COVID-19 FAQ for Graduate Faculty

March 24, 2020 - by Sarah Igram

Below, you will find the latest COVID-19-related updates for graduate faculty. The Graduate College will update this page continually as more information becomes available.

General Campus Questions


How will Fall 2020 class registration be impacted for graduate students?

Registration for fall 2020 classes, which was to begin March 23, will be delayed until April 2-3 for the Graduate College. Students and advisors are encouraged to conduct registration appointments electronically.


Am I able to travel for conferences, data collection, or other university-related business?

All university-related non-essential domestic travel is prohibited until further notice. Faculty, staff, and students are not to travel out of state for non-essential university business. Submit travel exception requests to Requests must demonstrate that travel is essential to university operations, that no alternative method of convening is possible, and the health and safety of Iowa State employees will be appropriately managed. At this time, we are not recalling faculty, staff, and students who are currently on university-related domestic travel.

Travel within the state of Iowa can continue. That said, the university strongly recommends decisions are made to reduce in-state travel, consistent with our goal of taking reasonable actions to reduce transmission risk. Some factors to consider when evaluating in-state travel include: whether the activity is necessary to enable a student to remain on-track for degree completion; whether the activity could be postponed, moved online, or done by phone; the number of attendees and whether the attendees can practice social distancing (e.g. sitting at least six feet apart); and whether the activity supports a critical issue or need in an Iowa community.

Monitor the latest ISU information and guidelines at the COVID-19 ISU safety updates page.


How can I charge or recover my travel or other costs?

For information on recovering travel and other costs for canceled travel plans, please see FAQs on COVID-19-related travel reimbursements posted by Procurement Services.


I am scheduled to participate in a graduate student’s preliminary or final oral exam this semester. How should I proceed?

Normally, the Graduate College requires students to submit the Exam Request Form at least two weeks before the preliminary oral exam date and three weeks before the final oral exam date, but for exams held this semester, the form may be submitted up to seven days before the exam. Additionally, the Graduate College strongly encourages students and examining committees to participate in exams via telephone or videoconference. If students and their examining committees choose to hold a preliminary or final oral exam in person, they must do so in a space that allow for six feet of social distancing, and with fewer than 10 people present. Please view the Graduate College’s statement on preliminary and final oral exams during the COVID-19 response period for more information. 

Currently, the Graduate College does not have a set date when we will return to our regular ​preliminary and final oral exam policy. Therefore, if an oral exam is scheduled to take place prior to ​fall 2020, and if it was scheduled prior to the Graduate College returning to regular policy, we will assume that the exam will be held with all members at distance. We will review exams that are scheduled to take place after the beginning of the fall 2020 at a later date.


What support services are open/available to graduate students at this time? 

If you hear questions or concerns from graduate students about their wellbeing, please provide them with the following information about available resources:

  • They should call ahead before visiting the Thielen Student Health Center if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Student Counseling Services is now providing sessions by phone, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Their phone number 515-294-5056. With limited exceptions, Student Counseling is not providing face-to-face appointments at this time.

  • For International Students and Scholars, please call ahead, 515-294-1120. Access to the ISSO office in the Memorial Union is restricted.  

  • Other Student Affairs services will be available to students participating in off-campus online instruction on a limited basis via phone or email. 

  • Academic student support services, including academic advising and career services, will be provided online or by phone. 

If you'd like to learn more about how you can support your graduate students during this uncertain period, check out this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.


Assistantship Questions


What should I consider when supervising graduate assistants during the university online instruction period?

The safety of Iowa State University’s trainees is fundamental to our research and educational mission. PIs and major professors should prioritize work to essential activities (i.e., animal care, equipment maintenance) and research (i.e., experiments that must be conducted to prevent a serious or permanent loss of data).

Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are partners in Iowa State's research activities. They should expect to receive guidance from their departments, major professors, and/or program directors (DOGEs), as well as from the Graduate College. However, it is unacceptable for them to be pressured into taking an active role that requires in-person participation in a laboratory or research site. In the event that a more complete research shut-down is ordered by the university, they may not be pressured into the role of key personnel in essential research activities, exposing them to a laboratory or research site in which they are not comfortable. Instead, supervisors should encourage and accommodate creative activities such as writing manuscripts, literature reviews, computation etc., that can be performed remotely.

Any trainee uncomfortable with performing an essential role as assigned by their major professor or PI should immediately contact their Director of Graduate Education (DOGE), center director, or the Graduate College (Associate Dean Carolyn Cutrona, Postdocs may contact the Graduate College (Postdoc Coordinator, Misty Treanor, or their department’s Postdoc Contact Person (LAS only).


Research-Related Questions


For information related to research and COVID-19, please refer to the Office of the Vice President for Research’s FAQ, which addresses:

  • Social distancing and reducing the risk of transmission while conducting research
  • Research contingency planning
  • Essential research activities
  • Sponsored funding and changes in agency policy
  • Human-subjects research
  • Continuity of care for research and teaching animals
  • Plant research
  • Biohazards research
  • PPE donation


Questions about COVID-19


What precautions can I take to prevent COVID-19, influenza or other illnesses?

There are steps you can take to limit your risk for any illness. The Thielen Student Health Center encourages the campus community to practice infection control strategies including:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with tissues when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash after use.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to avoid spreading germs.
  • Improve your immune system by getting enough rest (eight hours is ideal), exercising regularly, and eating healthy.
  • Stay home if you are sick and avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Instead of a handshake, give a wave to avoid spreading germs.

To help stop the spread of disease, it is important for students, faculty and staff to stay home when they are sick. While COVID-19 has not been detected on campus, influenza, colds and other illnesses are prevalent during the winter months. Cyclone Health also has helpful information and additional resources for taking care of your behavioral health during the outbreak.


Should I require students to require an excuse from Thielen Student Health Center if they miss class?

No. Please see the class excuse statement from the Office of the Provost and Thielen Student Health Center.


I am concerned that friends, family or students may be impacted by the disease. Is there a place I can go for help?

The university also encourages students and employees who may have anxiety or depression regarding how they are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak to seek mental health services through Student Counseling Services or the Thielen Student Health Center.


How can I support my fellow Cyclones during the COVID-19 outbreak?

It is important to obtain credible information from experts including the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and public health agencies, and ensure you are only sharing credible resources. Outbreaks can cause fear and anxiety and we encourage our campus community to be supportive and speak out against negative and stigmatizing behavior. Campus resources are also available for support.


Additional Resources

Employee FAQ from University Human Resources

Student FAQ from University Human Resources

FAQ from the Office of the Vice President for Research

Updated statement from the Graduate College on preliminary and final oral examinations during COVID-19 response period

Tags: covid-19 updates