COVID-19 Update from Dean Linda Mason

Dear Graduate Students,

I am sure that President Daniel’s message was not entirely a surprise considering media coverage worldwide has focused on how quickly the situation COVID-19 is changing.  We are facing extraordinary times and many of the answers are unknown or rapidly evolving.   I have been part of weekly meetings with the administration to determine a university response that would protect the health of the Purdue community.  I am very sorry for any disappointment, distress, or frustration that the recent announcement or future communications may invoke.

I am sure you have many questions and I have few definitive answers, but I will tell you what I know and offer suggestions for some things.

  • Previously, graduate student final exams would only allow one person to call or WebEx into the meeting.  I have relaxed the policy (until further notice) and now will allow the entire committee and the graduate student to do this without filing a waiver.   We want to make sure exams can continue as planned.
  • Deposits of your thesis and dissertation are already online, so that should not be an issue.  If you have questions, please contact Ashlee Messersmith, the manager of the Thesis and Dissertation Office at:      
  • Currently commencement is a go, but if the situation significantly changes, it may have to be cancelled. I know this is disappointing for those who were looking forward to walking and getting hooded. One possibility is that we conduct the ceremony, but have no live audience.  This decision will be determined closer to the end of the semester. If you really want to walk and are available, you can come back to a future ceremony and participate. 
  • Graduate classes will move online, certainly modified, but that is to protect both you and the faculty/staff.  One of the best ways to reduce community spread of the virus is to reduce social contact.  This means not having face-to-face classes. If you have trouble taking online classes, or a faculty member is not accommodating student needs, please contact the Graduate School.
  • Those on a GA, TA or RA should talk with your supervisor to determine if there is a need to change your assistantship duties to meet current operations.  This is especially true for TAs since all instruction will be online.   It may be that you shift from assisting in a face-to-face lecture to assisting with an online discussion group or you assist the faculty member with creating online materials. Just ask your immediate supervisor for guidance. Payroll should not be affected by shifting classes to an online format.  
  • A separate email will go out to you about research but I did want to convey some very important points directly to you.   Purdue University remains open for business, and that includes research.  For all thesis and dissertation students, research is the foundation of your degree and a requirement for awarding the degree. For others, it could be a capstone project or a research experience in a course.  At the current time all research functions are operational and so there should be no impact of the shift to online classes that would interfere with research progress.  We do not know what the future looks like, but the best way to keep moving forward is to prepare for other options.  Each research project is unique and presents unique challenges.   It is very important that each student have a discussion with your  major professor on plans for moving your research forward. Discussion should include a plan to ensure remote research capabilities wherever possible – maybe writing papers, analyzing data (is your laptop able to access campus resources or do you need to put in a box account for example – make sure you are following all regulatory policies).  Have a plan in place for research continuity and make future research decisions based on a variety of future options.  If your research is time-sensitive, how would the plan vary – can it be delayed, rather than starting something that a stoppage would severely compromise.   Well thought out options, made prior to the need, are often the best and will relieve some of the anxiety.  If you are taking a research course such as 698 or 699, you may need to modify the work plan that was discussed at the beginning of the semester.  If research requires face-to-face interaction with participants you may need to contact IRB for a revised protocol to protect participants. The focus for all research activity should be how to prevent the spread of COVID -19 while maintaining critical research operations.  We want students to maintain forward research progress toward degree completion. 

As the situation evolves, and we get more guidance, I will send out additional information.  FAQs are being added on a regular basis to the COVID-19 website (  That is a great place to start.   Please protect yourself by following the CDCs guidelines (, wash hands frequently and socially distance yourself during public activities.   If you have any concerns and can’t find the answer, please let me know.   The Graduate School is here to help you achieve your goals.


Linda J. Mason, PhD
Dean Graduate School and Professor of Entomology Administrative

Assistant Casey Hollingsworth 765-494-2604
Young Hall Graduate School
West Lafayette, IN 47907