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2021 Student Spring Semester Update

February 19, 2021
Dear Students:

We have all learned a great deal over this past year. We have become stronger in unexpected ways, and more united as a community despite the distances mandated by the pandemic. We have set new expectations for ourselves to behave in more equitable, empathetic, and inclusive ways. And we have developed frameworks for enabling our work that have allowed us to extend the wisdom we have gained to offer generosity and rise beyond many of the challenges imposed on us by this pandemic.

We continue to adjust and progressively plan. Activity on campus is increasing, with more in-person courses this semester and twice as many students living in our residence halls. We have acclimated to safety precautions and look forward to more in-person engagement, as it becomes possible, as the year progresses.

As we continue into the spring semester, I want to share some updates, reminders, and resources to support your continued success. I have heard that many students appreciate hearing about information that is shared with our faculty, academic staff, and academic advisors. Please read the spring semester email to faculty and academic staff to learn what updates, reminders, and resource information have been sent to them. Graduate students who serve as teaching assistants have been provided both emails given their multiple roles.

Spring 2021 Graduation Ceremonies:

One of the most cherished of academic traditions is graduation. University leaders are considering several different scenarios for the spring 2021 graduation ceremonies for our spring 2021 graduates. Knowing that these ceremonies are an important part of your college experience, we are hopeful we will be able to have some in-person ceremonies if the slowing of the virus continues. If the status of the virus does not allow us to have the ceremonies, we will pivot to virtual options.

At this time, we can confirm the dates for the college-based ceremonies. Specific details, including ceremony formats, will be shared on the Commencement website. We appreciate your patience as we all continue to navigate toward this culminating activity.

April 30-May 2, 2021: Baccalaureate Degree Ceremonies for all colleges except Veterinary Medicine. College-specific dates and times will be posted on the Commencement website The undergraduate Veterinary Medicine ceremony will take place with their college’s advanced degree ceremony on May 7.
May 7-8 and May 14, 2021: Master's Degree, Educational Specialists, Ph.D. Degree, and Medical Degrees on May 7-8. Law Degree Ceremonies will take place on May 14. Specific dates and times will be posted on the Commencement website
Mandatory DEI Foundations Workshops:
At this point, all undergraduate and graduate students should have received an email with the prompt to complete the DEI Foundations at MSU module that President Stanley has asked all faculty, staff, and students to complete. You can manually access the module by logging in at with your NetID and clicking on DEI Foundations under the My Requirements tab. For those currently engaged in the module we have the following FAQ Sheet that addresses technical as well as critical content, extending the discourse where useful.

For Undergraduate Students:
Student Experience Survey

Thank you to all who participated in the Student Experience Survey last month. I am pleased to report that over 20% of you provided feedback (a record for these kinds of surveys), and the information collected provides actionable data as we look to the future. Your responses made clear the tremendous strain the pandemic is imposing on you, as well as the value you place on faculty who are responsive to your needs, especially those who offer grace and empathy, and who organize their courses in a manner that alleviates fears about overlooking assignments or missing deadlines. We know you are studying a great deal and that community-building has been hard to do. As part of the survey response you recognized over 3,000 individuals – some as many as 30 times – who have been particularly helpful as you have navigated very difficult circumstances. I appreciate each of the individuals recognized for all of the ways they have been helpful. We are sharing your feedback across campus and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Mark Largent has teams in place developing additional ways to support you in this spring semester.

S/NS Reminder:

I also want to remind you that we are offering a Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory (S/NS) binary grade reporting option for students again in spring 2021. For undergraduate students, the threshold between S and NS will be 1.0. More information, including a series of FAQs, is available on the MSU Guide to Remote Access website.

Those Living on Campus

For those of you who are living, working, or learning on campus, thank you for your continued participation in the MSU Early Detection Program. Your participation in testing, mask wearing, and daily health screening submissions are helping keep our community safe. As a reminder, if you are experiencing a red status, this could be due to a number of reasons:

A positive COVID test result.
One or more symptoms identified in your health screen require additional follow-up. Reminder: Health screenings must be done every day to be green on any given day.
You may not have registered for the Early Detection Program or provided a saliva sample in over eight days. Quick note: You must register for the Early Detection Program and provide a saliva sample every week.
A test was completed on the wrong date/time. As a heads up: You must submit before 1 p.m. to have results within 36 hours.
You have an invalid or untested sample.
Your dashboard will give details needed to address a red or yellow status. Visit the Early Detection Program website if you have questions or to learn more. Thank you for navigating these health screens as you move through the spring semester.

For Graduate and Graduate Professional Students:
Continued Success:

I am so pleased with the successful continuation of labs, research, and creative activities being conducted safely during the pandemic. Many at MSU have worked diligently to enable over 2,000 of our valued graduate and graduate professional students to continue to pursue their advanced degree work in person throughout the pandemic while maintaining your health and safety.

Pursuing an advanced degree is a journey of diligence and commitment to oneself and to one’s discipline or craft, which has been amplified in the COVID-context. Many of you are also serving as educators and I believe your positive spirit will carry through in the ways in which you solve the problems of our future. I am proud of our graduate and graduate professional students for all that you are accomplishing!

Graduate Academic Conference

I am looking forward to joining you at the upcoming Graduate Academic Conference organized by the Council of Graduate Students. This event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. I encourage you to view the virtual posters, oral presentations, and Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition to see the great research, scholarship, or creative or performative accomplishments that our MSU graduate students are producing. Workshops will provide you with an opportunity to participate in rich discussions about how to better prepare for your future, as well as how to discuss research in productive manners in policy and to the general public. Register today for this virtual event.


For those of you with instructional responsibilities, please be aware of our new Kognito program, a virtual training platform designed to provide student-facing employees with a socio-emotional toolkit for recognizing and addressing students experiencing distress. This program consists of role-playing scenarios where users work their way through simulated conversations with students. Kognito is not a replacement for MSU’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) or Employee Assistance Program (EAP), but a supplement for consideration as needed.

S/NS Reminder:

A reminder that we are offering a Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory (S/NS) binary grade reporting option for students in spring 2021. For graduate students, this option is to be used in consultation with program directors. Individual colleges may have different grading policies. If the underlying numeric grade is 2.0 or 2.5, the program and college will determine how this course grade figures in degree requirements. More information about the S/NS grade reporting option, including a series of FAQs, is available on the MSU Guide to Remote Access website.

Ongoing Support and Thanks to All:
The Provost's Office has assembled a wide range of resources and best practices for students, housed on the Keep Learning site. Please reference the content on this site frequently to learn more, as it is updated frequently. Thank you to every student, regardless of where you are living and learning – in the residential halls or completing MSU courses at home in Michigan or around the world – for your hard work and dedication to your education and to your future.

Continue to learn, solve, and strive, MSU!

My best,

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
MSU Foundation Professor