Engineering Parents and Caregivers:
As the parent of an engineering student myself, and of a high schooler, I understand firsthand how unsettling this upcoming school year may feel. I am writing today to provide more context for how we here at Michigan Engineering – and not just the University – are approaching this problem.
First, I want to take a moment to personally assure you of our commitment to helping you and your Engineering student through this time. My team and I, joining with colleagues, faculty and students from around the University, have spent countless hours this summer working on these challenges. The decisions are complex and multifaceted, and range from academic and research excellence to mental and physical health and safety. The good news is that, as an engineering college, tackling multi-layered problems is our specialty.
This planning has included developing protocols and adjusting our processes, staffing and facilities to ensure the health and safety of all our learners, faculty and staff members, including reducing densities, enforcing the wearing of masks, building in social distancing and adding extra cleaning to our regular operations. We are spending the month of August in “readiness mode,” testing and refining our plans before students arrive.
We believe that education is critical to this society, and our jobs here at the University are to provide world-class education and research. We take that very seriously, and have used that lens in all of our planning to ensure that a high-quality Michigan Engineering education will be present in any scenario. The experiences of our students when the University switched, within one week, to an emergency, all-remote format will not be the experiences they have in the fall. Whether your student chooses to come to campus or remain home, they will receive the quality of education you expect from Michigan.
Michigan Engineering is uniquely equipped to provide this high-quality remote and hybrid experience – we’ve been doing it for decades. We are ranked #4 in online engineering graduate education by U.S. News & World Report precisely for that reason. We also spent the year before the pandemic establishing Nexus, our hub for online and hybrid learning. That foundation has allowed us to tackle preparing an entire faculty for this challenging semester much better than most of our peers. We have dedicated resources to assist our instructors with technology, course delivery and the principles of high-quality, inclusive teaching in any setting.
The University and administrators here at the College have provided numerous updates to your students regarding courses and registration, housing and dining, and assuring their health and safety should they choose to return to campus. There is a tremendous amount of information available for you and your student on everything ranging from our policy on masks, how students will be cared for in the event they fall ill, and the various course modalities being offered. These details can all be found on the University’s Campus Maize and Blueprint website, and the College’s COVID-19 site. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to explore these websites.
Rather than reiterate all of that content here, I wanted to provide a few highlights that I feel may be of particular concern for parents:
- We are offering a robust mix of high-quality hybrid and in-person courses in Engineering (nearly half of our courses are offering a face-to-face experience), and yet at the same time we are prepared to support students who choose a fully remote option. We respect both of those decisions, and will work hard to ensure your student is supported in either scenario.
- College services, staff, faculty and facilities will be open and available for students. We will be operating at a reduced capacity of 50% or less personnel on campus to reduce density for safety. However, virtually all of our offices – and in particular those surrounding student support – will be physically open. Additionally, your students will have access to the same world-class facilities as always, including food, technology and study options on North Campus.
- We will lead with empathy and flexibility, working to meet students’ needs. Mental, emotional and physical health and well-being are paramount. In addition to our regular support services through the Engineering Student Affairs Office, Michigan Engineering CARE Center and CAPS College of Engineering embedded counselors, we have added an online mental health tool called Silvercloud. Students who have technology or emergency financial needs can seek help through the Engineering Student Affairs Office. And, in the event that your student should fall ill while on campus, the University is providing access to support and space, both on and off campus, including meal delivery.
- We are being innovative and forward-thinking in our decisions. Tackling only the challenge in front of us is not enough – we must be prepared for what’s on the horizon. That mindset is how we’ve developed innovative solutions to everyday challenges, including our engineering faculty members leading the University’s evaluation and adjustment of our bus system, and implementing robotic delivery food service on North Campus.
As engineers, we tackle the wicked problems – and this most definitely is one. Top engineers need to understand problems firsthand. I firmly believe that students attending classes and being on campus during this time will be challenged in ways they may never expect, and will develop grit, resilience and adaptability traits that the engineering field needs. As a result, they will become better problem solvers and engineers.
Please be assured we are leading with our values, and keeping our mission first and foremost. I hope your student plans to attend the upcoming town hall for undergraduate students on Wednesday, 12 August, to ask additional questions and hear more information about our plans. But if there is any further information you need as you prepare for the fall, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Engineering Student Affairs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Alec D. Gallimore
Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering
Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor of Engineering
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor