The Dean’s Message on COVID-19
April 27, 2020
It has been more than a month since we started working remotely. The changes and challenges have been stressful for everyone, including myself. I hope you have all developed a routine that is working well for you. I am trying to make the most of my working-from-home routine. I have many meetings via WebEx and phone every day, but I miss all the in-person interactions with our faculty, staff, and students.
With one more week of classes left followed by final exams week, I wish our students, teaching faculty and TAs good luck as they finish the semester strong. I commend everyone for their efforts during this trying time. Our CAHNR commencement team is busy at work preparing for the virtual celebration of our graduating students.
Social distancing continues with all courses during UConn’s May term and Summer Sessions will be offered as online or distance learning. Even though a formal decision regarding fall session has not been made, President Katsouleas is encouraging us to be prepared to teach online, if needed. Associate Dean Kumar Venkitanarayanan has been working closely with the Office of the Vice President for Research on the critical needs of our research labs and projects. He has also started discussions regarding how we ramp up our research activities once the lock-down situation improves.
Our Extension faculty and staff are hard at work, helping communities with the COVID-19 related challenges. They may not be able to have in-person meetings, but are effectively responding to the new challenges. They are utilizing technology and mobilizing resources to help farmers, communities, and other stakeholders. For example, on April 22, our extension staff and 4-H volunteers helped distribute 1,440 gallons of milk to 23 different food pantries in Litchfield County and northern Fairfield County. There are many other examples of how the CAHNR family is responding to help our communities.
I would like to sincerely thank our critical faculty and staff who show up at work regularly to make sure many of our operations continue without interruptions. Without them, many of our core operations (e.g., taking care of animals, plants, and labs) would come to a screeching halt and this would be devastating for the long-term future of our college. These critical faculty and staff personnel are unsung heroes. I hope to thank them in person in the near future when we all get back to the campus.
I look forward to sharing more about CAHNR’s success and impact at the Town Hall on May 8th.
I hope you all are staying healthy and safe. Please do not hesitate to reach out if Dean’s office can be of any help.
For more information, contact: Dean's Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
March 30, 2020
When the Spring semester started, none of us had envisioned that the COVID-19 situation would necessitate so many changes in our daily operations. It forced us to make rapid adjustments in dealing with the health and safety of our community in an unprecedented way. We had to make decisions with insufficient information in front of us during a very rapidly changing environment. It required our faulty and staff to quickly adapt to new ways of doing our work, e.g., telecommuting, remote teaching, web-meetings, remote advising of students – all on a scale much more extensive than ever before. And unfortunately, we are still not sure how long this situation will last.
The current situation has created tremendous stress for our faculty, staff, and students. Nevertheless, I am so proud of how the CAHNR community has come together to respond. I want to sincerely thank our staff for making sure that our core mission is moving forward. The same is true to our teaching faculty and teaching assistants who had to move their classes to online formats with such short notice. I cannot thank our essential personnel enough for making sure that critical operations in the labs, departments, and farms continue. There are many other individuals and groups to thank. A close-knit community, collegiality, and care for each other are hallmarks of CAHNR’s strengths. I appreciate you all coming together and helping each other at a difficult time like this.
I encourage you to reach out to your colleagues, ask how they are doing, seek out the help you need, and offer your support, when possible, to those who need it. We know that this situation will not last forever, and I am confident that we will come out with a stronger sense of community when life gets back to normal.
Lastly, I want to remind you that many positive things are happening in the college. For example, faculty searches are progressing as planned, and our faculty and staff continue to get recognized for their outstanding accomplishments. The commencement team is planning a virtual celebration for our graduating students. I plan to hold a virtual town hall on May 8, 2020, to report on many of these accomplishments that may go unnoticed due to the burden of the current situation. More details will be coming soon. I welcome your ideas and thoughts on how I can make this town hall meeting most meaningful to you.
Please stay safe.
For more information, contact: Dean's Office at email@example.com
March 22, 2020
Below are a few highlights of the recent developments since my last communication and what it means to CAHNR faculty, staff and students. I hope you are regularly visiting UConn COVID-19 website and UConn Extension website for the most up to date information.
- Effective Monday, March 23, no CAHNR employee at the Storrs campus, regional campuses, or extension offices should be in the workplace until further notice unless their work is deemed critical by their supervisors/managers. In other words, everyone who is asked to telecommute must telecommute. If you have any essential item (personal or work-related) left in your office or elsewhere on your campus that you may need, you must retrieve those before 5 PM on Monday, March 23. Access to all facilities may become severely limited after this date.
- All on-campus research activities on all UConn campuses, research stations, and extension offices must stop and labs must close by 8 p.m. Monday. Additional guidance on logistics, exceptions, necessary forms to complete, and other details are available on UConn’s main coronavirus information page and from the Vice President for Research. I encourage you to let Associate Dean Kumar Venkitanarayanan know if you are seeking exceptions to maintain critical research functions.
- All classes transition to on-line format starting tomorrow. I want to sincerely thank our teaching faculty, staff, and TAs for getting ready to shift to the on-line format of teaching with such short notice. The road ahead may feel bumpy and I encourage you to be patient with the situation and do the best you can.
- Graduate School will be sending information to all graduate students, advisors, and graduate chairs related to graduate research tomorrow. I encourage you to discuss and prepare a contingency plan given the uncertainty of how long this situation will last.
This is a challenging time forcing us all to navigate through uncharted territory with more questions than answers. As we go through this difficult period, I hope that you put your health as the number one priority. Even though we are not physically together in one place, our strong CAHNR community continues in the virtual space. Please reach out to one another via email, phone, text, WebEx, or your preferred mode of communication, seek help you need, and provide help and support you can to those who need it. Do not hesitate to reach out if the Dean’s Office or I can be of any help. I now meet with my administrative team every day and will do the best we can to make sure we provide help and support our CAHNR family needs to get through this situation.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
There have been many new developments in the COVID-19 situation since my last communication and this situation rapidly continues to evolve. I hope you had a chance to listen to the President’s virtual town hall meeting yesterday. Below are a few items specific to CAHNR in light of the new developments and information available at this point. Information about COVID-19 for faculty, staff, students and stakeholders is available at: https://cahnr.uconn.edu/coronavirus.
- The President was very clear that all non-critical staff should telecommute with approval from the supervisors until the end of the semester (May 11, 2020, subject to change). He communicated at this town hall that the individual and population health is of the highest importance. This may mean reducing our mission in the light of the current situation, except critical operations. I encourage you to discuss with your supervisors about telecommute options. I have asked the same to all department heads. Department Heads and supervisors will be discussing critical staffing needs and how those will be met.
- I have asked the Dean’s Office administrative staff to telecommute. I expect that administrative staff work that can be handled remotely (e.g. answering phones, emails, etc.) will be done so.
- In light of the State of CT and UConn's decisions to reduce faculty and staff working in public locations, the determination has been made that our Extension offices may be closed. Bonnie Burr will share information with you shortly on how these closures can take place.
- Instructors and advisors are encouraged to contact their students now, and regularly, to keep communication lines open. This is reassuring even if your plans for teaching and advising are not yet finalized.
- Please be sure to modify your syllabi and post them on Husky CT. Associate Dean Sandy Bushmich will be sending out another update for CAHNR instructors and advisors soon.
- To decrease the density of people working in research laboratories, facilities, and programs, PIs should scale down research activities, including laboratory, animal, and non-therapeutic human subjects research. But maintaining animals, unique reagents, and essential equipment and materials, can continue until further notice. Critical research should be continued with minimal staffing.
- If possible, research activities that can be accomplishedremotely can continue.
- Research staff should work with their supervisors to support critical operations. However, PIs should accommodate the requests of undergraduate and graduate students, and research staff working in research facilities and laboratories. Their health and well-being are the most important.
- Unless notified otherwise, researchers should follow existing sponsor guidelines for allowable and unallowable charges on grants.
There is a wealth of information available at the UConn website dedicated to the COVID-19 situation (https://uconn.edu/public-notification/coronavirus). I encourage you to check this website frequently to get the most up-to-date information.
Please stay safe.