Science thrives on international collaboration and exchange. Such exchange includes welcoming international students and post-docs to our department. International students have long played a vital role in the intellectual life of our department. I have personally mentored many students who first set foot in this country as part of their graduate studies and go on to contribute to the excellence of the research enterprise.
Each year we are proud to welcome a cohort of international students to the department and so it is with great regret that I inform you that it is unlikely that we will be able to do so in fall 2020. The most immediate problems involve the closure of embassies and the inability to get travel visas in time for matriculation. Another barrier is a recent US Presidential proclamation that restricts many students from China from obtaining F-1 and J-1 visas. (Please see https://lsa.umich.edu/chem/graduates/International.html for more information)
The department continues to stand by our international graduate students as Rackham and the University try to understand the scope of restrictions and advocates to have their impacts minimized. We will offer deferred admissions to all of our international graduate student admits (MS and PhD) with the hope that they can join us in the winter of 2021 or, failing that, a later term.
I also recognize that new proclamation from the federal government makes it impossible for many of our current graduate students to return home and I empathize with the dual challenges of coming to a foreign county and being unable to physically reconnect with your home. I am optimistic that these restrictions on foreign students will be short-lived as legal and policy changes are evolving rapidly; nonetheless this is a difficult situation adding to a number of global and local challenges that have been arising at an unprecedented pace recently.
The department has support of our current graduate students as our top priority and it pains us to see graduate school being made more challenging for some of them. To our international students, I say please reach out to your mentors, student services, the graduate committee, or me if you find you need help navigating our current environment. 'Stay safe' is said quite a lot these days and goes well beyond avoiding COVID-19 and includes your mental and emotional health as well. But it is appropriate in this context, too. Please stay safe.