COVID-19: Guidance for Graduate Education

Georgia Tech recognizes the critical role that graduate students play in the functions of our institution. Graduate students contribute to the research, teaching, and service missions of Georgia Tech. We are taking measures to support our graduate students in all of these areas. Below, we provide some guidance pertaining to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on graduate education, graduate employment, the general health and well-being of current graduate students, and services to those applying to our graduate programs.

Please go to the main site for Coronavirus for additional information and an FAQ.

The staff in the Office of Graduate Studies are working remotely. All services and business processes will remain intact while we work in a virtual environment. We are forwarding our phones and regularly checking email, voicemail, and the helpdesk. We ask that faculty and program staff offer flexibility to graduate students as much as possible during this time. 

All in-person Office of Graduate Studies-sponsored meetings and events are cancelled. We will make every effort to hold meetings virtually through approved campus resources (e.g., WebEx, Blue Jeans, Skype, or Microsoft Teams). Calendar invites will be updated to reflect the change, and updates will follow via email.

This informational page is divided into the following sections:

Also, we hosted a series of three town halls March 25-27 where graduate students had the opportunity to ask questions of graduate education leaders from across Georgia Tech. Here are links to the recordings (login required): 

Prospective and Admitted Students

Applications

Because Graduate Studies staff need to work remotely, we request that all applicants submit all supporting documents in electronic form.  

We understand that many students are having difficulty completing required tests such as the GRE and the TOEFL. ETS has introduced a secure solution that will allow students in some areas that have been affected by the coronavirus to take the GRE® General Test and TOEFL iBT® test from home until test centers can reopen for regular testing. Details and updates are available on the ETS Update Website.

Graduate Tours and Visits

As of Monday, March 16, all Graduate Studies campus visits and tours will be held virtually. Details can be found on the Graduate Studies website here.

Admitted International Students

We recognize the current difficulty of many international students admitted to the Atlanta campus in obtaining student visas due to U.S. embassy and consulate suspension of regular visa services. Any admitted international student who is unable to obtain an entry visa will be eligible to request a deferral of their admission decision for up to one year. Students who were offered financial support must contact their academic program office to determine if their financial support package can be deferred as well. To request approval for either of these options, contact your academic program coordinator who will make the final determination.

  • Online Learning: Georgia Tech offers many online learning opportunities including 13 online master’s degrees. Students who cannot obtain their student visas and who are admitted into a master’s degree program that has an online option may start their program in the online option and then choose to either continue in the online option or transfer to the Atlanta campus the following semester after receiving their student visa. Students must check with the graduate program to which they have been admitted for advice related to pursuing the online option.
  • Georgia Tech-Lorraine and Georgia Tech Shenzhen Campuses: Students who live in France or can obtain a French student visa and are interested in pursuing a master's degree in Aerospace Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, or Mechanical Engineering can start their program at the Georgia Tech-Lorraine Campus, and then choose to remain at that campus or switch to the Atlanta campus the following semester once they receive their student visa. Students who are pursuing an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering who live in China or have a Chinese visa can start their program at the Georgia Tech Shenzhen Campus, and then choose to either remain at that campus to complete their degree or can transfer to the Atlanta campus the following semester after they receive their student visa.

Students who are admitted to begin their studies at the Shenzhen or Lorraine campuses in the Fall must complete two semesters at either Georgia Tech Shenzhen or Georgia Tech-Lorraine before choosing to either remain at either international campus to complete their degree, or transfer to the Atlanta campus.

Current Students

Graduate Student Researchers or Teaching Assistants

Graduate student assistants are highly valued members of our community, and Georgia Tech would not be able to function without their hard work and contributions. It is our intention to continue to rely on the services provided by graduate students during the current situation. For the remainder of the Spring 2020 term, GRAs, GTAs, and graduate fellowship students will continue to receive their monthly stipend(s) and will remain eligible for any tuition waiver associated with their appointment. Beyond spring term, we will continue to update our guidance and instruction as we have more information. Below, we provide some additional information pertaining to teaching assistants, research assistants, other graduate assistants and fellows.

  • Graduate Research Assistants: Contact your advisor or your department for additional advice regarding how to continue to make progress on your research in a remote manner. The campus has transitioned to ramping down on-campus research. All but essential personnel are required to work off campus. In very limited cases, GRAs may be deemed to be essential personnel, subject to approval by the school chair or IRI director of the facility that you work in. Your advisor cannot require you to attend an in-person meeting. Updated information and resources can be found on the Research Continuity Website.  
  • Graduate Teaching Assistants: Please continue to work the number of hours in your GTA assignment and assist the instructor of the course in the distance learning delivery of the course. Resources for the technology and pedagogy are available on the Academic Continuity Resources site.
  • Fellows: Fellows will continue to receive monthly stipends in accordance with the terms of their fellowship.
  • Graduate Assistants: Student assistants who are paid on an hourly basis are encouraged to check with their employing unit about any new arrangements moving forward.
Grades

At this time, the guidance from the University System of Georgia is that courses will not move to pass/fail grading. 

International Students

The Office of International Education is supporting international students and scholars with resources and virtual advising. See the OIE ISSS site for more information.

Graduate Internships and Career Development

Career advisors are available via email, virtual appointments, and virtual group drop-in advising hours to assist students, faculty, and staff. Details can be found on the career services website.

Students working or planning to work as interns off campus should follow the guidance of their current/prospective employers. Applications for summer 2020 Graduate Internships in the United States will continue to be processed and approved in the order in which they were received.

Grad Groups

The timeline for the group leader selection process for Grad Groups will continue as currently scheduled. The in-person interviews (scheduled for mid to late April) will be replaced by interviews via Skype or a similar platform.

Thesis & Dissertation

The Office of Graduate Studies will proceed with the following changes related to student services and processes for students completing a dissertation or thesis. For Ph.D. students who wish to graduate in spring 2020, the deadline to submit all forms has been extended to April 24, 2020, which matches the deadline for master’s students. Students should reach out to dc@registrar.gatech.edu if they need to be reactivated.

  1. All thesis and dissertation format checks will be conducted via email only. Please send a PDF to thesis@grad.gatech.edu for format checks. We will be sure to get back to students within 48 hours.
  2. All Georgia Tech graduate students and programs, in collaboration with the Office of Graduate Studies, will be required to use DocuSign for forms related to the thesis and dissertation approval process. Physical paper forms will no longer accepted. Forms and a step-by-step guide on how to submit forms using DocuSign can be found here.
  3. The Vireo/ETD system will still be available for students to upload their thesis and dissertations.
  4. Defenses, comprehensive exams, and proposal presentations should be held virtually via online resources (e.g., WebEx, Skype, BlueJeans, Teams, etc.). Ph.D. defenses are public events, and should remain so in a virtual format. Publicize the meeting using the standard means, such as sending all announcements to announcements@grad.gatech.edu, and provide an email point of contact who can distribute the exact meeting information. Have the meeting organizer monitor meeting attendance and participation — they have the power to mute someone from the meeting whose connection might be causing a disruption. Most technology platforms for conducting these meetings remotely offer a recording option and can be utilized to share with others publicly or asynchronously. Programs should work with graduate students to set this up and include any details in their announcement.
  5. In situations related to hosting a defense remotely due to faculty or student illness or other extenuating circumstances, the Office of Graduate Studies and the Office of the Registrar will offer some flexibility around deadlines for submissions.

Faculty and Program Administrators

Admissions

Program faculty and staff should continue to process their pool of applicants and submit decisions to Grad Studies as soon as they can. We will continue to support and offer as much flexibility as we can to students impacted by COVID-19. Applications for students who are unable to complete their applications or submit all required documents will need to have their start date deferred to the next term.

Admissions processing will continue, but there may be continued delays related to delays of test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, and GMAT) and documents coming in (particularly those mailed in). We are encouraging students to send electronic documents whenever possible.

Some programs may have a large number of international students who are not able to obtain a student visa in time for the fall semester. Programs who do not normally offer distance learning courses may investigate the possibility of doing so in key courses for the fall term. If you are interested, contact GTPE and the Office of Graduate Studies for advice.

Deferrals can be administratively approved for all students who request a deferral of admissions and who come from countries where student visa processing is restricted. Please confirm with the Office of Graduate Studies if your program would like to take advantage of this administrative approval process and, if so, what further conditions you would have. Please confirm with admitted students directly in response to requests to defer financial support.

Research Continuity

Please refer to Georgia Tech’s research continuity guidance:

As a reminder, faculty members should not require graduate research assistants to come to campus, unless the student is designated as essential personnel per the described process. Students are asked to stay away from campus for the rest of the semester. Individual faculty advisors may request that their chair or IRI director grant "essential" status to a research project. This request must be reviewed and approved by their dean prior to a graduate student entering the laboratory. Under these circumstances, we recognize that GRAs are first and foremost students and encourage faculty advisors to find alternatives for continuing the onsite work rather than relying on GRAs. Faculty also should not require a student to attend an in-person meeting off campus. See the above resource links for updated information and guidance.

GradWorks & OneUSG Connect Transition

The transition to OneUSG Connect will continue as planned. The only change will be for training. All face-to-face training sessions will be moved to virtual training or webinars. More details can be found here.

PEGS-Funded Events

If you have received PEGS funds for events that have to be cancelled, please email Leslie.Sharp@gatech.edu with your alternative plans, keeping in mind that the funds should be used for graduate student recruitment and retention.

FAQ

Will GRAs continue to be paid if the work in their research lab cannot be done?
All current appointments should remain through the end of the spring 2020 semester. The most up-to-date guidance is posted at the Research Continuity Resource page.

What guidance is there for faculty to specify remote work duties for graduate students and postdocs?
All research labs are developing alternative work plans to keep progressing on research in a remote setting. Students and postdocs should continue to work regularly on their research, even though operating remotely. The Research Continuity resource page will post additional guidance. Example activities include off-line data analysis, reviewing articles, and finishing up pending manuscripts. Research groups need to reconsider their workflow in these challenging times.

What support is available to help me manage stress during this time?
Significant campus and academic decisions are being made in response to the Coronavirus. In response, graduate students are experiencing enormous pressure from global uncertainty, isolation, semester deadlines, and family/health concerns. All graduate students should be aware that help is available free of charge, even if university facilities are closed. Georgia Tech’s main Coronavirus Page has up-to-date information on campus services and how they are available at this time.

Students enrolled in the Georgia Tech Student Health Insurance Plan (both mandatory and voluntary) have access to 24/7 telehealth medical and behavioral support resources. COVID-19 testing is covered at no charge. Access to psychologists (Ph.D./PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW), and licensed professional counselors (LPC) through BetterHelp (a national virtual counseling service) is included for free. You can access the resources through your UHCSR online account portal.

The Council of Graduate Schools offers counselors and resources as well. The National Grad Crisis Line is staffed by trained counselors who understand unique grad struggles. 877-GRAD-HLP (877-472-3457) is a supplement to the existing mental health services on campus. For additional information, visit www.GradResources.org.

Are the visa delays for students being processed in their home countries, or do the delays also apply to students being processed in the United States (e.g., optional practical training)?
Transfer students coming from other U.S. institutions who do not depart the United States in advance of beginning their program at Georgia Tech are not affected by the March 18 announcement to discontinue regular visa services at multiple U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Individuals currently inside the United States participating in Optional Practical Training who do not depart the country prior to beginning studies at Georgia Tech will also not be affected by the March 18 announcement to discontinue regular visa services at multiple U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Who do I contact if a faculty member or PI is not accommodating to my needs?
Students in this situation may contact advisors or appropriate administrators in their schools such as an associate chair/director for graduate studies or the school chair. The Provost’s Office has other resources to assist students. Please visit the Conflict Resolution and Ombuds site for more information.

If I am currently interning, and my employer’s alternative plan (closure, or working remotely and not able to accommodate me) impacts the length of my graduate internship, will my enrollment in the INTN class be affected?
No, due to these extenuating circumstances, your enrollment and completion will not be affected. Please email Clarence Anthony Jr. at clarence.anthony.jr@gatech.edu for approval and with any questions.

If my internship is cut short due to my employer’s closure, what do I do if my experience is out of state?
All students should check with the employer they are working with for further guidance on accommodations and support.

I am an international student currently interning on CPT. Who should I contact if my current internship is being impacted?
For any changes in your internship status that might impact your CPT status, please contact the Office of International Education. See the OIE ISSS site for more information.

My internship employer has indicated that I still need to come to the office, but I have concerns regarding my health and possible exposure to coronavirus. What should I do?
Your health is a priority. Initiate a conversation with your employer to discuss your concerns. Prepare for the conversation, outline your concerns, and give them the opportunity to address those concerns. Inquire about the possibility of working remotely to achieve the desired scope of work. If remote work isn’t possible, explore if the internship could be postponed for a future semester. Before agreeing to a new work term, please consult Clarence Anthony Jr. at clarence.anthony.jr@gatech.edu. If you feel that you need an additional advocate, our office is happy to reach out to employers as well. Email clarence.anthony.jr@gatech.edu, and we will be in touch to gather additional information and discuss next steps.