COVID-19 Updates for Graduate Students
Penn State has decided to delay the start of in-person classes and transition to a fully remote learning environment for the beginning of the spring 2021 semester at all campus locations. This decision was made following extensive analysis and scenario planning given worsening virus conditions nationally and across the state indicating predictions of rising hospitalization rates in the coming weeks.
To provide an uninterrupted educational experience for students, remote classes will begin on Jan. 19 and will continue through Feb. 12. At this time, in-person classes are expected to resume across all campus locations on Feb. 15, though this date could change based on health and safety factors and guidance from the state. As currently scheduled, the 15-week semester will end on April 30, with finals week following from May 3-7.
- Penn State is actively and carefully monitoring the situation regarding COVID-19. Please consult the Updates for the Penn State Community Coronavirus Information website.
- Please continue to check this page frequently for updates. Additional information is available in a comprehensive FAQ specifically for graduate students.
Given the rapidly changing circumstances due to the COVID-19 outbreak (e.g. school, daycare, and other business closures) that may make it difficult for graduate students to complete activities, supervisors of graduate students involved in research, teaching and other activities, and graduate student advisers overall should continue to provide flexibility for their graduate students.
Take Immediate Action if Feeling Ill
If you are ill with symptoms concerning for COVID-19, please contact your physician for advice. If anyone who is carrying out essential research activities displays minor symptoms of illness, including but not limited to cough or fever, that person must stay home, and they should notify their research supervisor as soon as possible so that plans for alternative coverage of those critical activities can be determined. If someone has any doubt about whether they could be ill, they should NOT come to campus.
The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak may be causing our graduate students to feel extra stress and anxiety. The CDC has released information for Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19, and Penn State resources are available to students at University Park through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and at the College of Medicine through the Office of Professional Mental Health.
The Graduate School’s Commitment to Student Success
The Graduate School recognizes that some Graduate Council academic requirements and other rules will need to be approached with flexibility during the COVID-19 outbreak. Exceptions and Other Adjustments to Graduate Council Academic Policies and Graduate School Administrative Policies In Response to COVID–19 Outbreak provides an outline of relevant policies and the appropriate adjustments. This document will be updated as needed.
The overarching goal of the University’s actions is to minimize the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and to safeguard the health and safety of the Penn State community. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and flexibility.
Graduate Students Serving as Instructors and/or Supporting Courses Offered by Other Instructors
Graduate student serving in this role should contact the department/instructor responsible for the respective courses for further guidance.
Guidance for Graduate Students Serving as TAs or Instructors of Record
Under normal operations, the University places a high value on in-person interactions between graduate students serving as TAs or Instructors of Record and their learners on campus. Current health and safety concerns will temporarily alter these normal expectations. This document provides graduate students serving as TAs or Instructors of Record with guidance on requesting teaching modes of instruction for the fall semester.
Below are some additional resources:
- Keep Teaching
- Keep Learning
- Instructional Design Support for Remote Teaching
- Guidance for Getting Started with Canvas
- Build a Course from Scratch in Canvas
- Contingency Planning for Undergraduate Education
Graduate Students Conducting Research for their Thesis/Dissertation or as Part of a Research Assistantship / Graduate Students Involved in Human Subjects Research:
On May 19, 2020, the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research in consultation with the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Medicine, provided guidance for the gradual and phased increase in on-campus research-related activities.
Research unit leaders (deans, chancellors, and institute directors) have been asked to work with principal investigators and the unit’s facility coordinator and safety officer to develop a plan with a schedule and a checklist for an organized, gradual, and phased return to research activities.
As stated in the guidance, “graduate students are required to have approval from their graduate program head to conduct on-campus research.” Graduate students should consult with their research adviser, director of graduate studies, and/or graduate program head for more information regarding how the return to research will be handled.
Graduate students who encounter challenges or have concerns returning to on-campus research are encouraged to follow the established process in their academic units for resolving problems and if unsuccessful, may seek assistance from Dr. Sarah Ades, Associate Dean for Graduate Student Affairs in the Graduate School. Graduate students may also seek formal accommodations from the Penn State’s Office of Student Disability Resources.
Graduate Students on Assistantships with Activities other than the Instructional Mission and Research
Students in these roles should contact their assistantship supervisor to discuss continuing their activities remotely. In keeping with the University’s announcement on March 20th, it is important that everyone, other than essential personnel, should not come to campus until otherwise notified.