Update and resources for undergraduates

October 16, 2020

Dear Undergraduate Students,

As we shared with you earlier this month and discussed in our Family Weekend town hall, planning for the spring semester is well underway. Over the past few weeks, our task force members have had fruitful discussions with workgroups focusing on academics and student life, consulted with our public health and medical experts on the Johns Hopkins Health Advisory Group, sought input from our Student Advisory Group, and benefited from diligent work by our faculty, staff, deans, and department leaders to outline an approach to academic and community life that meets learning goals while keeping safety at the forefront. We expect to update you soon with key dates related to spring course registration and Intersession.

As we continue the planning process, we need your help to come to the best possible approach. Your feedback, suggestions, and responses to surveys provide us with information that is vital to the planning process.

We thank you for your responses to the recent housing intention questionnaire, which is key for outlining potential scenarios for opening our residence halls. Determining how to accommodate the housing needs of our undergraduates while maintaining COVID safety is one of the issues at the forefront of our deliberations about the spring.

Another survey has just opened, and it seeks your help improving the university’s health communications by providing your impressions of the JHNeedsU campaign and general COVID-19 knowledge and attitudes among our community. The survey takes about five minutes and is open until 5 p.m. EDT on Oct. 29. We know from peer universities that fostering a culture of universal adherence to COVID safety measures like physical distancing, mask wearing, and symptom monitoring is essential to a successful return to campus, and this survey will help us make sure we are using the right approach for Hopkins.

While we plan for the spring, we are also seeking your feedback on how to make the fall semester as successful and fulfilling as possible. We were pleased that in a recent survey of both graduate and undergraduate students, 80% of respondents agreed that they could succeed this semester despite being remote, and more than 90% said that their professors were open and willing to connect with students outside of class. That is a testament to the commitment, flexibility, and resilience of both our professors and students in this challenging time.

The housing survey also asked full-time Homewood undergraduates for their recommendations for how Hopkins can increase a sense of connection with other students and with the university as a whole through virtual engagement and programming. The results underscore the reasons we are working to develop plans that would bring as many of you back to campus this spring as safety will allow. You miss the proximity to one another and the motivation and sense of collective achievement togetherness creates, along with the opportunities to compete, perform, volunteer, and engage alongside your fellow students.

But even as we remain in remote operations this semester, students are finding many creative ways to overcome the distance. There are online game night socials, weekly virtual trivia, and movie nights. Athletic teams, arts groups, and affinity-based organizations are socializing as part of their regular virtual meetings. There are identity-based meetups and mentoring programs. Hop MC (for Hopkins Minecraft) allows students to play together or host events, and several traditions have gone virtual this semester, including Hop-A-Palooza, Hoptoberfest, Arts-focused O Shows, and Heritage 365 celebration events.

We know there are challenges, including time zone differences, online burnout, and the reality that the digital world is just not the same as the real one. But we hope you will take opportunities such as these to connect, meet new people, and experience all that it means to be a part of Johns Hopkins. Without our on-campus bulletin boards, lawn signs, and word of mouth, you may find these online resources helpful for event listings:

  • The Today’s Announcements email lists events and other useful information every weekday. Sign up here to receive it in your inbox.
  • Hopkins Groups has a homepage with highlighted events and an events page that allows for both chronological and filtered listings.
  • JHUnions & Programming posts regular event announcements on its @jhuvirtual Instagram account.
  • Departments within Student Life have listservs and newsletters that include events.

In addition, if you are finding that remote learning, the COVID-19 pandemic, or any other issue is affecting your mental health and well-being, we have a number of resources available. They are listed on the wellness.jhu.edu website and include our expanded virtual counseling services offered through TimelyMD.

As a reminder, if you are in the Baltimore area and need assistance with possible COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, you should call the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center (JHCCC) at 443-287-8500, seven days a week, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

We hope you find these resources helpful and we appreciate all the ways you are making a difficult situation work.

We will continue to keep you updated on the planning process for the spring, and we remain on track to share the results of that effort no later than Thanksgiving, with the understanding that we will reevaluate the public health situation closer to the start of the semester and will stay or change course as appropriate. Information is updated regularly on the coronavirus information website, and comments are always welcome using our online feedback form.


Alanna Shanahan
Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Stephen Gange
Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs & Professor of Epidemiology