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Guidelines for Graduate Education during COVID-19

When Virgnia Tech entered a new “normal” operation for Fall 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Graduate School highlighted resources and information for students and faculty, and noted that it was even more important that the graduate community adhere to the guidelines articulated in the Expectations for Graduate Study available on the Graduate School website.  This site contains the Expectations document, particulars about the Disrupting Academic Bullying efforts, Principles of Community, and more.  These are designed to assist faculty, staff and students to work toward an affirming, inclusive graduate community and quality graduate education at VT.   

Graduate students often have dual roles – as students and, as GAs, GTAs, and GRAs, contributors to the teaching/learning, research/discovery and service/engagement missions of the University.  It is important to remember this duality of student and “employee” especially as we plan for Fall 2020.  Graduate students, especially GTAs, were instrumental in helping VT transition to on-line in Spring 2020. 

In addition to the resources available on the Expectations website and information articulated in the Graduate School’s FAQs, the following guidelines are provided in the context of COVID-19:

  1. Health and safety are primary concerns, and decisions should be made with the CDC guidelines in mind.  These are likely to change over the course of time, so please adapt accordingly.
  2. Progress to degree is very important. Ways in which faculty and staff can encourage degree completion include:
    1. Review coursework and modify as necessary to satisfy degree requirements
    2. Review research and plans to complete in a timely fashion; modify as appropriate
    3. Prioritize research for graduate student degree completion; revisit required number of manuscripts beyond Graduate School ETD minimum (1 for master's degree, 2 for Ph.D.) and faculty centric research
    4. Consider alternative dissertation formats and topics
  3. Graduate students should be involved in conversations with supervisors about their assistantships including: responsibilities and modifications as needed, options for the location of the work (on campus, telework, or hybrid), and performance expectations.  Once agreed upon, a written summary should be shared with the student, supervisor and graduate program director.
  4. As GRAs, GTAs, and GAs, graduate students have choices including:
    1. Original assistantship and work on campus
    2. Original assistantship but telework
    3. New responsibilities for assistantships on campus
    4. New responsibilities telework
  5. All graduate teaching assistantships including Instructor of record (IOR) must have a supervisor to assist with course delivery, evaluation and more including
    1. Syllabus development and additions such as mental health resources
    2. Managing Classroom conflict in support of health and safety (forthcoming)
    3. Evaluation
    4. Modality for instruction
    5. And more
  6. Communicate clearly and often
  7. Model mentoring programs and disrupt academic bullying by becoming an ally and active bystander in the department
  8. Understand, respect, and accommodate individual needs especially those revolving around disability (ADA recognized) and those otherwise identified and disclosed.  A good resource can be found on this website.