Graduate School / COVID-19 FAQs

COVID-19 FAQs

Frequently asked questions related to graduate education and COVID-19.

If you have a question related to graduate education and COVID-19 that isn't answered here, please visit the Safe Campus website and/or submit your question via this Google Form. Graduate School staff will respond to you as soon as possible.

Information for Directors of Graduate Studies/Graduate Program Coordinators regarding COVID-19

For Students/Prospective Students

How can I take an English language proficiency exam while testing centers are closed?

TOEFL and IELTS are offering at-home versions of their traditional exams. Check with the TOEFL and IELTS websites for the latest information and details for your country. Pearson continues to offer in-person exams in many countries.

How are processing for i20s and visa interviews affected by COVID-19?

  • As of late March, visa services have been suspended at US consulates worldwide and we do not know when visa services will resume
  • The Graduate School Admissions Office will continue to process and ship I-20 documents despite embassy closures. Students should check with their local consulates regularly for the most up-to-date information on the resumption of visa services, and schedule appointments as soon as they are able.

I'm an international student already in the U.S. at another institution. Do I need to travel overseas for visa purposes or visit a U.S. consulate before starting my grad program?

These students are NOT required to travel overseas for visa purposes and they are NOT required to visit a US consulate before starting their grad program at the U of M. 

For Faculty/Staff

What if a matriculated student is unable to travel to the U.S. before the beginning of the 2020 fall semester?

Programs are encouraged to consider alternative learning options and/or deferring students’ admission until they are able to arrive in the U.S. More information about options for international students

What if an international student is already in the U.S. at another institution?

These students are NOT required to travel overseas for visa purposes and they are NOT required to visit a U.S. consulate before starting their grad program at the U of M. In general you should expect these students to be able to report to campus just as a domestic student would.

 

The University of Minnesota has moved to a Sunrise Plan for operations with an overarching goal of protecting the health and well-being of students, staff, and faculty who return to on-site work. Our current sunrise stage allows some approved on-site research activities but is limited to work that can only be performed on-site and only with safety measures that reduce viral transmission risk to a minimum. Please see "COVID-19 Guidance for the Research Community" for details and the most up-to-date information.

What online teaching resources are available for TAs?

There are currently two central locations where TAs can get support for online teaching:

The Keep Teaching website includes:
  • Support for academic technology (i.e. teaching with Zoom and Canvas)
  • Online consultations
The Center for Educational Innovation website includes:

During this time period, will electronic signatures from committee members be acceptable on prelim and final oral exam forms? 

Academic Support Resources is committed to minimizing impacts on degree progress or degree clearance for students. Contact GSSP at gssp@umn.edu to discuss options for alternate signatures.

I’m scheduled to take my doctoral preliminary oral soon. What are my options? Can I take the exam off site? 

In-person events like doctoral preliminary oral examinations must be conducted electronically to allow for off-site participation until further notice. Refer to information about requirements and best practices related to the University’s policy allowing for remote participation in graduate examinations. Using Zoom to conduct the examination is strongly recommended. Refer to the “Using Zoom for Meetings or Exams” FAQ for tech assistance related to Zoom.

One of my doctoral advisees is scheduled to defend their dissertation soon. What are our options? Can the student participate from an off-site location? Can the committee members do so? 

In-person events like doctoral preliminary oral examinations must be conducted electronically to allow for off-site participation until further notice. Refer to information about requirements and best practices related to the University’s policy allowing for remote participation in graduate examinations. Using Zoom to conduct the examination is strongly recommended. Refer to the “Using Zoom for Meetings or Exams” FAQ for tech assistance related to Zoom.

The final doctoral defense requires a public presentation prior to the closed examination. Is that still required? 

Yes. University policy requires the doctoral final oral examination to include a public presentation of the dissertation to the doctoral final oral examination committee/invited scholarly community, followed by a closed session (open only to the doctoral final oral examination committee and the student) immediately following the public presentation. Using Zoom to conduct both the public presentation and final oral examination is strongly recommended. Refer to the “Using Zoom for Meetings or Exams” FAQ for tech assistance related to Zoom.

Our program’s doctoral preliminary written examinations are scheduled to be given soon. Students are required to sit for the examination at a specified UMN site with a proctor. Do we have to reschedule/cancel this semester’s scheduled prelim written exam? 

In-person events, including doctoral preliminary written exams, are not currently allowed. Rescheduling, or reformatting the delivery method, to address current restrictions is within the purview of each graduate program and in collaboration with the college.

Our graduate program has master’s students scheduled to take their final oral examinations this semester. Can the student and committee members participate remotely? 

In-person events like master’s final oral examinations must be conducted electronically to allow for off-site participation until further notice. Refer to information about requirements and best practices related to the University’s policy allowing for remote participation in graduate examinations. Using Zoom to conduct the examination is strongly recommended. Refer to the “Using Zoom for Meetings or Exams” FAQ for tech assistance related to Zoom.

I am the chairperson for an upcoming preliminary oral, and we will be using Zoom to conduct the exam. How do I access Zoom? Where can I find information about how to use it? 

The University’s OIT recently activated “Zoom for GSuite”. You should see the icon on the right side of your Google calendar and/or Gmail. Note that programs that have already done remote exams have learned that the exams take longer than usual. Please plan accordingly. The following Zoom meeting self-help guides and webinar tutorial are available:

What are the University's travel restrictions?

On 06/15/20, the restriction against non-essential international travel for University purposes—which applies to students, faculty, and staff—was extended through August 15. The University will continue to follow public health guidance and revisit this issue in mid-July. See the U Travel website for information on financial implications and employee travel costs of canceling University purpose travel.

How do I submit forms to the Graduate Student Services and Progress (GSSP) office? 

The GSSP office strongly encourages individuals to email forms/documents to gssp@umn.edu to ensure the quickest service. Those unable to send via email should contact gssp@umn.edu to discuss alternative options.

When we conduct virtual milestone examinations (master’s finals, doctoral preliminary and final orals), what do we do about obtaining the required signatures from the committee members? 

The Graduate Student Services and Progress office (GSSP) is introducing flexibility around their signature standards. Electronic signatures, such as DocuSign and mouse-based signatures, will be accepted on graduate and professional student forms, such as examination forms, submitted to GSSP. Please contact the GSSP office directly at gssp@umn.edu with questions about e-signatures.

What can you tell me about the a recent proclamation by the U.S. government that will ban the entry of certain F-1 and J-1 graduate students and visiting scholars from China effective June 1, 2020?

There is a lot that is unknown about the details of the proclamation and how it will be implemented, but we want to be clear that this does not affect undergraduate students who are currently studying in the United States and does not have any immediate impact on current graduate students or scholars.

The proclamation states that it does NOT apply to:

  • All new and continuing undergraduate students regardless of their majors
  • All legal permanent residents
  • A spouse of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident
  • F-1 or J-1 graduate students or visiting scholars "in a field involving information that would not contribute to the PRC’s military‑civil fusion strategy" (This section of the proclamation is vague and will be defined by the U.S. Secretaries of State and Homeland Security. We will update you as we know more.)

The focus of the proclamation is on new graduate F-1 or J-1 students and visiting scholars with connections to an entity in the People's Republic of China “that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy,'" which is broadly defined as "actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities."

The proclamation also says that the U.S. Secretary of State may determine if current F-1 or J-1 graduate students and visiting scholars who meet the criteria regarding involvement in "military-fusion strategy" could have their visas revoked. Again, this is vague and we do not have further guidance at this time. Note that visa revocation is not the same thing as being forced to leave the U.S.; it means the person no longer has permission to enter the U.S. if they leave.

If you have concerns about your specific situation, reach out to ISSS. We will try our best to address your concerns, but please understand there may be many questions we are not yet able to answer without further information from the U.S. Secretary of State.

You may be eligible for CARES Act funding. Please see the One Stop Student Services CARES Act website for eligibility and application information. If you have any questions about eligibility or what to expect, please contact One Stop Student Services

Last update:  June 8, 2020 

In response to Governor Walz's Emergency Order for Minnesotans to stay at home, President Gabel and the Board of Regents declared a Public Health Emergency for the University. The UMD Graduate Student Association assembled a series of questions reflecting concerns about how systemwide campus closures affect your studies, and we'd like to address those and other questions here.

Who is allowed on campus at this time? [updated 6/8/20]

A small number of employees designated as "essential personnel” are permitted on campus.  This including individuals working in areas such as:

  • COVID-19 research that has the potential to mitigate the pandemic’s spread;
  • Certain biomedical/clinical research that, if paused, would harm its research participants;
  • Procedures to maintain critical research infrastructure. For example: animal care, irreplaceable cell lines, laboratory equipment that requires gas or cryogenic monitoring, etc.;
  • Activities that, if discontinued, would result in significant degradation of safety.

 In addition, faculty, staff, and graduate students who need to use campus equipment or facilities in their research are permitted to be on campus through the UMN Sunrise Plan.  

 Bottom line:  Stay safe and work from home when you can.

What is the plan for the fall 2020 semester? [updated 6/8/20]

The public health situation continues to evolve, but as described in a letter from the Chancellor’s Office on Friday, June 5, the Fall Scenarios Advisory Team plans to recommend in-person instruction for fall 2020, with appropriate health and safety measures in place. This plan is subject to Board of Regents approval, and may need to be adapted as circumstances warrant.

What happens to funding for GTAs and GRAs in the summer and next semester? 

President Gabel has made it clear that UMN will honor commitments through this semester.  At this time, we expect that assistantships (GTA or GRA) that have been previously offered for Summer 2020 or Fall 2020 will continue to be supported.  However, because our world situation remains fluid, opportunities for assistantships may change as the pandemic evolves.  We will keep you posted as we learn more.  

If you become ill, need to be quarantined, or are caring for others due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for Emergency Paid Leave.  

How are lab and field research impacted by the closure of research labs now and possibly into the summer, and how might this affect progress toward graduation? 

President Gabel has outlined a process for reopening University research facilities, so some limited on-site research through the Sunrise Plan. UMD has a process for faculty to request approval of limited travel for local critical field programs for themselves and their research group.  However, in general, travel restrictions for UMN employees remain in effect through June 30, and we will keep you posted as we learn more.  In any case, students should discuss the potential impact of lack of access to labs or ability to undertake fieldwork with their advisors and DGSs.  It may be appropriate to consider a shift in focus from experimental or observational research to theoretical or modeling approaches. Similarly, it may be worth exploring whether a Plan B Project (with additional coursework) might be better aligned with educational and professional goals than a Plan A Thesis.  

Is there a site-specific location for resources available to students impacted by COVID-19?  

The Graduate School has a central FAQ page that is regularly updated as new questions arise. Questions may be submitted directly to the Graduate School using the Google form linked from the FAQ page. 

Messages to the UMD graduate student mailing list will also contain updated information from both system and campus leaders as appropriate.

For campus-specific information, visit the UMD COVID-19 Information page. Students are also receiving information about campus resources via email from the Vice Chancellor for Student Life.  Messages are archived on the Student Life website. Some available resources are:

What resources are available to address international student concerns?

In addition to the messages from the Vice Chancellor for Student Life, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is posting resources and updates via their Facebook page, and UMD International Student Services staff are available to provide individualized advising to students remotely.

 Students may also find the COVID-19 related links on the Twin Cities’ International Students and Scholars Services page helpful. Keep in mind that requests for advising appointments should be made to local ISS staff.

What should I do if my question is not answered above?

Graduate students should contact their programs or the Graduate Office with any questions not answered here. Or, feel free to submit questions to be included in updates to this UMD Grad School FAQ page ー it's likely that many of your fellow students have the same concerns.