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FAQs for graduate students regarding the university's COVID-19 directives

Virginia Tech began transitioning to from essential to modified operations mode on August 3. The university is looking ahead to the fall 2020 semester and is continuing to provide updates on opening plans, returning to classes, COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. You'll find up to date information on the university's Ready page. You also can find updated Graduate Education information on the Graduate School's Ready Information for fall 2020 webpage

Below are lists of frequently asked questions relevant to the impact of the Coronavirus and COVID-19 on graduate education at Virginia Tech. 

The university also has been posting messages from the President, Provost, and other administrative units about Virginia Tech’s response to the pandemic, and we encourage you to consult them as well on the COVID-19 information webpage

(Updated: August 26, 2020)

General

I have been admitted to Virginia Tech and need to provide my final official transcript to the Graduate School. How can I provide this transcript?

Please contact the Registrar at your previous institution and have your official transcript(s) sent to the Graduate School. If your prior institution provides transcripts electronically, have your institution’s Registrar’s Office email the transcript(s) to grads@vt.edu. If your institution only mails official transcripts, our address to have your transcript(s) sent to is:

Graduate Admissions

Graduate Life Center (0325)

155 Otey Street

Blacksburg, VA  24061

 

I need to submit my Plan of Study and a Course Justification form so I can schedule my preliminary exam.  Instead of tracking down my committee members and program director for their physical signatures in person, can I ask them to sign the forms electronically?

Yes, under these circumstances we can accept forms approved by a method other than affixation of a ‘wet’ signature.  Several options exist. Perhaps the easiest is to circulate a pdf version of the form in question, to which each approver can add their signature securely in Acrobat.  Tutorials on obtaining and signing with a VT Personal Digital Certificate are available on 4help. Alternatively, approvers can grant via email their permission for your program coordinator to sign on their behalf.  If this option is used, be sure to append copies of the email exchanges that document the grants of proxy.  

As always, forms can be submitted as pdf attachments to grads@vt.edu or as hard copies via campus mail to MC 0325.  These approaches can be used for any interaction with the Graduate School that does not yet involve a wholly online interface (such as the exam scheduling system). (updated May 28, 2020)

The final deadline for filing the a SSDE application form for fall 200 is Sept. 18. The application should be submitted to the Graduate School no later than 3 weeks before the desired examination date to allow time to complete the review of your Plan of Study, committee membership, and other elements needed to formally schedule the exam. Once approved, the Graduate School will register you for the requisite one credit hour. (Updated August 26, 2020)

Consistent with the university’s guidance regarding classes, your advisory committee and program must take steps to make your Preliminary Exam available to you online. Instructors cannot require students to be on campus to take these or any other exams. 

Experience conducting Preliminary Exams on Zoom has been generally positive.  The Graduate School and TLOS have assembled a set of recommendations that you and your committee are advised to follow in arranging and conducting your exam.  These tips include reminders on exam scheduling and pointers on efficient, professional, and resilient remote communications.  Contact the Graduate School Admissions & Academic Progress staff for guidance (grads@vt.edu). 

What are the guidelines related to graduate assistants working for the university?

Considering these important roles performed by graduate students and their potential vulnerability to financial hardship caused by COVID-19, departments and colleges must make every effort to continue stipend support for graduate assistants at current levels of compensation, at least until the end of the academic year. 

Graduate assistants are expected to continue carrying out the teaching, research and other duties assigned by their advisors, departments, programs or administrative units. In keeping with the need to reduce health risks to themselves and their coworkers, graduate assistants should discuss with their assistantship supervisors how to work remotely or use other strategies to reduce the need to be on site.

For graduate assistants with stipend support from extramural grants and sponsors, departments will work with the sponsoring agencies to confirm their ongoing support. In those instances where such support is not possible, the feasibility of bridge support using other departmental or college funding should be explored. In the unlikely event that such bridge support is not possible, the Dean of the Graduate School will be notified. The Dean will then work with the Vice Provost for Academic Resource Management to explore funding solutions.

The University entered Phase Three of the resumption of research functions and related laboratory activities on August 13. Health, safety, and hygiene protocols and requirements for the Virginia Tech research community are outlined in the Phase Three: Reopening Guidance and the Office of Research and Innovation’s Research Continuity Guidance microsite.

See the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures for On-Site Laboratories form for guidance on PPE requirements and disinfection schedule documentation.  Specific circumstances will vary among graduate students, so a plan for assigned research duties should be developed through an interactive conversation between the student and faculty advisor; Graduate Program Directors can be called upon to serve as an advocate for students when necessary.

To comply with Governor Northam’s Executive Order No. 63 (2020) “Requirement to wear face covering while inside buildings,” Virginia Tech requires the use of face coverings for all employees and students in university facilities in the commonwealth.  As defined by the governor’s office, “a face covering includes anything that covers your nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana.” Please note that face coverings do not replace the need to practice physical distancing. (updated August 13, 2020)

Fall 2020

What are the university’s plans if there is an increase in COVID-19 cases on campus or in the region?

The University is prepared to transition in-person course instruction to online should the need arise.

What is the university doing to with classrooms to ensure safety?

Virginia Tech' facilities crews have been reconfiguring classroom spaces to provide 6 feet of space between students. This has reduced the capacity of instruction spaces. There will be hand santizer stations outside each classroom, and instructors will wear face shields if they are teaching in front of students. You can find out more about VT's efforts to follow public health guidelines in classrooms in this article

What personal hygiene protocols will be expected of me?

The university will follow the governor’s guidelines for personal hygiene related to public health. Face coverings or masks will be required in all campus buildings, and also outside on campus grounds if physical distancing is not possible. Students, faculty, and staff members are expected to observe social distancing guidelines of six feet between individuals. All university community members are expected to continue frequent handwashing and using hand sanitizer when handwashing is not possible. 

Where can I find a face mask if I forgot mine? 

The University has several locations across the Blacksburg campus where you can pick up a free face mask. Visit this webpage for details.

Will we be able to hold events and activities in person?

Guidelines on gathering sizes will apply to indoor gatherings for projects, meetings, and other co-curricular activities, including recreation and fitness. Visit the Virginia Tech Ready site for more information on gatherings and indoor activities. (Updated August 3, 2020)

What activities and supports will be available for students?

Many student support services will be provided online, with some transitioning to in-person services as necessary. The university’s recreational facilities and student centers will be open, adhering to public health guidelines. 

I am a GTA this fall. Where can I find information from the university for instructors about teaching and learning for fall semester? 

The Office of the Provost has developed a web page for all instructors, including GTAs, with links to resources and other information: Preparing for Teaching and Learning in Fall 2020.  (updated August 26, 2020)

What about our campuses in the Washington, D.C. area, Roanoke, and beyond? 

The University's FAQs includes a page focused on our campuses in the Washington D.C. area, Roanoke, and other locations, that are updated regularly. We will share more details as we receive them, too. 

Where can I found out how many members of the Blacksburg university community have tested positive for COVID-19?

The University has developed a COVID-19 Dashboard, which it updates weekly. (Updated August 26, 2020)

Where can I get current and accurate information about COVID-19 at Virginia Tech?

The university recently launched the COVID-19 call center, also known as the COVID-19 Hotline, to help all members of the university community get information and answers on matters related to the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number is 540-231-7600.

The  helpline is staffed Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. with personnel from across university academic, administrative, and student affairs units to assist callers with their questions. Those who call with questions that cannot be immediately answered will receive a call back. (updated September 9, 2020)

Can I get a COVID-19 test from Schiffert Health Center if I am in Blacksburg?

Dean DePauw has confirmed that graduate students may get a COVID-19 test at Schiffert Health Center. 

How do I report a positive COVID-19 test?

This flowchart provides guidance for how to report symptoms or a positive test. (updated September 10, 2020)