The Path Forward: Fall 2020

We are here for you.

William & Mary will be different this fall. We are adapting so you can do your best work.

Essential Information for Students – July 1, 2020
Essential Information for Employees – June 30, 2020
Latest updates from the COVID-19 Response Team – June 26, 2020

William & Mary is preparing for an early opening and an in-person semester in fall 2020, consistent with Virginia’s public health guidelines (pdf) for higher education. 

W&M will offer three semesters – fall, spring and summer – to provide maximum flexibility for students. The fall 2020 semester will include a condensed schedule that begins a week early and ends before Thanksgiving. We will have no fall break. William & Mary is taking a phased approach to decision-making, and will continue to update the community as more information and details become available.

As we return to campus, our governing themes are flexibility, safety, wellness, equity, collaboration, innovation and service. A hallmark of the fall semester will be engaging the creativity of William & Mary in pragmatic solutions to support our communities under pandemic conditions.

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A Phased Planning Process

Even before the spring semester had ended, William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe had initiated a rapid planning process led by a presidentially appointed, multi-disciplinary Plan Ahead team. The Path Forward: Fall 2020 incorporates feedback from key leadership: the Board of Visitors; leaders of the faculty, staff and student assemblies; the Emergency Management team and the president’s Cabinet. The plan infuses William & Mary’s mission and values into our approach for the fall.

What William & Mary presents here is a “direction of travel,” not a blueprint for implementation. Because no university has faced such challenges, we have set up structures to ensure that our assumptions can evolve with new data and new information. Our implementation will unfold in a phased way, over the rest of this summer.

In July, William & Mary will phase in with care and deliberateness the safeguards in our physical plant and workplace practices that will be crucial to protecting staff, faculty and student health. Those on campus will begin to see rearrangements in the physical environment, plexiglass barriers, increased use of protective equipment and other adaptations being put in place.

The plan reflects ongoing, robust collaboration between the universities in the Virginia public higher education system and the commonwealth’s education and health departments. As public health officials improve understanding of how to safeguard communities while returning to in-person life and work, William & Mary will evolve our practices to reflect what we learn and updated guidance.

Much uncertainty lies ahead. As federal, state and local public health guidelines further develop, some things will not be in our control. President Rowe and W&M's leadership team will determine how to adapt appropriately. We will use the best information we have to safeguard safety and health, in the service of the community’s overall well-being. And we will communicate regularly.

A hallmark of the fall semester will be engaging the creativity of W&M students in pragmatic solutions to support our communities under pandemic. No single path or solution will meet the needs of all. We trust and empower our expert faculty and staff to solve challenges in ways consistent with their disciplines and schools, and with the best interests of our community in mind.

And we trust in our students. Collaboration and partnership between staff, faculty, students and our surrounding community were the superpowers that made us successful in the spring. That partnership will continue to be essential going forward.

Community Commitment

The intentional work of cultivating deep human connections within our community is front of mind for William & Mary. Because of this, our campus has the ability to embrace and sustain the kinds of changes that learning and working together under pandemic will require.

All members of this community are expected to commit to specific safeguards for one another’s health. We will call each other in: to these shared commitments, to awareness of vulnerabilities that may be hard to see. Because we respect and value one another's different contributions to W&M’s mission when we lapse, we will immediately correct our course with goodwill and renewed dedication.

Why Convene in Person?
Seven reasons our mission calls us back:
  1. William & Mary convenes great minds and hearts to meet the most pressing needs of our time – and this is a time of most pressing need. We return in person to practice what we preach: 327 years of innovation has taught us we can persevere and adapt.
  2. W&M can make a difference, now. We know that the range of a liberal arts and sciences education – integrated with exceptional professional and graduate schools – is the best preparation for citizenship and professional life in the 21st century. William & Mary educates critical thinkers prepared to solve complex problems in collaboration with others, in compassionate and ethical ways. Called together in service, our community has the creativity and power to address the vulnerabilities of others, under pandemic.
  3. Collaboration, community and experiential learning are our hallmarks – and above all the close connections between teachers and learners that cultivate these qualities. Those connections deepen most swiftly in person.
  4. The research is clear: Learning accelerates in the company of others. Isolation, by contrast, is a massive risk factor for learning and its effects compound inequities of many kinds. Thus, equity is a powerful motivator for the return to in-person learning. As we discovered this spring, for many students, W&M is home, an environment in which they can fully be students, with a more level playing field for learning and access to critical services.
  5. Overwhelmingly, our students hope to return to in-person learning this fall. They chose W&M for all the reasons above. Many also may need flexibility to accommodate their specific circumstances, just as our faculty and staff do. Flexibility creates its own complexity, but it is essential to meeting the needs and addressing the uncertainty ahead.
  6. At a time of great uncertainty and vulnerability for so many, William & Mary has an obligation to ensure that our students’ paths through their baccalaureate, professional and graduate degrees are not interrupted, and that we support their paths into their future lives. W&M alumni networks stand ready to engage in support of our graduates at an extraordinary time of economic challenge.
  7. Finally, as organizations, universities uniquely intertwine service work (hospitality and support for campus life) and knowledge work (teaching, learning, research). This symbiosis is one reason residential universities have lasted through the centuries. To the extent that we can adapt to sustain this unique model, we can also sustain our economy and workforce through the shocks of a pandemic. To the extent possible, W&M has an obligation to ensure the prosperity of our employees and region.
Your Return to Campus

Review the university's measures for health and safety of the campus community and find details for your return to campus, as they are made available:

Timeline Overview

This year, W&M will offer three in-person semesters – an accelerated fall semester, plus spring and summer semesters – to allow for maximum flexibility for students. The fall schedule begins and ends early, removes fall break, and incorporates some evening and Saturday instruction as well as remote options. Detailed academic calendars will continue to be available from the Registrar's Office.

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  • Through July 7: Registration for undergraduate transfer students
  • July 13-30: New undergraduate registration
  • July 15: Course delivery attributes designated in Banner
  • July 31: Final date for Commencement 2020 to be confirmed. Employees telework as much as possible through this date.
  • Week of Aug. 3: Schedule changes, continuing students 
  • Aug. 12-14: New students move in
  • Aug. 15-18: Returning students move in
  • Aug. 17: Classes start in the Law School
  • Aug. 18: Add/drop begins at 1 p.m.
  • Aug. 19: Classes start for undergraduates, Graduate Arts & Sciences, VIMS and School of Education
  • Fall break canceled
  • Oct. 9-11: Commencement 2020 scheduled
  • Nov. 13: Last day of classes for undergraduates, Graduate Arts & Sciences and VIMS
  • Nov. 14: Last day of classes for Law School
  • Nov. 16-24: Final exams for undergraduates, Graduate Arts & Sciences, VIMS and Law School
  • TBD: Winter Graduation
  • Nov. 24: Last day of semester for School of Education
  • Nov. 25: Move-out
  • Dec. 7: Grades due for undergraduate courses, Graduate Arts & Sciences and School of Education

We encourage you to review the current info available for students and families, faculty and staff, and alumni and friends, along with our most frequently asked questions. Know that more information is coming. But if you have comments, concerns or feedback for the Plan Ahead Team now, we welcome them.

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