Focus on Fall Term, Student Experience and Civic Engagement

The following message was sent to the Drexel community on May 15.

Dear Students and Colleagues,

As the Fall 2020 Covid-19 Task Force continued to move ahead with its work on recommendations for the start of the new academic year, Drexel students were asked to make suggestions for enhancing remote learning this summer and their views on the possibility of returning to campus in September. Meanwhile, we are seeing strong support from employers for the Drexel co-op, and the University’s community outreach efforts are being ramped up in the Promise Zone in West Philadelphia.

The Covid-19 Task Force co-chaired by Norma Bouchard, Megan Weyler and Alan Greenberger will be making a recommendation to me by the end of the month. Thus far, the task force reports that its online survey of students, faculty and professional staff revealed support for the following:

  • Enhanced health and safety measures when we return to campus;
  • Continued remote learning or a hybrid approach to teaching and learning, permitting both online and face-to-face instruction to decrease density on campus and enable social distancing in the classroom;
  • Flexibility in being able to choose to work or learn from home, even in the event that campus activity resumes; and,
  • Staggered schedules to enable labs and studios to function with social distancing measures in place.

I want to thank everyone who responded to this survey, which was an important opportunity for the Drexel community to provide input as we work together to find the safest and most practical way to reopen the physical campuses for the fall. Similarly, we are eager to hear students’ impressions and recommendations for ways to enhance remote learning via the survey sent separately this week. 

Even with only two weeks to pivot to remote teaching for the spring term, we’ve had a mostly positive experience. But we know there are improvements possible for the summer term. We’re collecting best practices from the deans and faculty and are implementing their ideas for improved methods for course delivery and faculty engagement with students.  In addition to the online survey, video focus groups will be held with students to get more in-depth feedback that will be used to improve remote learning.

Along with these efforts, we’re also working with co-op employers to ensure that students in the fall and winter cycle are able to secure placements. So far, the outlook is encouraging, with more than 2,000 co-op positions posted by more than 500 co-op employers, including Johnson and Johnson, Exelon and Independence Blue Cross.

Drexel continues to be active in the West Philadelphia community during this crisis. The Promise Neighborhoods program that we lead is publishing a weekly newsletter with information on resources and such topics as where to obtain food, COVID-19 testing, and basic public health information.  Also, posters with public health guidance — prepared by the Dornsife School of Public Health’s Urban Health Collaborative — are being distributed throughout the Promise Zone. And, using Promise Neighborhoods grant funds, we are ordering and regularly distributing cleaning supplies, masks, and children’s books, crayons, and educational materials. 

In another important development, we learned earlier this week that Drexel was approved to receive student aid grants totaling $6.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education through the CARES Act. Students and parents will receive instructions on how to apply for the funds over the next two weeks.

Finally, I know that our seniors are deeply disappointed that graduation ceremonies have been postponed. However, plans are underway for both a fall celebration — depending on CDC and city health guidelines — as well as an option for 2020 graduates to walk in their school or college 2021 graduation ceremony. Once finalized, we’ll share these details. In addition, the Drexel community is continuing to plan a variety of special tributes for our graduates this June and beyond to celebrate their wonderful achievements.

As we chart the path forward, please continue to check Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus website, and follow health officials’ advice on safeguarding yourself and your loved ones.


John Fry