Novel coronavirus information

March 18, 2020

COVID-19 and spring quarter updates (Message to graduate students and postdocs)

Dear members of the UW graduate and postdoctoral community,

We recognize how trying the current circumstances are as you try to move forward with your studies, research and work, while also caring for your family and loved ones who may be differentially impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

President Ana Mari Cauce just sent out a message announcing that spring quarter instruction will be primarily online.

We are writing to follow up and address a few graduate student-specific concerns:

  • For those of you enrolled in classes, your faculty instructors are working hard to transition their courses online and to ensure a high-quality academic experience.
  • Those of you not enrolled in classes but doing independent work should discuss expectations for the rest of the academic year with your faculty advisor, as well as leaders of your graduate program.
  • If you are a doctoral student who will defend your dissertation spring quarter, the Graduate School has waived the requirement that the Graduate School Representative (GSR) must be physically present during general exams and dissertation defenses. This means that all members of your committee may participate remotely.
  • Those of you serving as Instructors of Record and Teaching Assistants should follow the guidelines from Provost Richards and Faculty Senate Chair Janes and also be in touch with your faculty mentors for advice. The Center for Teaching and Learning maintains a site devoted to Teaching and Grading During the Coronavirus Outbreak.
  • All Academic Student Employee spring quarter contracts will be honored; however, there may be reassignments of activity.

Additional information, including guidance on lab work, fieldwork, and public dissertation defenses, can be found in the Academic and Student Affairs FAQ. The UW’s COVID-19 FAQ remains your best source for general news and the latest updates. There are also a number of sites intended to address more specific sub-topics, as well, including the Registrar’s FAQ and the Mitigating Impacts to Research Activities page. We will continue to update these with new information as we receive questions and develop new resources and policies. If you wish to submit a question for inclusion in one of the FAQs, please send to

We ask that you thoroughly read the available FAQs and be in close contact with your faculty advisor as you plot a path forward. We also urge you to practice social distancing and self-isolate as much as possible. Though you may feel fine or consider yourself low-risk, we all need to do our part to protect our community.

The Graduate School will continue review our policies and procedures to ensure they do not become a barrier in your scholarly pursuits. We will also work closely with
other University leaders to ensure that graduate students and postdoctoral scholars receive timely updates and access to information that directly impacts them.

We all find ourselves in an unprecedented situation. Remember that you were accepted to the UW not only for your academic potential, but also for what you would bring to the University community — your spirit of resilience, of innovation, of compassion.

We hope you will all help each other as we navigate this difficult, and rapidly evolving, situation. UW is a strong community. Together, we will get through this.

Joy WIlliamson-Lott
Dean, UW Graduate School