Dean DePauw's March 16 email to Graduate Students

To all graduate students throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia,

I hope this message finds you well.  In these troubling times, I want to acknowledge the anxiety that you and families are probably feeling especially from heavily impacted countries (e.g., China, S. Korea, Iran, Italy) and locations within the United States (e.g., Seattle, New York).  Your health and well-being are very important as well as your education and contributions to the missions (teaching, research, service/engagement) of our global land grant university.

As you are aware, we are currently experiencing very challenging times managing the situation with COVID-19.  The university has been posting messages from the President and Provost about the situation and I encourage you to read them on the Covid-19 webpage.  But I wanted to reach out to you specifically to address concerns and issues regarding your lives as graduate students and as graduate assistants (GA, GTA, GRA).  Please know that the Graduate School is here to help and support you in your education, research, and work-related endeavors especially in the next few weeks and months.

After meeting with the Graduate School staff, College Associate Deans for graduate education, and the GSA executive board, I have received very valuable feedback and many significant questions that need to be addressed.  I will be meeting with the Office of Research and Graduate Program Directors this week.  It is critical that we communicate clearly and consistent with the University message.  My goal is to provide information that provides clarification for graduate education specifically and provide regular updates.

We are developing graduate education related FAQs designed to answer your questions to post on the Graduate School website.  If you wish to send me your questions in response to this email, please do so and we will include these among the FAQs.  Spring break was extended for a second week to help us get organized and plan for the rest of the semester.

To begin with, a couple of key points:

1.      Undergraduate and graduate courses are to be delivered on line and the University policies apply here.

2.      If you are employed as a graduate assistant, (GA, GTA, GRA) you will still be expected to carry out the duties assigned by your advisor or department, program or administrative unit.  However, please be aware that the university is committed firstly to your health and safety, so please visit with your advisor to discuss the possibility of working remotely or other strategies designed to minimize the health risk to you and your coworkers.

3.      Your academic progress is intricately linked to your coursework, research and scholarly endeavors, and often times related to your assistantships, which adds to the complexity of your graduate experience.

4.      The Graduate School will work with the Departmental Graduate Program Directors to ensure that your graduate experience this semester is meaningful and helpful to your academic progress.

5.       For those of you who are GTAs, please take advantage of the offerings made available through TLOS.

6.      For those on GRAs and GAs, it might be necessary to work individually on your assistantship responsibilities to ensure that your health and safety are forefront and still allow you to meet the requirements of your assistantship.  There will be likely be options and alternatives but know that you will have input into the process and your choice will be respected.

7.      As a graduate student, you are allowed to be on campus. especially as your assistantship duties and educational progress require.

8.       Informal meetings with faculty advisors and committee members can be held in person and via appropriate technology.  Official examinations (e.g., prelims, final oral examinations) also can be held via various technologies.  There is no expectation that “one size fits all” in these cases, but alternatives must be respected.

9.      There are likely to be some different actions across our campus locations as the conditions dictate.

10.     No decisions can be made as yet regarding spring commencements, but rest assured that you will have the opportunity to participate in a future commencement ceremony.

There are many more topics to be addressed and I will provide more details with additional messages. 

Karen P. DePauw, Ph.D.
Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education
Professor, Departments of Sociology and Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise