Update on Planning for Fall 2021

Photo by: Georgia Kirkos

Dear members of the McMaster community,

I appreciate how much each of you is missing our community and our campus and are wondering what activities will be available in-person for the Fall 2021 semester.

The Return to McMaster group has been meeting regularly since its formation in February, leaning on the expertise and experiences of McMaster’s researchers, staff, faculty and students. We are focused on making decisions that are agile, evidence-based, and always putting the health, safety and wellbeing of our community first.

Though we are still working through many of the finer details, I wanted to provide a mid-planning update to share how things are taking shape. While it is impossible to know exactly how the pandemic will evolve, we are looking forward to September with tremendous optimism that much of our vibrant on-campus experience will be able to safely resume.

Focusing on the student experience

We are focusing first on bringing students back to campus for safe and meaningful experiences both inside and outside of the classroom.

It is our aim that students will be able to come to campus regularly throughout the semester, whether to attend an in-person class or learning opportunity, access the library, exercise in the gym, grab lunch or a coffee, access student supports and services, or meet in small groups to collaborate on assignments or participate in a student club.

As long as public health restrictions allow, we will be greatly increasing the number of on-campus classes, focusing especially on the hands-on, community-engaged and problem-based learning that McMaster is known for. We asked students about what worked well this past year and what they missed most during the pandemic. This is helping Faculties and programs develop plans specific to their courses and determine which classes have been working well virtually, which would benefit from being held in-person, and which could run well in a hybrid setting. Ultimately, we want as many students as possible to have the opportunity to attend in-person learning activities in the fall.

Residences will be open, and we will be communicating with our first-year students in early May once we have more details around eligibility and capacity. We are also carefully considering the needs of our international students and are keeping a close eye on visa processing times and other Canadian entry requirements. Learning from the experiences of the students who moved to Canada to attend McMaster this past year, we will be doing everything we can to welcome international students to Hamilton and the University.

More flexible work environments

With a view to creating the best possible student experience, some staff will gradually begin to return to campus to support student life and learning as well as core research areas. We have also heard from our staff that the flexibility offered by remote work is valuable. Looking to the future, we want to be innovative in how we think about the employee experience and are examining ways to do this that support employee wellness as well as the University’s strategic goals.

Teaching and research

As mentioned above, Faculties, departments and programs will have some flexibility to decide what modes of delivery work best for their students. Our instructors have already put in tremendous effort to deliver the 2020-2021 academic offerings, and we are very aware that their balance and wellbeing must also be at the forefront of our planning.

Research has ramped up throughout the past year and will be ongoing into the fall. Guidance on research is located on the Research and Innovation website and will continue to be updated as public health restrictions change.

Thank you

To our entire community, I would like to thank you for your patience and your thoughtful engagement with the planning process. To those involved in the Return to McMaster and other integral planning committees, thank you for your diligent work behind the scenes in the face of many complexities and unknowns.

We will continue to update everyone as we determine more details on the shape of the fall and beyond.

Take care and stay well,

Susan Tighe
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

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