Dear Students,

I deeply admire the response of students and faculty to our first online residency. We came together as a community, and thanks to your perseverance and active participation, we successfully made this residency a rich learning experience. It was not easy; many of you shared about feeling fatigued after sitting in front of a computer all day and of missing being with each other, especially during such an unsettled time. Thank you for your commitment.

In the daily surveys, many of you shared that a highlight of the experience was weaving COVID-19 and current events into your class discussions. In recent weeks, we have all seen that the challenges posed by COVID-19 are rapidly changing across our country and the world. These challenges have significant personal impacts. Naturally, you are looking for clarity about how the remainder of the semester will unfold so that you can plan and manage your responsibilities.

Changes to April and May Residencies

Considering guidance from public health leaders and the thoughts and feelings shared by students and faculty in the residency surveys, we have decided to move both the April and May Residencies online. This is a temporary change due to extraordinary circumstances. PGS will return to our model with monthly in-person residencies in the Fall.

At the suggestion of some faculty and students, we are making changes to how the residencies will be organized to lessen fatigue associated with online instruction while also improving the opportunity for engagement.

The current residency schedule will continue as planned. All classes will be held on the same day as previously scheduled. However, based on student and faculty feedback, faculty now have the flexibility to shorten the residency to a minimum of four hours. The remainder of the instruction time, up to 3 hours, can be completed asynchronously before residency. The idea is that during this out of class time, students will be assigned content that can be consumed individually in preparation for the residency — video lectures, for example. Residency time in this structure will be reserved for in-depth discussion and conversation. This will, per your feedback, alleviate the strain of being in front of the computer for extended periods. Also, you have more control over your schedule because you can complete the asynchronous hours when it is convenient.

Since all classes are different, faculty have the flexibility to plan what mix of in-class/out of class hours works best. Your professors will shortly contact you regarding the specific plan for your classes; please stay tuned.

Staying connected

Despite limits on gathering together, we would love to encourage virtual connections to keep the PGS community spirit thriving. The Student Experience Team is working in partnership with students to develop a schedule of virtual meet-ups throughout the semester, which will be posted on the Google Student Life Calendar and in the Commons newsletter in early April. If you are interested in holding an event, please submit an Event Request Form. A special appreciation to all students who have already stepped up to organize events. Also, to the Student Reps who are developing a schedule of office hours and town hall meetings for the community to connect. Finally, although it is still early, we will plan a joyous summer event for the community to gather in-person and reconnect as soon as we are able (following public health guidelines).

Commencement

While we hope to hold Commencement as planned, we will be gathering feedback from graduating students on their preferences for Commencement planning, decision making, and alternatives. Graduates, please stay tuned for that survey.

Asking for help

We appreciate that actions taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve of serious illness may weigh directly on you, your families, and your communities. If you need assistance dealing with these additional stresses, Julie Cosenza, Director of Student Experience, is available for individual support and referrals. Schedule an appointment with her here.

Thank you for reading this long update, and please let me know if you have further questions, feedback, or ideas. We are all in this together.

Sincerely,

Liz