Fall 2020 Update from Dean Farmer August 20, 2020

Hello BASW, MSW, and PhD Students, 
As we get close to the start of the semester, we know that you have questions, so we wanted to reach out to make sure you're up to date. We are excited to welcome you to the Fall 2020 semester at the Pitt School of Social Work! Our faculty and staff have worked hard with our University leadership to ensure that you will have the high-quality experience that you expect from our highly-ranked School of Social Work.
There are a number of differences from previous semesters that you will notice:
  • Academic Calendar - Classes this semester will begin on Wednesday, August 19 (all classes the week of August 19 are online). Beginning in the week of August 24, students will be allowed to attend class in person, barring any changes in the University's Operational Posture - https://www.coronavirus.pitt.edu/operational-posture. In-person instruction will end on November 20, with final exams (for undergraduates) and final class sessions (for graduate students)  held remotely after the Thanksgiving break. The full academic calendar can be found online at https://www.registrar.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/Academic%20Calendar%202020-2021_Apple.pdf
  • Class Locations - in order to provide for required physical-distancing in classrooms, Pitt has eliminated the use of some classrooms and added some new locations to our available learning spaces.  Be sure to check your class schedule and get to know some of the new locations that will be in use. The campus map can be quite helpful in this process. https://www.pitt.edu/documents/campus_map.pdf
  • Changes in class times - In order to facilitate movement between a wider array of classrooms and under physical distancing requirements, time has been added between class sessions, resulting in different class start and end times than we traditionally have used. Be sure to check your academic schedule as these have been recently updated.
The Flex@Pitt model was adopted to provide students and faculty the flexibility to complete courses in a classroom and remotely. A couple of key points as you prepare for the term: 
  • Guiding principles - we are prioritizing safety and quality of education. This means that we have options for assuring that high quality instruction can occur, regardless of setting. And we will allow everyone (students, faculty, and staff) to make their own decisions about whether and when to come to campus. You should be getting information from each of your instructors before the first class about how they plan to conduct their class.
  • Students -  All classes will have a remote option, some will offer an in-person option, and others may offer an opportunity for students to come together in the classroom even if the faculty member teaches remotely. We are still getting details on this final option. There is no specific designation you need to make, and your decision on how you attend classes can change throughout the semester. As in any situation, good communication with your instructors will be useful in managing any changes to your attendance choice, so that faculty can plan appropriately. Please remember that you have the option of being fully remote, regardless of what your professor chooses.
  • Faculty -  Our instructors also have the opportunity to teach in-person or remotely. This decision is made by each instructor, based on their sense of safety and thoughts about how to provide the best learning experience. Each instructor should be in touch with you near the beginning of the semester to let you know what they are planning (some faculty will provide you with a definite plan for the semester and others may allow for some flexibility/changes, based on designation of risk levels by the university and county).
  • The following is a graphic (from the university) that illustrates the options. 
We are also working to ensure that you have opportunities to build connections with your faculty, staff, classmates, and alumni. Please be on the lookout for Dean's and Program Director's Virtual Office Hours, New student orientation and extended orientation programming, and great events from your student organizations, the BASW Club, the Student Executive Council (SEC), the Doctoral Studen Organization (DSO), and the Union of Black Social Work Students (UBSWS). https://www.socialwork.pitt.edu/student-resources
This will be an exciting and challenging semester, and as our society negotiates this pandemic, racial justice, and the vast range of issues at the core of social work, we need great social work professionals to lead the way. We are glad that you are completing your education with us, and look forward to working with you this year! 
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our Program Directors (Dr. Yodit Betru (MSW: yodit.betru@pitt.edu), Professor Toya Jones (BASW; toyaj@pitt.edu), Dr. Christina Newhill (PhD; newhill@pitt.edu)), Associate Dean for Student Success, Dr. Keith Caldwell (keith.caldwell@pitt.edu), or me (efarmer@pitt.edu).
Look forward to seeing you soon!
 Take care and stay safe,