Getting ready to come back in the fall

Team Michigan Engineering:

Depending on how you are counting, it has been approximately 100 days since we all left campus en masse to continue our work from home. Since then, much has changed about our daily routines to ensure we could flatten the curve of COVID-19 here in Michigan.

I am now pleased to join President Mark S. Schlissel in announcing that the University will have a public health-informed in-residence semester this fall! This means the resumption of instruction and associated activities on campus in August. 

Equipped with the very best guidance and ideas from our leading scholars, innovative students and expert staff – including many of you here in Engineering – we will welcome students to the Ann Arbor campus, classrooms and residence halls.

It will, of course, look and feel very different due to the challenges of COVID-19. Within Engineering, we will be asking that each person join in prudent health and safety actions that will embody our values – and a commitment to caring for one another. We must consider issues of inclusivity and safety while at the same time providing excellent customer service for our faculty, staff and students.

I am pleased to say that we have engaged in a successful Research “Re-engagement” for our experimentalists that followed all necessary safety and health measures. This gives me great confidence in our ability to welcome students back in the fall in a safe and inclusive environment. 

The University’s Maize and Blueprint website provides comprehensive information about the implementation plan, guiding principles and current status. It will be updated regularly as more details are finalized. 

Here are some of the key highlights:

  • A modified academic calendar, reducing travel and leaving a longer winter break;
  • A mixture of in-person and remote instruction, with large lectures likely to be remote while labs and design classes endeavor to be delivered in-person;
  • Multiple layers of safeguards simultaneously that will combine to form a “stackable” set of interwoven interventions to keep members of our community safe;
  • Continued use of remote work for many employees to keep density down on campus and protect our community; and
  • Plans developed to protect vulnerable members of our community.

Although the University’s plans are comprehensive, there are still many details to be worked out. You are likely to have more questions, and I can assure you that the College’s COVID Action Teams will work diligently on those answers. We welcome your feedback or questions here, and encourage you to use the College’s COVID website as a resource.

Much work is underway in Engineering to ensure we are ready:

  • Our Continuity of Education committee is currently soliciting information from departments regarding summer recording needs, classroom size and specific class needs in order to ensure a mix of high-quality experiences. 
  • Faculty have recently received a survey to assess comfort and concerns about returning to campus and classrooms.
  • Our Return to Operations committee is working with unit and department leadership to assess needs and concerns, and develop customized plans for staffing to ensure quality customer-facing services for our faculty, staff and students during normal business hours in a manner consistent with the guidance from our public health experts. 

We will continue to update you with all the information we have, as we have it. You can expect to receive a follow-up email from our associate deans and other Cabinet members over the course of the coming weeks, as well as regular information through the weekly Engineering Update.

In the meantime, there is work each of you can do to ensure our success. I encourage all faculty members to evaluate their courses now, and work with resources within the College to determine the best mix of in-person and remote education. Staff should be speaking with their supervisors and unit/department/division leadership about their needs and concerns regarding remote or on-site work.

I want to stress to everyone that I am incredibly proud of the energy and care I have seen to date in ensuring Michigan Engineering continues to provide a world-class experience in a safe environment. Because of that, I have every confidence in our ability to provide an innovative, in-person fall 2020 designed to meet the needs of our students and advance our mission.

We will continue to monitor the conditions of COVID-19 – major changes could mean a need to adjust parts of our plan. As always, we will need to remain agile and ready to adapt as circumstances change. I ask for your continued resilience, and a shared commitment to living our values and achieving our mission. We each have a responsibility to be safe and protect our community through our actions. 

Thank you for your dedication, and Go Blue!