A Message from Dean Leo

Dear Students,

As we approach the last two weeks before the Thanksgiving Break, I wanted to take time and let you know that I speak for all of our faculty and staff when I say we hope that you are safe and healthy during this very difficult semester.  Our college recognizes the challenges that all of you have faced in modifying the way that you take classes, changing your study habits, and, of course, adapting your daily routine and social activities to account for life during a global pandemic.  I am sure that this has been a very trying time over the past several months. 

I trust that you are aware that the university will be transitioning to online-only classes after the Thanksgiving Break and through the end of the Fall 2020 term, including finals week.  Details can be found in the UGA academic calendar.  In keeping with the university decision to maintain access to campus facilities after Thanksgiving, our facilities will be open during this time and operating in the same manner as they were operating prior to the Thanksgiving Break.  In addition, we will still be allowing students access to spaces in Driftmier to allow students ​places to study and take online classes for those that choose to remain on campus after Thanksgiving.  

The subject of facilities does bring me to a point of concern that I have as we head into the final month of the Fall term.  Over the past ​several weeks I have noticed a significant decline in compliance with the health and safety measures that are still in place in our college and across the university.  While compliance with the mask policy is still universal in our classrooms during in-person learning, I have noted that more and more of our students are choosing to work ​closely together in building, huddle rooms, and study spaces in ways that are not complying with the health and safety measures of the university.  Please note that the policy for social distancing and face coverings is still in effect across campus and throughout our spaces in Engineering.  Please comply with these policies so that all our students are safe and feel comfortable coming to campus. 

In my discussions with faculty, staff, and students we have noted a significant decline in the number of students who are attending classes in-person when remote learning is an option for the classroom.  This is very concerning to me, since I fundamentally believe that it is in your best interests to attend classes in person when that option is available.  Not only does it improve your educational experience, it will improve your emotional and mental health to be more connected to your peers.  In response to this issue, I have convened a group of students, faculty, and staff to consider ways we can work together more effectively to promote in-person class attendance.  Topics that we are considering include creating schedules that minimize the back-and-forth from home to campus on a daily basis and a set of policies and shared values to increase in-person class attendance in a manner that maximizes the health and safety practices in the college.  We will be announcing the results of these discussions later this semester.    

Finally, please note that the university has significantly increased free testing services prior to the Thanksgiving break.  I would encourage you to consider getting tested before departing campus.  More details can be found at the UGA Coronavirus website.  

Once again, we are entering the home stretch of the semester and we truly want the best for you as we complete the Fall term.  Best wishes for the classes that remain before Thanksgiving and for the online classes and finals after the Thanksgiving Break. 

Dean and UGA Foundation Professor in Engineering