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8/25/2020 - Update on Fall 2020 Graduate Program

To: Current Caltech Graduate Students
From: Doug C. Rees, Dean of Graduate Studies

I am writing today to provide new information and clarification on our plans and expectations for the graduate program this fall.

An update: As detailed in the announcement to the Caltech community on August 13, the recent order issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health precludes the resumption of in-person academic instruction at this time. Given the county's order, in-person instruction for the graduate program is also fully online for the Fall term. Students who are engaged in research will be able to participate in limited activities, in accordance with the Institute's return to work guidelines and campus policies. These policies include maintaining reduced density in facilities and adhering to protocols around physical distancing, the use of face coverings, and regular health monitoring and reporting. Please note that current graduate students with active F-1 and J-1 Active SEVIS records can continue to study from inside or outside the United States since our program is fully online.

A correction: A correction: In my August 3 message, I incorrectly stated "…in recognition of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduate students' ability to complete their degree requirements, requirements for candidacy and qualifying exams will be extended by a minimum of one term." The structure and timing of these exams are such that in many cases they cannot be unilaterally extended by a term within the framework of the academic year. What the Graduate Office will do is to delay the annual extended registration petition deadline by one term during this period; consequently the revised deadlines for students to fulfill candidacy requirements or schedule a final defense during this period will be extended to 13 terms or 25 terms, respectively. The Graduate Office has encouraged the options to implement such extensions to candidacy and qualifying exams, as well as adjustments to other requirements as appropriate, and we will automatically approve these requests from the options. The extensions and adjustments themselves will be handled at the option level, and the options will be in communication with their students about this. I apologize for any confusion.

An announcement: The Graduate Studies Office coordinates Caltech's participation in national conferences focused on recruiting prospective graduate students from groups traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering. Participation in these conferences will be exclusively online this year, and will involve attending one or more sessions to meet with prospective students to discuss their research, graduate school, Caltech, and answer specific questions they might have. Graduate students interested in potentially participating in these activities should complete a short online questionnaire. A training session led by the Caltech Center for Inclusion and Diversity will be held prior to participation in these events.

A final announcement: You will soon be receiving a short survey from the Office of Graduate Studies requesting your physical address during the Fall 2020 term.  Please complete this survey no later than 5 p.m. PDT, Friday, August 28, 2020, as it is imperative we know where you will be residing during the fall.

Despite all these challenges, we are looking forward to the start of the academic year and appreciate your patience during this unprecedented period.