Dear Graduate Student Colleagues,
Things have changed very rapidly for all of us in the last few weeks. Regardless of exactly what our individual situations were like before, we are now all missing the in-person interactions that we took for granted only weeks ago.
I am writing today to highlight a number of services, both new and already in existence, that are available to you as a McMaster graduate student.
For some of you and your families, COVID-19 will have a direct impact on family household income and financial security. Those of you experiencing financial emergencies as a result of COVID-19 can find support and resources through the Registrar’s Office. You can seek financial assistance to help with food, rent, university, travel or other expenses. Visit the Registrar’s Office website for an online chat with a Student Services Professional between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Some of you have expressed concern about the availability of Teaching Assistantships (TAs) and how such work will be done in the new virtual classroom format. Virtual undergraduate courses still require TAs, so I encourage you to connect with your department about your eligibility for, interest in, and/or concerns about spring/summer TA assignments.
Supervision and Research Plans
As a graduate student researcher, you and your supervisor should be in regular contact, working together collaboratively to adapt your plan for realistic research milestones. If you have questions or concerns about your ability to maintain your academic workplan and scheduled goals, be sure to discuss this with your supervisor, department graduate chair, and/or Associate Dean (Graduate Studies).
Thesis and Academic Writing
Do you hope to improve your writing productivity during the spring/summer months? Consider booking an online appointment with a graduate level writing assistant through Oscarplus or access some writing support templates available on the Graduate Studies website. Review ‘The Weekly’ Grad Studies newsletter for upcoming information about online writing supports and other productivity initiatives. Some of you have begun your own online writing groups or daily check-ins among your peers or lab-mates. These types of routines can be very helpful for accountability, motivation and connection.
Grad Community and Peer Support
During these times of physical distancing, consider developing or joining new forms of community support. For example, initiate regular (virtual) coffee chats with peers, phone a friend or family member, or consider joining one of the organized virtual support communities such as Open Circles’ reflection, meditation, creativity groups, or the online ‘café’ drop-ins for international students offered through MELD and Graduate Studies (link available through email invitations).
Mental Health and Wellness Support
Take advantage of confidential professional counselling supports available to graduate students through the Student Wellness Centre, EmpowerMe (1-844-741-6389) or Good to Talk (1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON to 686868). Counselling remains available in virtual, telephone, and text chat formats.
Students with Disabilities and Academic Accommodations
Those of you with disabilities may find that your current accommodations plan with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) needs modification while the campus operates online or you may be considering a registered accommodation plan for the first time. If you have already registered with Student Accessibility Services, contact your SAS program coordinator directly to discuss modifications to your plan. To access academic accommodation supports for the first time, contact SAS to discuss this or arrange an intake 905 525 9140 x 28652 or email@example.com.
PhD defences are coordinated by the School of Graduate Studies and should continue to be initiated in Mosaic. Students and examining committees must follow the new online-only defence process.
Master’s students should contact their graduate administrator for information and instructions for defending their Master’s thesis.
The International Student Services team continues to be available to support students through one-on-one appointments via phone, email or on audio/video chat platforms. Appointments are available through Oscarplus.
For concerns about visa, immigration processes, study/work permits, contact Anthony Cheah, McMaster’s immigration consultant, by making an appointment through Oscarplus or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any other inquiries, contact Yufei Zheng, International Graduate Students Coordinator, at email@example.com.
Course Work, Grades and Academic Extensions
There are new options for final grades for graduate courses completed at the end of the Winter 2020 term. A more complete explanation and guide to these changes will be communicated later this week.
Your program coordinator or course instructor can be consulted if you have questions about extensions for Winter 2020 coursework.
For concerns about COVID-19 and delays to degree completion, contact your program/department admin and your thesis supervisor (if you are in a research-based program). This would also apply to those of you who were planning to do field/lab research this summer and expect delays due to COVID-19.
Leaves of Absence
An exception to the general regulations on Leaves of Absence has been made by Graduate Studies for students who are less than 12 months into their academic program. This means that for students who began in May 2019, September 2019, or January 2020, leaves of absence can be requested. Regardless of your degree stage, if you are considering requesting a leave of absence due to COVID-19 implications, contact your program administrator and/or research supervisor to discuss.
Much of this information can be found on the School of Graduate Studies website.
In closing, let me assure you that we are working hard to help you achieve your academic and career goals with as little disruption as possible. The whole team at the School of Graduate Studies is working closely with the Faculties and graduate programs to see how best to plan our way through these challenges and the weeks and months ahead as our society finds its new normal.
Best regards and best wishes,
Doug Welch, Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies