam to work full time with the many faculty and staff focusing on the ramp up to opening the new school in a fashion that supports our ambitious vision.”

The new school structure, as announced in July, will build on and replace Stanford Earth with a three-part structure designed to enhance broad disciplinary scholarship, create interdisciplinary teams focused on critical issues relating to sustainability, and drive policy and technology solutions.

“This is a really exciting time for Stanford,” Moler said. “We have internationally recognized research in climate and sustainability, and institutes that have had incredible success in developing energy technologies and environmental solutions. With this new school we’ll be able to have even more impact, and I’m thrilled to be leading a great team of faculty and staff who are working with me to make the school a reality.”

The school will launch with transitional divisions that will evolve into multiple departments. Those departments will be populated by existing Stanford Earth faculty, the faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering (joint with the School of Engineering), additional faculty from all schools at Stanford and as many as 60 new hires over the next 10 years who will bring expertise in areas such as environmental justice, climate, human behavior, energy and policy.

It will also include the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy, plus a new Institute for Sustainable Societies and a Sustainability Accelerator.

New acting leadership
Studdert, professor of health policy and of law, has been serving as senior associate vice provost for data resources since 2020. In that role, he has been developing a plan for shared data resources across campus. As acting vice provost he will be responsible for supporting the research mission of the university, including research policy, compliance and ethics for the administrative units.

Calling Stanford’s research enterprise “a jewel,” Studdert said, “With the explosion in data, and great challenges like climate change and disparities, it’s an amazing moment to be engaged in academic research.” However, he noted, there are also mounting expectations from funders, regulators and the public.

“Addressing those expectations, particularly around transparency and respect for persons, is a vital part of making our research successful,” Studdert said.

Stearns, professor of biology and of genetics, has been serving as senior associate vice provost of research since 2020. In that role he has managed Stanford’s collaborative research relationship with SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and helped to initiate a new research development office that supports faculty grant applications.

As acting dean of research, Stearns will be responsible for overseeing the 18 independent labs, centers and institutes and the three shared facilities that report to the dean of research. That role includes providing support for facilities, IT, human resources, faculty affairs and other administrative activities.

“It is a tremendously exciting time to be a researcher at Stanford, with our outstanding students, staff and faculty creatively addressing so many important problems,” Stearns said.

In his new role Stearns said he would focus on building an even stronger research relationship between Stanford and SLAC, and on working with the directors of the independent labs, centers and institutes to highlight the work these units do in the research community at Stanford. Noting the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, he added, “We have to work together to rebuild the community that is critical to research and scholarship.”

Both Stearns and Studdert applauded Moler’s tireless efforts to develop research opportunities across campus and said they look forward to continuing her work and engaging with the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research staff. “From working with VPDOR staff over the past year, it’s clear that they are every bit as excited and driven by Stanford’s research mission as are our faculty, postdocs and students,” Studdert said. “I look forward to working more closely with them.”

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