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April 16, 2020

Dear UVM Community: I write from a largely empty campus. Spring has arrived, the trees are beginning to bud, and soon the tulips will bloom, but the magic of this place is its people. That’s why I’m looking forward to the fall.

We plan to be operating as normal for the fall semester and are doing the work necessary to welcome all of you, as well as our brand-new Catamounts, to campus. In the meantime, and due to the uncertainty about when the nation—and Vermont—will be back to a more normal state of affairs, we have taken a number of steps to ensure we’re prepared.

Firstly, I want to assure our residential life students that we are working to determine the earliest time for you to retrieve items left in your rooms without undue risk and without violating the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order. We understand the delay is unsettling, but your possessions are secure, and your safety is our priority.

We are also focused on your academic progress. This includes the creation of a robust catalog of online course offerings for summer, and, for our incoming students, the conversion of our student orientation into a single, high-energy welcome that will take place in August to coincide with new student move-in.

I’m excited and optimistic about the fall, but it’s prudent to develop contingency plans. Therefore, I’m in close communication with our public health experts and government officials.

In addition, and to further guide the university’s planning efforts for the fall semester, I am announcing the appointment of the UVMStrong—Fall 2020 Advisory Committee. The committee first will make sure we are ready to welcome all of you back to what we currently anticipate will be normal operations. The committee also is tasked with developing plans to ensure we are fully prepared in the event we face a recurrence of the coronavirus at some point in the fall.

I have asked Gary Derr, Vice President for Operations and Public Safety, to serve as chair of the advisory committee, which will be supported by five working groups that will plan details around distinct, but interconnected, areas: Student Experience; Faculty and Academic Affairs; Research and Graduate Education; Business and Institutional Continuity; and Human Resource Services. The committee will be supported by a team of medical, public health and other experts, and provide counsel to me and Provost Patty Prelock as we work with the Board of Trustees to ensure our community is positioned to thrive beyond this pandemic.

I have asked the committee, whose membership is listed below, to provide preliminary recommendations in May. I appreciate the willingness of the members of the committee to take on this important task and look forward to working together with them to develop a plan that helps our beloved university get back to normal while also being prepared for whatever the future may bring.

Fall 2020 Advisory Committee

  • Gary Derr, Vice President for Operations and Public Safety, Chair
  • Simeon Ananou, Chief Information Officer, Team Lead - Business and Institutional Continuity
  • Claire Burlingham, University Controller, Team Lead - Business and Institutional Continuit
  • John Collins, Deputy General Counsel
  • Kirk Dombrowski, Vice President for Research, Team Lead - Research and Graduate Education
  • Bill Falls, Dean, College or Arts and Sciences, Team Lead - Faculty and Academic Affairs
  • Jes Kraus, Chief Human Resource Officer, Team Lead - Human Resource Services
  • Annie Stevens, Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Team Lead - Student Experience
  • Al Turgeon, Chief Risk and Public Safety Officer

With best wishes,

Suresh Garimella
University of Vermont

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