Dear LSA Students,

I am writing to follow up on the news from President Schlissel that the University of Michigan will have an in-person, public-health informed fall semester. As the dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and as a faculty member co-teaching an undergraduate course called “Epic Grammar Fails” this fall, I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to engage with you in person and online. There is an irrepressible and irreplaceable energy that you as students bring to campus, and it inspires me every year. 

And while there is uncertainty ahead, I want to start with a pledge and a certainty. The pledge is to make your health and safety our first priority, always. The certainty is in the power and lasting relevance of LSA’s liberal arts and sciences education. I truly believe that a liberal arts education has never been more important, or more valuable, than it is now. We reimagine the world here in LSA, and we can do that better because you are here in our community, with all the diverse perspectives you bring. We push the boundaries of what’s understood about human experience and the natural world, taking up the existential challenges of climate change, systemic racism, the biology of viruses, and more. We pursue these questions with rigor and empathy, knowing that no one person or field of study has all the solutions. And through research and learning, we cultivate skills and mindsets that are fundamental to making purposeful, positive change in the world. 

As the president mentioned, the university is a big place, and many practices need to be determined by individual schools and colleges like LSA. I want to share some initial information about particular steps LSA will be taking, with more details to follow in the weeks ahead.

First, I want to acknowledge that, while we know a good deal about what the fall will look like, there is much we don’t yet know. The university is still determining, for example, how regular virus screening will work, how we will manage transitions between classes, and in-classroom protocols to ensure safe distancing. We are working hard on these and other questions, and I ask for your patience as we do so. This is new territory for all of us.

Second, I am turning to you today to say that this will take all of us working together, and to invite your partnership. Along with the LSA faculty, staff, and my leadership team, I have the greatest respect for your talents, insights, and commitment to your education. This past March, when we had to pivot quickly to remote teaching and learning, we saw how much we can accomplish when we’re all working together, rowing in the same direction. I believe we can and must maintain that collaborative spirit because, for this year to work well, it will take all of us being rigorous about health and safety, purposeful in pursuing our educational mission, and generous with each other as we innovate and learn along the way.

Looking ahead to classes

As the president said in his message, you will get to choose whether to participate in a hybrid learning experience (a mixture of in-person and online classes) or whether to participate fully online. 

Below is some additional information about classes; we’ll share more over the weeks ahead:

  • All large LSA classes (with enrollments over 45) will be fully available online.  
  • Smaller classes and discussion sections may gather in person while maintaining social distance—but may also be partly or entirely online. 
  • Whether courses meet in person or online, all of them will offer ways that students can connect with the material virtually and asynchronously, in case they become sick or need to self-isolate. 
  • We are also working to identify which classes will be online, in person, or a hybrid; we will share those details as soon as we have them so that you can confirm or adjust your class schedules.
  • And just a reminder that the academic calendar will look different this year, with a start date on August 31, no fall break, and online coursework only after Thanksgiving break through exams and the end of the semester. Winter semester will start on January 19, later than usual, and there will be no spring break in 2021.

As always, we are also committed to providing you with tools and resources to enrich your classroom education, to support your discovery of extracurricular experiences, to help you prepare for life after graduation, and to answer your questions. The Newnan Advising Center, LSA Opportunity Hub, optiMize, Sweetland Center for Writing, Science Learning Center, the Math Lab, and the Transfer Student Center are all ready to support your exploration and well-being. 

If you haven’t had a chance yet, I hope you’ll take the time to visit the university’s Maize and Blueprint guide for living and learning together on campus, particularly the section for students and families. The site has important information about safety, housing, the academic calendar, and resources you can rely on this summer and throughout the academic year. 

Finally, remember that any time you have questions and don’t know where to turn, you can reach out to, where an LSA staff member can connect you with people and resources who can help you. 

I speak for my colleagues all across LSA when I say that we are very excited to see you at the end of August, both on campus and online. You are the heartbeat of the college, and you inspire us every day with your insights, infectious curiosity, and drive to make the world a better place. Take good care of yourselves, and please be in touch with us anytime.

Best wishes,
Anne Curzan, Dean