OGSR COVID-19 Response

Updated April 10, 2020

This page compiles important information for Graduate Arts & Sciences that has been distributed in recent weeks. The Office of Graduate Studies and Research will update this page as necessary. We are committed to working with you to ensure you are able to continue your graduate study. Please work closely with your advisor(s) and the director of graduate study (DGS) in your program to determine what is and is not feasible given the current circumstances. Please take care of yourselves and each other.   --Virginia Torczon, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

Stetson House Closed but Staff Available

Stetson House will not be open but the staff in the OGSR will be telecommuting, effective Monday, March 16, 2020 until further notice. All OGSR staff will be available by email. Vicki Thompson Dopp, Administrative Coordinator, will also be available by phone, 7:30-4:30 on business days. She can be reached at 757-221-1966. Visit our Contact Us page for staff email addresses.


During the current COVID-19 response, graduate students serving as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs), Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) or Graduate Assistants (GAs) are advised accordingly. Stipends will continue under the following modified work conditions:

  • GRAs are expected to work directly with their supervising faculty and/or department chair to support courses delivered through alternative remote models.
  • GRAs are advised to work directly with their Principal Investigator (PI) to continue their research in a remote manner as much as possible.
  • GAs should communicate directly with their supervisor to determine the location and nature of their work.

We encourage you to use the coming weeks to work on your dissertations and theses in ways that do not require your presence on campus; for instance in writing or revising chapters or in conducting analyses. The Graduate Writing Resource Center remains open for online consultations. Writing consultants can help you with the framing of your key conclusions and provided you useful feedback on how to construct your arguments. During this pause in on-campus activities, consider whether the central arguments of your dissertation or thesis can be reformulated in a way that can still lead to a satisfying outcome while keeping you on track for graduating as you had planned. If so, then discuss this possibility with your advisor(s) and committee members.

Building Access

When some limited W&M building access is required, the following guidelines apply: 

  • Research requires the use of W&M facilities &/or equipment and cannot be deferred to a later time without significant loss.
  • The supervising faculty member/PI is responsible for approving limited access for the required tasks that cannot be delayed.
  • An example of an approved tasks may include animal care, culture maintenance, etc.
  • Approved students should have pre-existing card access to these locations for these tasks.
  • The certification of students for access must be initiated by a faculty or staff member who will take responsibility for assuring that the tasks being undertaken are within these guidelines. These supervisors will provide the names and Banner ID numbers to their respective department/program chairs who will, in turn, forward the department-certified list to Facilities Management to be entered in the building Access system.
  • Carefully weigh the risks to yourself and to others of a continuing presence on campus. Please focus now on only those research activities that will prevent unrecoverable losses if not completed. 
Summer Research

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, a variety of restrictions are now in place not only on university-funded travel, but also on procurement, and on the use of university funds generally. We must adhere to these restrictions. Therefore, we must suspend the current round of OGSR research and conference travel grants, as well as the Dean's Summer Research Funds (for humanities). Until further notice, we will not be reviewing applications already received and will not accept further applications. We recognize and deeply regret that this will make it difficult for many A&S graduate students to conduct research in the field, in archives, and to procure necessary equipment. We will be watching the situation unfold over the next few months and will work to make research funding available if and when we are able.

Note that these suspended research grants are separate from the Graduate Summer Research Fellowships that many A&S graduate students receive. The Graduate Summer Research Fellowship payments are being processed by your graduate program; you should receive these fellowship funds by mid-May. Read more on our Financial Matters FAQ page.


The move to remote instruction poses many challenges to anyone in a teaching role, including graduate students. TAs should work closely with their instructor of record to determine what their role will be. Both TAs and Teaching Fellows (those teaching their own course as instructor of record) should familiarize themselves with the online resources developed by W&M's Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation (STLI); this site is intended to help you transition to remote instruction. New resources and tutorial videos are being added every week. W&M Libraries has also compiled resources to support remote teaching and learning.

If you have questions or concerns about your teaching responsibilities, please contact the director of graduate studies in your program or contact [[sgglos,Sarah Glosson]], Director of the A&S Graduate Center.

Defenses, Comps, Quals, etc.

The Graduate Arts & Sciences Catalog stipulates that students must be physically present on campus for milestones including defenses, comprehensive exams, and qualifying exams. However, until further notice, we now require remote participation by students for all colloquia, comprehensive exams, qualifying exams, and dissertation/thesis defenses. We recommend the use of Zoom because of its features and have compiled advice on how to make the most of a remote defense or examination in this tip sheet.

Forms and Signatures

The OGSR typically requires original signatures on official forms which means signed copies need to be dropped off or mailed to the OGSR in Stetson House. With Stetson House staff working remotely, we will grant an exception to this rule. While Stetson House remains closed, the OGSR will accept forms submitted via a W&M email address (@wm.edu for faculty and @email.wm.edu for students). There are several methods for signing forms remotely. Here is a tip sheet that describes a number of methods and offers advice on specific OGSR forms.

If you are filing a Notice of Candidacy to Graduate form for the first time, pleases send this directly to [[wdcart,Wanda Carter]]. Otherwise, please submit all forms directly to the OGSR [[dean-gsr,using this email address]]. We urge you to keep copies of all forms for your own records. 

Pass/Fail Grading Option for Spring 2020

In consideration of the adjustment to remote learning for students, members of the Arts & Sciences Committee on Graduate Studies approved instituting the following temporary modifications to the grading policy for the Spring 2020 semester only:

  1. Pass/Fail grading will be available for all Graduate Arts & Sciences courses (all Arts & Sciences courses numbered higher than 499) and any Arts & Sciences graduate student may select this grading option, subject to the approval of the Director Graduate Studies for their program.
  2. Students may select P/F grading for one, some, or all their Spring 2020 courses, or students may choose not to change any courses to P/F grade mode.
  3. Courses with a P grade may be used to fulfill graduation requirements.
  4. At the end of the finals period, faculty will submit standard letter grades for standard‐graded courses.
  5. For Graduate Arts & Sciences courses a grade of C or higher must be achieved to be converted to P for students who have chosen that option. Grades ranging from C- to D- will remain on the transcript and will not be converted to F.
  6. Students must exercise the P/F option by Friday, May 29, 2020 using this link.

In addition, course withdrawal to a grade of “W” has been extended to the last day of the semester, Friday, May 1. The requirement to maintain full‐time enrollment of a minimum of 9 credits remains in effect for all students receiving financial aid (i.e., a stipend and/or tuition waiver).

The pass/fail option is probably best viewed as a “safety net” for students whose GPA may be negatively impacted by issues beyond their control or that they were unable to overcome despite best efforts.

A notation will be made on transcripts for Spring 2020 explaining these temporary changes to academic policy. This should alleviate concerns about future graduate program admission, employment, or other future review.

If you are taking a graduate course outside of Arts & Sciences, the grading option for the academic unit in which you are taking that course applies.

If you have any questions about the policy, please reach out to the Director of Graduate Studies for your program, who will be required to review all such requests to ensure a selection would not undermine your academic standing in the program.


In accordance with the university’s decisions, all on-campus events are cancelled through the end of Spring Semester. This includes:

  • 2020 Graduate Research Symposium. Visit the Virtual 2020 GRS site created to help showcase the research of those slated to participate in the GRS in March.
  • The spring 2020 meeting of the A&S Graduate Studies Advisory Board.
  • All in-person workshops and events sponsored by the OGSR.
  • Commencement. Please watch for updates from the university as decisions are made about alternative plans for commencement.
Support Services Across Campus

Our partners across campus continue to provide you with a variety of support services.

  • W&M Libraries is working to expand ebook and subscription database offerings. Research librarians are available for remote appointments. Read more on the W&M Libraries website.
  • The Cohen Career Center is offering remote programming in addition to its usual online resources.  Check out their extensive tips about interviewing, including a link to online platform Big Interview designed to help you prepare. They also offer general tips for graduate students on many career preparation topics. A&S graduate students are welcome to reach out directly to [[dlsnyder,Don Snyder]] (Sciences) and [[tmnations,Tonya Nations]] (humanities) for career advising.
  • The Wellness Center is offering remote programming. Take a yoga class, do guided meditation, art therapy, and more. Also download the Wellness Center's new mobile app.
    • The Student Health Center is currently accepting calls Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. Appointments are made through a screening process and will be virtual whenever possible. In-person appointments will be arranged when deemed necessary. Please call 757-221-4386.
    • The Counseling Center is not taking in-person appointments, please call 757-221-3620.
  • The Reves Center has compiled resources and information for international students.
  • The Campus Food Pantry continues to provide free and anonymous access to grocery and hygiene items.
Graduate A&S Newsletter

We will continue to update you on changes, important information, and upcoming deadlines through the Graduate Newsletter that is sent out on Monday mornings.