Dear Wolverine Families,
The good news is out: We return to campus this fall, when your students will dive into a stimulating environment where most classes are taught in person, residence halls will open to house all first year students and as many returning students as possible, athletic events have fans in the stands, and the campus is abuzz with activity.
During the March 12 campus briefing, I was so excited to share that we are planning on a more traditional residential experience with lounges and study spaces open, more programming, and increased engagement with staff. Michigan Dining will provide dine-in options by reservation and to-go meals for students who prefer to eat outside or in their rooms. There also will be expanded access to Student Life facilities such as the Unions, Recreation Sports facilities, and other student services, and we expect student organizations will have more opportunities to gather in person.
In terms of student engagement, we are determined to provide as many safe, in-person activities for students as possible to build community for both new and returning students. For students who prefer or need to engage with campus in a hybrid way, we’ll also continue to leverage online tools and resources designed to enhance engagement that have been helpful during Winter 2021. And, of course, all of this is dependent on public health guidance and restrictions from state or local authorities that may be in place at the time. We should all expect that some safety measures — like wearing face coverings and social distancing – may still be necessary.
We are strongly encouraging all students applying for Housing receive a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as it is offered in their local communities or in Ann Arbor. The state will open up vaccine eligibility to all adults starting April 5. Receiving a vaccination will help U-M Housing to provide a safe and engaging residential experience, and will allow us to provide more options when assigning students to Housing this summer. We will share more details in the weeks ahead.
I know that many students, especially current first years and transfer students, have struggled to find community and build meaningful relationships with peers and campus due to the pandemic. With this in mind, we are reimagining the “second year experience,” placing special focus on having as many safe in-person activities for students as possible this fall, to build community for both new and returning students. In particular, we are focused on creating vibrancy and engagement especially during the first six weeks of Fall 2021 to provide anchoring experiences normally associated with “the Michigan Experience.” Please stay tuned for more updates on these efforts in the coming weeks and months.
Fall planning, while exciting, may not be the only thing you and your student are thinking about right now. With snow gone from the Diag and the weather warming up each day, end-of-semester considerations and questions are on many minds. What does your student do for internships and other summertime activities? How can they take care of themselves and take meaningful breaks from studying as the weather improves? This edition of Family Matters offers suggestions for these topics and more, and features Recreational Sports updates and Grab & Go activities. My hope is that these resources will encourage your student to get outside to enjoy the fresh air safely with a friend or student group, or help them get tuned into a friendship-forming virtual event with fellow students.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve come a full year since the pandemic first shut down campuses across the country. But with dropping COVID cases, rising numbers of vaccinated Americans, and the announcement of the university’s plans for Fall 2021, I’m feeling hopeful.
As always, if you have questions regarding the content of this edition of Family Matters, you can connect with Assist-Me@umich.edu to be routed to the best office to help you.
Until next time,
Dr. Martino Harmon, Vice President for Student Life