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Message to A&S Graduate Students Regarding the Fall 2020 Semester

The following message was sent to Arts & Science graduate students from Dean John Geer on June 16, 2020. For more information about Vanderbilt’s Return to Campus plan, please visit . 

Dear A&S graduate students, 

As you saw in the email this morning from Incoming Chancellor Diermeier and Interim Chancellor and Provost Wente, Vanderbilt will, after careful deliberation, reopen our campus for in-person classes this fall. We are excited to welcome everyone back to campus—or, for our first-year and transfer students, to greet you for the first time! I strongly encourage you to read their email and the university’s Return to Campus website carefully, as they contain important information about the fall semester. 

Know that first and foremost, as we return to campus for in-person learning, the university is focused on protecting the health and safety of the Vanderbilt community. After extensive study and close consultation with the physicians and public health experts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as national, state, and local officials, we successfully completed Phase 1 of our re-opening plan and transitioned into Phase 2 on June 8. Based on these effective actions, as well as further evaluations and deliberations that examined multiple scenarios and studied best practices, we have developed an approach that allows us to resume on-campus, in-person classes in August. 

I want to emphasize a few key points as we look to the fall:

  • Calendar Dates: The semester will begin on Monday, August 24 (note that this is two days earlier than the original start date). In-person classes will end on Friday, November 20, and classes will continue remotely until Friday, December 4. Reading days and exams will take place remotely from December 5-13.
  • Course Delivery: A&S remains committed to providing all students a world-class education. Course instruction will take place in three formats: 1) in-person; 2) online; and 3) hybrid or flex, in which courses are a combination of in-person and remote learning (synchronous and asynchronous). These different formats are necessary to accommodate the needs of faculty and students who are unable to participate in person. Please note that to maintain social distancing guidelines and protect the health of our community, there will be very few exclusively in-person classes.
  • Scheduling and Registration: All graduate students will have an advising session with their home department via Zoom this summer. All current students must complete registration for the fall semester by July 8. Later in the summer, incoming students will register. The University is in the process of adjusting course schedules and offerings due to moving courses online, and once that is finalized students will be notified and have an opportunity to adjust their schedules.
  • Acknowledgment Form: All faculty, staff, and students will be asked to sign a COVID-19 Return to Campus Acknowledgment form, explaining the risks and responsibilities of returning to campus.
  • Student Accommodations: We have developed a comprehensive process for graduate students who have concerns about returning to campus due to their personal situation. If you have a concern related to a health condition that impacts your ability to return safely, first reach out to the Student Access Services Office. Student Access Services can assist you in developing an appropriate accommodations plan. All other concerns should be brought to your Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), who can help you navigate the return process. Dean Mark Wallace of the Graduate School will be contacting you directly with details.
  • Orientation: Orientation plans are underway, and first-year graduate students will hear more from their DGS. 

If you have any questions about the plan for the fall semester, please contact the university’s Fall 2020 Helpline at 615-322-4357. You can also reach out to your program’s DGS. 

The upcoming semester will not resemble any in Vanderbilt’s history. The way we teach, learn, interact, socialize, eat, and even move through campus will be different and will require all of us to take responsibility for our health and the health of others. Thank you for your understanding and flexibility during these highly unusual times. We truly look forward to seeing you in the fall. 

Stay safe and be well,

John Geer