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Message from Dean Randolph to Students - Student Fall Quarter Preparations

Dear Weinberg College student,

You recently received a note from Interim Provost Hagerty and Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier with information about the Fall Quarter. This follows up on an earlier note from Associate Provosts Miriam Sherin and Kelly Mayo. We—Adrian Randolph, Dean of Weinberg College, Mary Finn, Associate Dean of Academic Undergraduate Affairs, and Ann Bradlow, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in Weinberg College—write to echo their warm words of support in anticipation of welcoming you to the start of Fall Quarter and to offer you some more information specific to Weinberg College. 

At moments like this, the virtues of creativity, flexibility, and humility are particularly valuable. These are qualities that our interdisciplinary education seeks to inculcate. So in this time of crisis, it has never been more important to commit to these values. In this way, we can as a community support you on your path toward your degrees as we all work individually and collectively to navigate these unsettling times.

With this in mind, let’s turn to the curriculum. As you have learned, courses will be offered three ways this fall: 1) fully remote (either asynchronous or synchronous); 2) face-to-face or 3) hybrid (a combination of remote and face-to-face instruction). Most courses will be fully remote. Students who wish to enroll in a hybrid course but do not plan to return to campus may do so; in other words, you will be able to participate in hybrid courses as a fully remote student. Given the uncertainties, we must ensure the foundation of your education is robust.  Let me emphasize two points regarding this.

First, we are committed to helping each of you to progress appropriately toward your degree, whether you are an entering first-year student starting the prerequisites for your intended major, a senior finishing your degree, or a graduate student pursuing a Master’s or PhD. Courses offered remotely will be offered reliably in that mode for the whole quarter, regardless of developments due to the pandemic, and anyone can take them, whether they are in Evanston, somewhere else in the United States, or abroad.

Second, fall instructors will come prepared to teach in the fully remote and/or hybrid environment after a summer of intensive pedagogical and technological training. As a community, we are learning lessons from the spring and engaging proactively with the very best pedagogical practices. Having participated in our training workshops as we prepare our own fall courses, we can personally attest to the extraordinary energy both our faculty and our learning technologists are bringing to our shared goal: offering students an excellent education.

But let me also reassure you that we are planning for ways we can all interact on campus this fall both in and out of the classroom. Given the situation, our plans are appropriately dynamic and fluid. We have some plans already in place and we are prepared to create more opportunities for face-to-face curricular and co-curricular meetings as the term unfolds, should it be safe to do so. Northwestern is now in the midst of a phased re-opening of buildings on campus. In September, when the weather here is usually very inviting, we are encouraging instructors of face-to-face and hybrid courses to make plans to meet with students outside—wearing masks and physically distanced in line with campus policies—on our beautiful Evanston campus. As you have learned from previous communications, we will be ensuring that everyone on campus has access to appropriate face-coverings, that our spaces are cleaned and disinfected regularly, that students and instructors have access to disinfectant for their workspaces, and that there are clear signs that help us all observe the policies put in place by the University for our collective wellbeing (temperature checks, testing, and daily self-monitoring for symptoms). You can attend tomorrow’s webinar, or watch it later, for more information. Moreover, as you have learned, we will be asking all students to participate in “Wildcat Wellness,” which responds to the local conditions in Illinois and aims at ensuring the health and wellbeing of our community.

In the coming days, you will be asked about your plans for Fall and in advance of returning to campus, you will be asked to agree to a set of community expectations and required to take the Return to Campus training. These are ways for you to become part of the solution as we implement the very best expert advice in addressing the pandemic.

These measures, and others, will be complemented by regular update communications from us and other campus leaders. Because, if we have learnt anything over the last months, it is to be prepared to collaborate nimbly, in concert and with empathy for others, while following the advice of the best medical and public health experts. We have many of those at Northwestern, and their research and advice guides everything we do. So please also take advantage of the resources mentioned in the messages you receive:

• Webinar Series for First-year Students’ Parents and Families

• Northwestern’s Purple Prep program for undergraduate first-year and transfer students, and, in particular Weinberg College’s Purple Prep page

• Wildcat Welcome, an orientation program for undergraduate students

• Orientation for graduate students, and a special orientation for international graduate students

In addition, please do consult these resources, specific to Weinberg College:

Undergraduate Students:

• Undergraduate Studies and Advising 

• Advising and Support

• First Year and Transfer Information

Graduate Students:

• Graduate Student Resources

All this information may seem overwhelming, but we are driven by the desire to make sure you have what you need to make your experience the best it can be under difficult circumstances.

Know that we are all looking forward to seeing you, whether in one of our Weinberg classroom buildings, crossing Deering meadow, or on a screen, and we are prepared to help you on your paths toward degrees. Obviously, these paths may not be the same ones you or we imagined before the pandemic. We acknowledge that you may encounter unexpected constraints and challenges but, our core values of creativity, flexibility, and humility will serve us well through thick and thin. We want your creative responses to the online pedagogical environment that will be the norm for most of us for some time; we must all be flexible, as we respond to the twists and turns of the health crisis; and we should all remain humble in the face of this crisis, acknowledging and addressing, when possible, the concerns of other members of our community. We do not know everything, and future conditions may mean we have to adjust our plans. This is always the case, but it seems even more valuable to remind ourselves of this now.

If you have concerns about academic matters, undergraduates should reach out to the Weinberg College Advising Office; graduate students should reach out to the appropriate Director of Graduate Studies. In addition, feel free to explore the Weinberg College website, which will provide you with further information about whom to contact for specific concerns or questions.

We do hope that despite everything, you have found the summer meaningful and restorative. We hope, moreover, that you are looking forward to the Fall Quarter. Wherever you are, and whatever your plans are, we are so glad to have you in the Weinberg College community for an academic year that we hope will provide you with avenues for intellectual and personal growth.

Adrian Randolph

Dean of Weinberg College

Mary Finn

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs, Weinberg College

Ann Bradlow

Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, Weinberg College

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