Fall Forum Highlights Planning for New Academic Year

The following message was sent to the Drexel community on June 18.

Dear Students and Colleagues,

One week ago, we lit up the Main Building, Boathouse Row and other Philadelphia landmarks in blue and gold in a city-wide tribute to the Class of 2020. That evening, June 11, we broadcast a University-wide virtual graduation celebration to honor our newest, history-making Drexel alumni. To our graduates, I know that you were disappointed not to be able to attend your Commencement, but we will honor you next June when we gather at Citizens Bank Park.

Between now and then, we have a great deal of work to do.

Fall 2020 Virtual Forum

Our focus continues to be on executing plans for our return to campus in September. We will be communicating details regularly as they are finalized in the coming weeks, and that process moved ahead yesterday with a virtual forum for Drexel faculty and professional staff where we outlined next steps in our phased approach to reopening the campuses. I’m grateful to the nearly 1,500 members of the community who attended this discussion, which included a presentation from the Fall 2020 COVID-19 Task Force, as well as questions from the audience.

Return to Campus Oversight Committee

As we look ahead, the new Return to Campus Oversight Committee — headed by Marla Gold, MD, vice provost for Community Health Care Innovation — will act as an interdisciplinary body of representatives from across the University. Their charge is to create and help implement action steps and processes based upon the Task Force recommendations. The Oversight Committee’s work will act as a guide to ensure our return to campus is the safest possible for all members of the Drexel community. A Scientific Advisory Committee has also been formed to provide the latest information to the Oversight Committee related to questions about COVID-19.

Research Phase to Inform Fall Planning

Meanwhile, the University is starting to test the approaches and systems to be used this fall through the ramping up of research activities that began with the June 5 transition to the less-restrictive “yellow” phase of Pennsylvania’s reopening process. Even with the pandemic shutdown, the spirit of research innovation at Drexel has remained strong — as evidenced by our recently earning the George W. Bush Institute's number one ranking for innovation among mid-sized universities.

While remote research will continue wherever feasible, the initial phase of the research ramp-up allows for an increase in on-campus, field-based and clinic-based activities. In this first phase, a 33 percent cap has been set for on-campus researcher density, and requests for permission to resume in-person research must provide detailed hygiene and physical distancing plans. These plans are reviewed by the Provost’s Office and administrative support groups to ensure appropriate safety measures to minimize health risks.

Anti-Racism Initiatives

We are also doing the important work of ensuring that our university is free from racism and discrimination and are moving forward with a number of initiatives announced last Friday. These initiatives include naming a university-wide anti-racism task force to look at practices across the entire University; conducting an independent review of the Drexel University Police Department by former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey; launching a new Center for Black Culture at Drexel; and redoubling our support of the local business community — and especially Black-owned businesses — during this economically challenging time. We will also observe Juneteenth, which commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States, by closing the University tomorrow, June 19.

Drexel Co-op Innovates Remotely

The Drexel co-op experience has been altered in significant ways by the pandemic shutdown, with most co-ops conducted remotely. But through its work with students, employers and academic partners, the Steinbright Career Development Center has succeeded in maintaining a 78 percent employment rate for spring/summer co-op students. In a challenging employment environment, those students who have not landed a co-op position, or have had an offer rescinded, will soon receive advanced career education, job search strategies, and resources for skill enhancement through a new, more robust version of the Strategic Career Planning and Development module.

In addition, the Steinbright team is working to develop new co-op opportunities by leveraging Drexel’s network of employers and alumni, engaging with the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, and working within the University community to provide on-campus or remote opportunities in various areas including academic research, civic engagement and business operations. These efforts have resulted in the development of more than 2,000 A-Round co-op positions at more than 500 employers for the fall/winter recruitment cycle. Fall/winter co-op students can apply for 35 positions, increased from 25, while searching for co-op opportunities on SCDCOnline. Information regarding fall/winter co-op can be found at the Steinbright COVID-19 response web page.

CARES Act Student Aid Arrives

The University has received CARES Act funding from the U.S. Department of Education, with the aim of helping students meet costs associated with COVID-19. Eligible students may use their CARES grant to cover pandemic-related expenses such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and childcare. The funds are being distributed to students based on financial need and in accordance with federal guidelines. Eligible students are being notified of their award by e-mail. For information about the CARES Act, please visit this Drexel Central web page.

The summer months will be busy for all of us. As we move forward, I want to thank each of you for your continued hard work, patience and flexibility in meeting the challenges and opportunities before us.


John Fry