Dear parents, families, and supporters of Kinesiology students,
I am writing to you today as both the Dean of the School of Kinesiology and a University of Michigan parent. I hope you all are as well as can be expected during this challenging time. I want to take a moment to assure you that we’re doing everything we can here in Kinesiology to ensure continuity in our students’ education. Their well-being, as always, is our top priority. I’d like to share what our university and school have been doing to accomplish this goal.
Good sources of information
The university’s most important step to preserve students’ health was to move to remote teaching, cancel campus events, suspend all university international travel, and take other steps to create the social distancing that is key to slowing the spread of the virus.
We are strongly encouraging students to return to their permanent residence if they are able, and we hope you will support us in sharing this message. On a sparsely populated campus, the virus is less able to spread in communal spaces.
I know that for many students, traveling home is truly not an option, so the university is keeping dorms open and has converted dining halls to take-out meals only, with heightened hygiene regimens to promote sanitary conditions. Whatever choice your student makes, it helps the university enormously to know where students are; they should confirm their plans through this survey.
Mental health & emotional well-being
We are aware that students may be experiencing a broad range of emotions right now, including fear, disappointment, and frustration. It is heartbreaking to know that for our seniors, this is an abrupt end to their time here, and they won’t be able to experience a traditional commencement. Students on study abroad or other travel opportunities, or conducting certain lab work, had their experiences cut short. Student-athletes will not be able to complete their seasons or compete for a championship. First-year and transfer students who had recently arrived on campus and were just finding their feet have now had their footing shaken. As faculty and staff, we have worked beside our students for months and years; we know the life-changing power of the learning experiences on campus, and we share very keenly (as I’m sure you do) the sense of loss and disappointment so many of them are feeling.
Our best source of support is community, and we encourage students to connect with peers, faculty, mentors, friends, and family. Help, and the need for help, is all around us. Together, we can address this need.
Key student support services also continue to run, now with remote options, and we urge students to make use of them even when they are not on campus:
Teaching & learning
Despite these difficult and uncertain times, our core work continues. Earlier this week we experienced an unprecedented event: we moved all of our courses into remote instruction on just a few days’ notice. This was a prodigious effort, requiring incredible creativity, hard work, and collaboration.
I am deeply impressed by and grateful for the ways our community is rising to this challenge. Our staff and instructors are sharing ideas and developing plans to provide students the very best class experiences they can. We are offering faculty new pedagogical approaches and technical tools. Our technology team is working hard to provide training, support, and creative problem-solving.
Honestly, a lot is going to go wrong, in addition to going right, as we venture into this remote environment. There will be technological glitches, scheduling confusion, and seemingly great ideas that fail in practice. We have teams prepared to help faculty and students adapt. We are asking for patience and generosity from the entire community as we get things working.
The University of Michigan School of Kinesiology is committed to immersive, rigorous education and research that creates new knowledge at the intersection of science and business – and profoundly improves lives. We continue to prepare our students to be the Leaders and Best in the fields of allied health, sport business, physical activity, and community wellness. You should take pride, as I do, in the passionate, driven work that our students, faculty, and staff are undertaking, even from afar.
While we don’t know what the next few weeks and months may bring, I want to assure you that university leadership is working around the clock to address critical issues in order of their urgency and priority. We are currently reviewing several key topics, including grading for this semester and financial aid/refund status for various scenarios. Please be patient as the university works through so many important issues simultaneously.
I am comforted by the knowledge that our close-knit community is rallying to support each other. It has been my pleasure to watch our students learn and grow during their time with us – and, most recently, to adjust to this “new normal” with thoughtfulness and maturity. As one of our faculty said to me this week, “We really do have the best students.”
Stay safe and healthy, and GO BLUE.
Lori Ploutz-Snyder, PhD
Professor and Dean, University of Michigan School of Kinesiology