6/16/20 Message to Faculty and Staff

June 16, 2020

From Anupma Prakash, provost and executive vice chancellor

Dear faculty and staff:

As we prepare for fall semester, I am writing to share details about our academic planning. First, let me assure you that, even though the coming semester may look different, all UAF students can expect the same excellent education that we have always provided. Also be assured that we have the safety of our students, faculty and staff in mind as the UAF community works together to bring students back to campus in the fall.

As we plan for the fall semester and beyond, we are being mindful of trends in our community and of our responsibility to provide as safe an environment as possible. Our approach to planning is guided by a phased operations plan that takes into account community conditions and specifies protective measures we must follow. It is possible that UAF could move forward or backward through the phases as community conditions change.

Fall calendar and schedule

UAF's fall semester will begin on Monday, Aug. 24, as published in the 2020-2021 academic calendar. We have decided that we will offer a mixture of in-person, distance and hybrid courses. We will hold face-to-face classes to the extent that we are able to safely accommodate students in our classrooms while following state mandates and public health guidelines.

Our fall class schedule will be modified with three primary considerations in mind. First, we must follow guidance from the state on physical distancing in order to maintain a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff. Second, our decisions should not delay a student’s ability to complete their degree. Finally, for students planning to attend or live in a residence hall at one of UAF’s campuses, we want to make as much of their learning available to them in person while ensuring that we use our classroom space according to reduced capacity guidelines.

With that context, and in consultation with deans, department chairs and faculty, we will revise the fall class schedule in order to (1) maintain a full array of general education, major, minor and elective courses both in person and partly or fully online; (2) identify which courses must be offered in person and those that can be offered at a distance; and (3) minimize the amount of dropping and adding courses that students will need to do. We will look at available classrooms and make adjustments where necessary to maintain safe gathering size limitations issued by the state. We will do what is necessary to protect the health and safety of UAF students, faculty and staff.

As we review the class schedule and make necessary changes, the following will guide our decisions:

  • All classes that deliver face-to-face instruction will follow state and university guidelines for social distancing.
  • We will prioritize certain types of classes for face-to-face instruction: classes that require hand-on instruction such as technical training, labs, art, music and theater.
  • Individual classes may be rescheduled for different times or classrooms; however, instruction will begin and end according to our established academic calendar. Further, the class time blocks will not change.
  • Classes with enrollments at or below the current (50%) room capacity guidelines may be provided a room that accommodates physical distancing requirements.
  • Classes with current enrollments greater than 50% of available room capacity may be broken into smaller sections, changed from an in-person to online modality, or adapted to a hybrid in person/online model.
  • Given UAF’s classroom inventory and state guidelines, no section larger than 40 is possible in a regular classroom. Our auditorium spaces will be limited to sections no larger than 72 (Murie) or 50 (Schaible). Reichardt 201 can accommodate 25 students when the room isn’t divided in two. When divided, Reichardt 201 can accommodate 13 students, and 202 can accommodate 17.
  • Large lecture sections will be moved to an online modality. Smaller lab or recitation sections may be accommodated on campus in conjunction with the online lecture portion of the class.
  • There will not be enough classroom space for all classes to be held in person. Lecture classes will be offered online if space on campus is not available.
  • All classes are subject to future adjustments in response to directives or guidelines issued by the state.
  • More information will be provided about enhanced sanitation and cleaning for classroom spaces.

The Office of the Registrar has provided schools and colleges with a copy of their current fall schedule with enrollment information. Departments will use this information and the above guidelines when considering any request for changes to their schedules. Priority should be given to classes that contribute to on-time graduation for students in their programs, and such classes should not be changed unless classroom limitations make it necessary. We do know that we plan to offer the classes listed in the fall schedule. Deans are working with the faculty through the department chairs to finalize the modality of class offering over the next two weeks, with the understanding that we may need to switch from face-to-face offering to a distance delivery mode, or vice versa, should there be changing needs due to COVID-19. In-person classes might have to change to distance delivery, partly or fully, depending on space limitations and other considerations, but we will do everything we can to offer the best experience possible.

New Student Orientation

New Student Orientation will utilize a hybrid of limited in-person events with a strong emphasis on virtual sessions so that all students can participate and connect with fellow students, staff and faculty as they are welcomed to the UAF community. The schedule and delivery methods for New Student Orientation are under revision to accommodate all students who may face varying protocols upon arriving on campus. Students will receive communication with specific details concerning all these matters.

Student support

Student support offices and testing services will be available at the Troth Yeddha’ campus as well as UAF’s Community and Technical College, rural campuses located in Bethel, Dillingham, Kotzebue and Nome, and community centers maintained through Interior Alaska Campus in Fairbanks. All services will be open and observe social distancing and hygiene guidelines. Students served by their local community campus should contact their local community campus for the most current information about campus operations, student support and testing services.

Because many students will be new to online and distance classes, eCampus will also be expanding their student support services capacity. eCampus provides online support through early intervention, online orientation, academic advising, tech support and e-coaching as needed. The eCampus student success specialist will collaborate with student success initiatives through the Provost’s Office and other offices.

eCampus preparations for fall 2020

UAF’s eCampus is ready to help faculty transition courses to distance and online delivery, as well as to create contingency plans for rapid shifts in modality as needed. Colleges, departments and faculty are encouraged to consider how to make the most of existing online courses and/or prepare to shift students from traditional courses to existing online courses if the need should arise.

For fall 2020, one thing is certain: flexibility will be of key importance. Please check out these faculty development opportunities (+Accelerator) and faculty support services. One emerging design model supports both in-class and online students in the same class sections. The HyFlex model provides both online/distance pathways and traditional classroom instruction pathways from within the same course section.

Exam center plans

Assessments that do not require proctoring are still a favored solution (papers, presentations, projects, group work, homework, take-home exams, etc.). For some essential assessments, UAF eCampus and CTC testing centers will provide socially distanced and scheduled proctoring services. National testing that occurs on campus (SAT and ACT) will be paused temporarily until the testing companies determine a plan moving forward. Exam Services will continue to provide socially distanced and scheduled non-UAF course proctoring (CLEP, State of Alaska, credit-by-exam, etc.).


UAF is prepared to welcome students back on campus this fall in a coordinated manner that prioritizes student and employee health and wellbeing. The Department of Residence Life in Fairbanks and housing facilities in Bethel are hard at work identifying housing needs. Safety is a top priority. We currently have a phased plan that will guide operations and limits high-density housing for our students. We will assign one person per room in Moore, Bartlett, Skarland, McIntosh, Wickersham and Sackett halls. Additional details are being worked out and will be communicated with students when they become available.

Traveling to Fairbanks

The university will be issuing new travel, quarantine and testing guidance soon. That information will be found on the UA policy guidance webpage. In addition, the State of Alaska has issued travel mandates for intrastate, interstate and international travel. Students traveling from outside Alaska should read the policies before traveling to ensure they are up to date with the latest restrictions. Please check these often as they may change.

Study-away programs

UAF has canceled outbound international programs for fall 2020 due to the variety of travel restrictions in place to enter host countries for foreigners. Some virtual exchange opportunities are available. Where possible, students can defer their placements to a future term. UAF will continue to support domestic National Student Exchange placements.

Inbound international students

Our Office of International Programs and Initiatives continues to issue immigration documentation for new international students to begin their academic program at UAF this fall. We know that international students have not been able to schedule visa interviews due to the current suspension of routine visa services at U.S. consulates. We are closely monitoring the Department of Homeland Security policy guidance and will continue to directly communicate with updates to both new and returning international students.

Campus culture

While planning is important, keeping each other as safe as possible throughout this pandemic will also require every single employee and student to step up and take personal responsibility for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. A big part of that will be wearing face coverings any time, indoors or outdoors, including in vehicles, when you can’t stay 6 feet away from others. In addition, frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer and staying home if you are even a little bit under the weather will be important tools to help slow the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses.

I know that the past months have been challenging and uncertain, and I applaud your resiliency. Your work made the spring semester a success, and I am confident that together we will make the fall 2020 semester a great one.