Entering Students Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19

The following set of FAQs was drawn from the Entering-Class Zoom discussion held on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 and attended by 92 members of the entering class. Questions were facilitated by Senior Associate Director of Admission Valerie Hooper. Responding panelists included: Dean Marianne Yoshioka; Associate Dean of Graduate Enrollment and Student Services Irene Rodriguez-Martin; and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Marsha Kline Pruett. 
 
Additional questions can be sent to: sswadm@smith.edu; entering students can also reserve an appointment directly with Dean Rodriguez-Martin or Valerie Hooper (click the name for the corresponding direct-book calendar).
 

General Admission Issues

Q: Is there a consolidated list of deadlines to prepare for this summer?
A: The first list of deadlines you need to attend to can be found in the email you received from your admission counselor when you accepted the offer from Smith. This email included important deadlines about course transfer credit, immunizations, etc. You should also have heard directly from Michele Bala who is managing our Health Insurance Program. Please email Michele Bala directly if you did not receive this email. 
 
Q: What is the deadline for Deferring enrollment from this summer to summer 2021?
A: We would like all deferral requests to be submitted by the end of April. If you are considering a deferral, you should consult with your Admission Counselor as soon as possible. We want to be as flexible as possible given the current circumstances however, we do have students on the waitlist and we want to leave as much time as possible for them to be able to take advantage of an open spot should someone choose to defer.
 
Q: Do you anticipate that the incoming class size will be impacted by the decision to hold classes virtually?
A: We are anticipating between 122-125 students beginning this June and an additional three students who are coming in as advanced standing students; this is approximately the same size as our traditional class.
 
Q: Is there any flexibility to the immunization deadline? It is difficult to get time with a personal physician at the moment. 
A: The deadline for the immunization form was April 10. Kerry-Beth Garvey of Smith College Student Health Services is collecting immunization information and, given current circumstances, she is being as flexible as possible. Please gather whatever records you are able and contact Kerry-Beth with a plan. You can communicate with her directly via email
 
Q: Since we won’t have been oriented to campus this summer, will there be an orientation to campus for incoming students next summer?
A: Absolutely! We will certainly provide an orientation to campus when you get here in 2021. In the meantime, we are planning a virtual orientation for entering students. Stay tuned for details!
 
Q: Will there be Zoom and Moodle training for new students?
A: Yes, we are currently working with IT to develop an orientation and a series of trainings in Zoom and Moodle so that all students will feel prepared when classes begin. More information will be forthcoming on this series.
 
 

Class and Class Structure

Q: What will classes be like?
A: What your classes look like will depend on the class you’re taking. All classes are going to be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous content. We’re a relational school so some parts of each class you’ll be interacting with people and doing things together, but you’ll also be doing some work asynchronously, that is in your own time and in your own way, such as watching lectures or videos that you will then come to “class” and discuss. We're going to keep as much of the Smith Experience as we can.

First year students will be taking two classes on Monday/Tuesday and three classes on Thursday/Friday. Faculty are reviewing content now so that they can hopefully balance which class is synchronous which day so the other class (or two) can go asynchronous for part of their class. We are aware of and tuned-in to concerns about screen-fatigue and want to do what we can to mitigate it.
 
Q: What will the first year class schedule look like? Will there still be a Wednesday reading day?
A: As you know, Smith students come from across the country; this created some challenges when scheduling alternate modes of instruction. However, because all first year courses are required and we pre-registered students into those classes, we’ve been able to register students by geography allowing all first year students to take classes between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific time zones. Yes, Wednesday is still reserved as a Reading Day for entering first years. (This response applies to first year students only.)
 
Q: What tech supplies will students need to participate in classes? What if a student doesn’t have the needed equipment? 
A: Students will need a computer or tablet with audio and visual capabilities, and access to reliable internet. Students recently received a Tech Survey from the School that inquired about the resources each student has. Smith will help provide resources to those who indicated that they may not have all of the tech resources needed to take classes. 
 
Q: With classes being taught using alternate modes of instruction, will we be taught in larger groups?
A: Classes will continue to be capped at 22 students with many classes being smaller. Faculty have worked diligently to ensure that our traditional commitment to high academic standards is maintained, even in a remote environment. 
 
Q: When will the class schedule be released and when will syllabi and preliminary reading materials be available to incoming students? 
A: It is our hope that the first year schedules will be released by the end of April. Once that happens students will also be able to access Moodle, our electronic classroom, where you’ll find all of your syllabi. (this is specific to first years only)
 
Q: Is there any way to request more synchronous or asynchronous learning if we know one is better for us? 
A: Each Professor will set up their classroom with a balance in mind that accounts for how the content can best be learned. For required courses, we will be assessing how much synchronous material is assigned in a given day and trying to assure there are ample breaks and alternatives for students. Students can always adapt synchronous content to asynchronous by listening to a taped class and fulfilling engagement/participation rubrics through alternative means. All Professors have been asked to consider alternative ways that students can fulfill learning requirements, and to make allowances for these extraordinary circumstances in which we are all conducting classes.
 
Q: If you're sorting students by time zone for classes does a student need to stay in that time zone all summer?
A: If you choose to move to a different time zone than the one your classes are scheduled in you’ll need to be willing to wake up earlier, go to bed later or do whatever is required to adjust your time schedule to stay connected with your classes.
 
Q: Are classes every day?
A: First year students will have classes Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from about 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m (if based in the eastern or pacific time zones).; there are no classes on Wednesday. There are no evening classes and Wednesday is a reading day. All classes will have breaks and a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction. (This response applies to first year students only.)
 
Q: Will students be able to meet with instructors before the start of classes? Will there be office hours? 
A: While it won’t be possible to meet with instructors before classes start, you can certainly send an email to an instructor to make a more personal connection. There will definitely be virtual office hours. 
 
Q: Has the first day of classes been impacted by the changes? Or the end of classes?
A: Classes are still set to begin on June 1. The last day of classes will be August 14. There is a scheduled break July 3-12.
 
Q: What happens if I get COVID-19 and I'm unable to complete my course work? 
A: If you become ill, we will work with you individually to figure out the best plan. If you've just missed some classes, we’ll develop a plan to catch you up. If you’ve missed most of a term, we may be able to find a way to make up some time over break week or during second term. If you’ve missed a course that you’ll need before going into the field, then you'll work with the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs to figure out if you need to take a leave of absence, or if there's a way to make the content up. We're going to be as flexible as we can. We understand that this is unprecedented. 
 
Q: I’ve experienced challenges with online classes in the past; how will I be supported?
A: For students who’ve experienced challenges in the past, we're going to be able to offer different options for fulfilling the coursework. If this is your first time in a virtual setting and you need special accommodations, we encourage you to contact our Office of Disability Services. The Office of Disability Services works very closely with the School for Social Work to help us think creatively about the best plan to support each student. 

Q: How are classes graded?
A: All classes are graded Pass, Marginal Pass or Fail.
 

Field 

Q: If the COVID-19 pandemic persists into the fall, what kind of impact will it have on field internships? Will there be back-up options for placements in different locations in case agencies decide towards the end of the summer that they can’t take on an intern?
A: First, there will absolutely be a field program this fall, and we are planning for our regular, full program to run. We are also actively planning alternatives in case we need a staggered start, a delayed start or possibly a field lab to run in the fall before agencies can open their doors to students. A field lab would allow students to actively begin their field hours, just like in an internship setting. We're exploring other options as well, including the possibility that some students may be able to utilize telehealth services with their clients. We're working with agencies, other schools, other field directors and faculty to detail various alternatives that respond to the needs of various settings. 
 
Q: Some of us will need to move to our internship states, but if services are going to be provided remotely that wouldn’t be necessary. Is there a timeframe for deciding whether telehealth will be part of the field experience? 
A: This is something we need to decide on closer to the start of the field year, but we are not planning for students to be providing virtual services for the entire field year. At most, telehealth will be a stopgap measure that an agency might request for a period of time due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 crisis. Students should anticipate that the location of their field internship is the location that they will be living in during the internship year, regardless of whether they begin the fall utilizing telehealth options.
 
Q: What is the timeline for hearing about field assignments, interviews and placement information?
A: Many of our affiliated agencies are currently temporarily closed, are transitioning to working remotely or are working with a skeleton crew of essential personnel only so things are a little bit slower. Most students who applied and were admitted Early Admission, know both the geography of their internship and their agency and will be hearing from us about an interview soon. For the handful of Early Admission candidates who haven’t received their placements, we’ll be reaching out individually. For students who applied Regular Decision, the field placement committee continues to meet weekly to make decisions about geographic placements. Again, because we're seeing delays in our affiliated agencies, we’re taking a cautious approach to ensure that we have an agency secured in each geographic area before we send our letter. We’re making these decisions on a rolling basis and as quickly as possible. Typically first year students are finalizing their placements and wrapping up interviews in April and May; given the situation this year, we're anticipating that folks may be interviewing a little bit longer into June. We’ll work closely with each student to ensure that everything is confirmed. (This response applies to first year students only.)
 

Finances

Q: If a student needs help understanding their financial aid or has questions about their financial aid award, can they speak with someone in the admission office?
A: Absolutely. You can schedule an “Incoming Student Appointment” with the Associate Dean directly here
 
Q: When will tuition bills be posted?
A: Your first tuition bill (for half of the tuition) will be posted to your account at the end of April. More information about billing, bill payment, payment schedules and other important dates are on the Student Financial Services website.
 
Q: Will there be a change in tuition based on the course changes this summer?
A: No. Our expectation is that faculty will be delivering the same high commitment to academic excellence that Smith is known for through alternate modes of instruction. Each student will receive the full credits toward graduation and will have the same instructors (with few exceptions) that were planned before the pandemic. We are also planning to continue with community building activities and meetings, to some extent. While part of the implicit curriculum (being on campus and all it engenders) will not be occurring, the explicit curriculum remains fully intact. 
 

Community

Q: Is there someone students can reach out to if they need individual assistance or other types of advice?
A: Yes! Your primary point person will be your Adviser, and that’s usually your Social Work Practice Instructor. We’re in the process of sorting out how we will do advising virtually but anticipate that it will be pretty close to what we’ve done in the past. Generally speaking students meet with their advisers at least once each term to check in, but students can also reach out to advisers more frequently with questions or requests for additional support as needed. 
 
Q: What are the key pieces of the “Smith Experience” that you mentioned and how will they be protected? 
A: At Smith we believe that it is important that you learn to use yourself in your work (what you think, what you feel); and you learn how to manage yourself and help others manage themselves through your efforts. We also believe that learning happens through interaction with others, by being open to people who are different from ourselves in a variety of ways; that helps us look beyond our own experience, our own biases, who we are, to what is possible. 

These components will be a part of each class experience, even virtually. Classes will include small group discussions and/or discussion boards, to foster thinking together and to learn from each other. As you go through the program, classes will progressively require more of your input this way. 
 
Finally, unique to Smith, is that we try to weave clinical social work together with a commitment to anti-racism, social justice and racial justice and the idea that thinking about equity must be a part of every clinical intervention. You’ll find this commitment evident in all of your classes, in your syllabi, in your assignments and in the kinds of groups and meetings that we bring together.
 
Q: How will community building among our cohort be facilitated? 
A: There is an ongoing committee actively working to develop community building capacities for the summer. This committee is engaging with student groups, ITS, and the Communications Department to develop centralized online spaces to post opportunities for community connecting. Existing student groups have already been working together to develop opportunities to connect both socially and academically, and have been vocal in recommending ideas and tools that may work for students. There will be a mix of both formal and informal opportunities as well as places to post opportunities that arise spontaneously over the summer.
 

Miscellaneous

Q: Will the College hiring freeze have an impact on faculty for the School for Social Work? 
A: Unlikely. The hiring freeze is for future faculty and even if we mounted a search right now that person wouldn't be here for another 18 months because a faculty search takes about a year. 
 
Q: Is there a difference between a Mac or PC at Smith; does Smith have a preference?
A: The College uses both Macs and PCs; there is no preference and classes are set up to alternate smoothly between Macs and PCs. 
 
Q: Will students have access to the campus during the summer? 
A: The campus is not open during the summer.
 
Q: Will Smith students have access to antibody testing for COVID-19?
A: That’s generally a big issue and we will need to take advice both from the College and the town of Northampton. We don’t anticipate that Smith would have any additional access to those kinds of resources unless they are provided by the city or the state.