As we prepare for fall, our priority continues to be the health and safety of our entire Volunteer community. The Re-Imagining Fall Task Force provided many excellent recommendations for how we can structure our fall semester, and I am sharing several key decisions that will impact our work in the coming weeks and months.
This weekend, the calendar committee provided a recommendation for an updated fall academic calendar, which I have accepted. The new calendar aims to minimize student travel to and from campus once the semester begins.
Under the new calendar, classes will begin as scheduled on Wednesday, August 19, and we will hold classes on Labor Day and the two days of fall break. We will provide employees a floating holiday for Labor Day. The last day of instruction for the semester will be Tuesday, November 24. November 30 and December 1 will be study days, and final exams will be held online December 2 through 9. Unfortunately, it is too soon to say how the spread of the virus will impact the dates for in-person commencement and hooding ceremonies.
For more information on the fall 2020 calendar, see the registrar’s website.
The move-out schedule will also be different this year. Students who live on campus will receive updated information and instructions for moving out of residence halls.
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor David Manderscheid and his staff, along with Dean of Libraries Steve Smith in his capacity as special advisor to the chancellor, will work with deans and department heads to undertake changes to the weekly class schedule. These changes will include greater use of available class time slots Monday through Friday, including evening slots if necessary. The goal is to reduce the density of student traffic by spreading classes out across the day and the week.
Determining online and hybrid offerings will be part of this effort. In face-to-face instructional settings, students will be spaced properly and protective measures will be in place. We will also add time between classes to improve distancing during transitions. These and other ideas from the task force report will help protect the health of students and instructors.
In the coming days, Provost Manderscheid will provide additional information about professional development resources for faculty to support robust, high-quality hybrid and online courses. These include additional Virtual Vol Bootcamp training sessions; the Faculty Fellows program, which empowers and trains faculty to provide their peers with direct instructional design support; and the First-Year Academy to help instructors best engage first-year students across multiple platforms.
In addition, we are exploring the creation of first-year cohorts to help develop community for our new students. The Divisions of Student Life and Student Success are identifying ways to engage all students in the Volunteer campus experience—in person and virtually.
This situation continues to evolve, and we have a lot to do in the 12 weeks before the start of classes. My team will continue to provide regular updates on decisions stemming from the exceptional work done by the Re-Imagining Fall Task Force, its subcommittees, and all those who provided input from across campus.
The work of our faculty and staff to support our students continues to inspire me. I know that together we will lead our campus in providing exceptional teaching, resources, and engagement for our students. We will emerge a stronger university this fall and beyond.