Dear Rackham Students,
I hope that all of you enjoyed a healthy and rejuvenating break, and that the later start of this year’s winter term made it easier to fully prepare for the semester ahead. I wanted to take an opportunity as the term begins to remind you of important offerings available through Rackham and the university. For those of you enrolling for the first time at this point in the academic year, this message might even be an introduction to these offerings.
As with last term, the format of much of your work this winter will be far from normal. Our goals as a graduate school, however, remain the same: to support your academic progress, to foster your professional development, and to offer resources and guidance to help you meet challenges along the way.
Considering the remote aspects of this semester, one thing I would like to emphasize is the benefit of connecting with peers—both within your own programs and beyond your disciplines. Some of the graduate students I mentor in my laboratory have shared with me how groups outside the department—groups like Rackham Student Government (RSG), Students of Color of Rackham (SCOR), and Graduate Rackham International (GRIN), have helped them. Many other graduate student communities have remained active during the pandemic, as well. The way we make connections may have changed for now, but creating community for yourself is more important than ever.
I also want to stress that Rackham continues to offer a range of virtual programming to complement your studies and enhance your development as a scholar and a professional. You can explore what’s available through the Rackham event calendar. Upcoming events include one geared toward resources to help you with virtual career exploration, a seminar on anti-racism in higher education, and workshops on developing a mentoring plan with your advisor to clarify goals, needs, and shared expectations. I encourage you to check the calendar frequently and take advantage of programs that interest you. The weekly Rackham student newsletter, which is distributed on Fridays, also contains information on events, internship opportunities, grant and fellowship deadlines, and more.
While our programming remains online, please be aware that socially distanced study spaces in the Rackham Building are available to graduate students, and can be reserved ahead of time. When you make a reservation, you will receive a notification on check-in and safety protocols. Other study spaces on campus are also available, and can be reserved at the same website.
Following health and safety guidelines, such as wearing a face covering and social distancing, will continue to be essential. Please also keep in mind that circumstances related to the pandemic can change abruptly; details of particular interest to you as Rackham students will be continually updated on our COVID-19 resource page. This includes information on emergency financial resources, adjusted academic policies and deadlines, and more. In addition, expanded campus-wide COVID-19 testing for the winter term includes a free, asymptomatic testing program for those on the Ann Arbor campus. Signing up for regular testing is easy, and many testing locations across campus are available. If you have not done so already, you can also sign up to receive an invitation for scheduling a vaccination appointment via the Blue Queue questionnaire. Vaccines are being distributed through a phased, prioritized rollout, and more information is available from Michigan Medicine.
Finally, I know many of us remain profoundly shaken by last week’s events at the U.S. Capitol, and anxious over the potential for further disruption in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. I would like to assure you that those responsible for our safety and security share these concerns, and are taking appropriate precautions to make sure our campus remains a safe place to learn. As President Schlissel noted in his weekly message to the U-M community earlier today, many of our public safety partners recently shared information about their extensive planning efforts. In addition, I feel it’s prudent for me to remind you that the best way to stay abreast of any situation affecting campus is by signing up for U-M Emergency Alerts.
The term ahead, like those we’ve completed since last spring, will certainly not be without challenges. I encourage you, however, to remain focused on your growth, your well-being, your community, and your goals. There is much that you can accomplish during the months ahead, and I hope that you take full advantage of the ways that Rackham can be your ally in that pursuit.