COVID-19 Information

2020–2021 Academic Year Information

Date: June 29, 2020

From: Dean Abramson

Dear Thayer Community,

As we launch into summer, Thayer faculty and staff are hard at work planning not only for a safe and successful term, but also for the entire year. In that spirit, I want to provide you with a few updates, especially given the recent communication from the President and Provost.

At Dartmouth, we pride ourselves on our commitment to the delivery of a high quality education, and we view the challenge of doing so remotely as mission-critical. It is important to note that while we intend to transition back to our distinct, fully in-person learning community as soon as safely possible, the transition back will be phased and gradual, with our community’s health and well-being foremost in mind. 

Health and Safety

New Hampshire has been successful in containing and managing the spread of COVID-19, but we know that a second wave of infection is likely, and that it will require a rapid and comprehensive response within our community. There is much we still do not know about this disease. Our plans, therefore, must address risks to the future health and safety of our students, who will come to Hanover from around the globe, as well as for the health of our faculty, our staff, and the Upper Valley community that surrounds us.

Student Arrival to Hanover (new and returning BE/MEM/MS/PhD students)

Amidst this historic pandemic, we want you to join us in the Hanover area when you feel you are in the position to safely be here. We also understand that individual circumstances such as visa and travel issues, personal health, and other considerations may affect your plans. As noted below, courses will assume various formats beginning in the fall, but if you are considering delaying your arrival, please contact the relevant Program Directors or Academic and Student Affairs Office to discuss your options (see contact information below). We will work with you to postpone enrollment, implement a leave of absence, or adjust tuition deadlines should your plans change due to extenuating circumstances. We stand ready to help you navigate these issues.

Note that when you arrive in the Hanover area, you will be required to quarantine for 14-days before coming to campus and as necessary to adhere to the current New Hampshire or Vermont State guidelines (depending on where you reside). We will keep you apprised of the specific requirements for quarantining off-campus as additional information becomes available.

For our new Thayer students, we are in the process of planning a virtual orientation program, which will be available online beginning the first week of September. More information and details are forthcoming from our Academic and Student Affairs Office.
As your plans take shape, please look out for and respond to a survey for information that will be forthcoming from the Academic and Student Affairs office. 

2020–2021 Courses

Thayer will begin the fall term on Sept. 14 as scheduled. Thayer’s full course schedule for the 2020-2021 academic year will be available no later than July 15. Some instruction and faculty office hours will be held remotely this year, although other courses will have in-person components. For some courses in the engineering program, there is an acknowledged value of peer-to-peer interaction for project work and the ability to train on or near equipment that can only be found on campus. We will release an updated course schedule later in the summer that specifies which fall classes will be optimized for Hanover-based students and include in-person components. A similar update will be provided prior to both winter and spring terms. 

To accommodate illness, isolation, and quarantine requirements, even in-person courses will have recorded lectures and a provision for “going remote” if the situation on the ground changes. Most classes will employ remote learning at the start of the term to accommodate varying student arrival dates and the requirement of a 14-day quarantine period prior to coming to campus.

As of today, no courses have been removed from the annual schedule. However, students may need to adjust their expected program plan to accommodate changes, and we acknowledge that students with individual circumstances may necessitate alternative plans. This additional flexibility is designed to reduce pressure on all students, so that you may make decisions based on safety and comfort rather than the course calendar. Remote advising is available for students who have specific, individual questions on courses or about their overall academic plans (see contact information below). 

BE (Fifth-year) Students

As a Thayer fifth year BE student, you are allowed to be on campus for any and all terms during the academic year. Regardless of your individual situation, we will help you navigate a pathway to complete the BE in one, two, or three terms, per your original plans. In consultation with your advisors, you will be allowed to change your residence pattern and “on terms” to suit your personal and academic needs. 

To better align with your potential enrollment pattern, we already have added sections of several core courses. This includes a second offering of 89/90 so that you may enroll in F-W, or in W-S (there is no F-S option). Some 89/90 projects, though not all, will be remote-friendly, ensuring that students who choose not to reside in Hanover in either term can successfully complete the project.

You will find that some courses have switched terms to better accommodate the anticipated residential schedule of seniors pursuing the BE concurrently with the AB, and to accommodate students who elect the W-S 89/90 option. After course schedules are finalized on July 15, we will ask you to commit to one of the two offerings of 89/90 so that the Cook Engineering Design Center can source the appropriate number of projects. Recognizing that many of our graduate courses also include BE candidates, faculty are working to accommodate residential patterns, learning location, and comfort levels of individual students, in addition to college guidance. 

Now, more than ever, individualized advising is critical for success in the BE program. We will be in touch starting next week to ensure that you are in contact with an advisor familiar with the curricular adjustments so you can make informed decisions.

MEM Students

First-year MEMs:
All first-year MEM fall term courses will be delivered in a remote format. These include courses in the standard fall curriculum: Statistics, Marketing, Technology Assessment, and MEM Professional Skills. For those in the Hanover area, we also anticipate having small group meetings on campus (for example, for team projects), and some in-class discussions. Unless there is a significant change in the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect winter and spring classes to follow a similar hybrid approach to education.

Second-year MEMs:
Most second-year MEM students have only fall term electives to complete. Those who are unable to join us in person this fall shouldn’t worry as we expect most, if not all, of our popular electives to be available remotely. For those in the Hanover area, we also anticipate having small group meetings on campus (for example, for team projects), and some in-class discussions. As stated above, Thayer will soon release an updated course schedule that will specify which classes will have in-person components so that you can best determine what makes the most sense for you. For those here beyond fall term, unless there is a significant change in the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect winter and spring classes to follow a similar hybrid approach to education.

MS/PhD Students

Some graduate courses will be optimized for Hanover-based learners to accommodate in-person interaction and enable access to laboratories and other facilities; other courses will be delivered remotely or in a hybrid format. Our laboratories are open with controlled access and various protocols in place. Procedures for laboratory-based research have been announced in prior messages to current students, research staff, and faculty advisors, and updates will continue to be provided throughout the summer, including to new, incoming MS/PhD students.

AB Students (including concurrent BEs)

Specific guidance for undergraduate students was provided in today’s communication from the President and Provost. Regardless of your individual situation, we will maintain a flexible pathway to complete the AB (and BE) remotely, as needed. For those planning to complete the BE, you will be allowed to reconsider whether you wish to complete in four or five years, based on your personal and academic needs. 

To better align with anticipated enrollment patterns, we already have added sections of several core courses, including a second offering of 89/90, so that you may enroll in F-W, or in W-S (there is no F-S option). Some 89/90 projects, though not all, will be remote-friendly, ensuring that students who choose not to reside in Hanover in either term can successfully complete the project.

You will find some courses have switched terms to better accommodate the anticipated residential schedule of seniors pursuing the BE concurrently with the AB, and to accommodate students who elect the W-S 89/90 option. As a reminder, 89/90 is not required for the AB major, only the BE degree. For those planning to choose 89/90 as an elective, after the course schedules are finalized on July 15, we will ask you to commit to one of the two offerings of 89/90 so that the Cook Engineering Design Center can source the appropriate number of projects. 

Now, more than ever, individualized advising is critical for success in the AB and AB/BE programs. Starting next week, we will be in touch to ensure that you are in contact with an advisor familiar with the curricular adjustments so that you can make informed decisions.

Campus Life

As the President and Provost suggested, the reality of COVID-19 means that the campus environment will be different this fall. There will be limitations on even moderate-sized gatherings, social activities, and lectures. We will have new protocols for using campus buildings and common spaces, restricted travel with self-quarantine protocols, contact tracing, a requirement to wear face coverings everywhere but private spaces, enhanced cleaning procedures, staggered scheduling and reconfigured workspaces, and limited access to buildings. Even so, we are fully committed to providing support, resources, and opportunities to connect across the Thayer Community as well as the larger Dartmouth Community, whether you are remote or living within the Upper Valley area. 

As part of a collective commitment to our community, all those working and living on-site will be required to participate in daily health screening via an app or website. We also will mandate virus testing prior to arrival or return to campus and regularly thereafter. We are mindful of the need to maintain individual privacy, and test results will be made available only to those who need access in order to address this aspect of community health. This will likely include testing of employees coming to campus who have traveled outside the area before the start of the term.
Specific questions regarding access to campus facilities and the ability to socialize and travel have yet to be answered. Please stay tuned for more detailed guidance coming soon. You always can find the most up-to-date information on COVID-19-related policies available on Dartmouth’s COVID-19 webpage.

Returning-to-Work

As on-site activity increases this fall, many faculty and staff will be returning to campus to some extent. Faculty who are teaching in the fall have begun working with Associate Dean Doug Van Citters on course planning and to determine if in-person components will be integrated into their courses. Research staff and faculty have begun returning to their labs and offices while following detailed health protocols. All managers will be following up with individual staff members to discuss plans going forward. Separate communications and guidelines will continue to be provided regarding the phased reopening of our research laboratories. As we make decisions about the fall, we will follow Dartmouth’s guidelines on moving into the “Less Limited Access” phase. As mentioned previously, our plans always will consider the health and safety of the Thayer Community and the Upper Valley community that surrounds us.

Contact Information

Students with general questions or concerns, please reach out to Assistant Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Holly Wilkinson (holly.wilkinson@dartmouth.edu) or our Graduate Admissions and Financial Aid Administrator Candace Potter (candace.s.potter@dartmouth.edu). 
 
Staff with questions or concerns, please reach out to your manager or Peg DeLucia, Director of Human Resources at Thayer (margaret.delucia@dartmouth.edu). 

Faculty with questions or concerns about:

 
MS/PhD students with specific questions about your research program should reach out to your individual faculty advisors or Ian Baker, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate and Research Programs (ian.baker@dartmouth.edu). 
 
MEM students with specific questions about the MEM program should reach out to Ross Gortner, Associate Director of the MEM Program (ross.aiken.gortner.iii@dartmouth.edu).
 
BE students with specific questions about the BE program should reach out to Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Douglas Van Citters (douglas.w.van.citters@dartmouth.edu) and CC Jenna Wheeler (jenna.d.wheeler@dartmouth.edu).
 
We appreciate your patience and support as we continue to adapt to these uncertain times. As many of the finer details are still being worked out, we pledge to keep you well informed of our plans. 

Be well, be safe, and be a source of support for one another.

Sincerely,
Alexis