Plans for the Fall 2020 Semester

July 14, 2020

Dear Mandel School Students:

We write today to announce Case Western Reserve University’s approach to the Fall 2020 semester, and to thank you for your patience. After a spring term full of disruptions and adaptations, we wish we could have shared detailed updates about the 2020-2021 academic year right away. However, in light of our spring experiences and ongoing pandemic developments, we first needed to evaluate academic options thoroughly, as well as potential measures to mitigate risk.

We are deeply grateful to the faculty, staff and student leaders who have dedicated untold hours to these efforts, as well as the outside experts who have helped advise us on matters ranging from COVID-19 testing to classroom capacities. All that said, we must acknowledge that new events may require rapid changes to the carefully considered plans that follow; in such circumstances, we will communicate as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Finally, we cannot wait to welcome students back next month, and hope you are just as eager to arrive. But we also need to be clear that many of your campus experiences will differ significantly from those in the past. Unfortunately, the restrictions and other changes are necessary aspects of our efforts to protect your health, and that of the rest of the university community. Our ability to continue in-person education this fall depends in large measure on your ability to meet these expectations, outlined below and divided into the following sections:

  1. Teaching and Learning
  2. Field Education and Interprofessional Education
  3. Other Pandemic-Related Health Measures
  4. ‘What If’

As noted in previous communications, we recognize that some international students may not be able to get to Cleveland before classes begin Aug. 24, while others—international and domestic—may need or prefer to take courses remotely. Given that context, we have committed to dual-delivery of courses this fall.

For those able to attend in-person offerings, we have worked closely with internal and external facilities experts to assess existing and potential academic spaces. From there, we have collaborated with faculty and deans regarding the nature of specific academic offerings. Those conversations catalyzed impressive creativity regarding ways to engage students on or off campus.

As part of this planning and assessment, we have set capacity limits on all instructional spaces and are in the process of installing Plexiglass dividers and removing chairs to ensure physically-distant seating. In addition, masks are required to be worn by all individuals in all indoor settings and, as of a recent state order, in outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible.

In the end, we determined that about 45% of the classes in the Mandel School will be able to host all enrolled students on campus each week. The remainder of the classes have larger enrollments, so we will divide the enrolled students into cohorts with the cohorts alternating the weeks that they attend the course on campus. Students will be able to participate in their classes remotely because of the enhanced Zoom capabilities that our classrooms have. Technology upgrades to the Mandel School classrooms are being completed this summer.

These rooms have microphones in the ceiling, cameras that track instructor and student speakers, and ultra-resolution projection equipment. Students in the classroom and connected via Zoom will be able to hear and see one another very well.

Students who wish to attend all classes remotely should send their name, student ID, and a statement confirming that they will take all their coursework remotely to

Finally, we recognize that last week’s federal announcement regarding temporary exemptions for international students has created significant confusion and concern regarding potential implications for visa status. International Student Services is communicating directly with these students and will provide ongoing updates on this extremely fluid situation.

New MSSA Students

The Field Education department is looking forward to welcoming students to campus next month. Our field faculty are enjoying working with incoming MSSA students to secure placements for the upcoming year. Please continue to engage with your field placement advisor to complete the placement process so that you are fully prepared to begin field education in Cleveland in September. In addition to field placement, all incoming MSSA students take a fall field seminar course, which will be taught in the dual-delivery modality by the field faculty. The seminar helps to support and prepare students for successful field placement experiences.

All new MSSA students who attend classes during the week will also participate in CWRU’s Interprofessional Education (IPE) program and Collaborative Practice I course as part of the generalist year field education requirements. Interprofessional practice is a central component of the social work profession and the field education program at the Mandel School. MSSA students will work in interprofessional teams to engage in service learning projects that are mutually beneficial to both student learning and community organizations. IPE teams also include students from medicine, nursing, dental medicine, physician assistant, genetic counseling, psychology and speech-language pathology programs. On Wednesday afternoons from 3-5 p.m., students will work virtually in interprofessional teams on community-based projects or attend team-based learning sessions. In the upcoming year, IPE activities will be completed remotely unless physical distancing guidelines allow in-person participation and students elect to work in-person with their team. More information about IPE and Collaborative Practice I will be provided during orientation.

MSSA students in the Intensive Weekend and Online formats are not required to complete IPE, but are welcome to participate if they elect to do so and are available each Wednesday afternoon. Any student with a confirmed course scheduling conflict on Wednesday afternoons will be exempted from IPE activities.

All MSSA Students

If you are a current/returning MSSA student beginning a new placement in August, you should plan to connect with your current field faculty advisor and placement site this month to ensure that you have all of the necessary information to complete any onboarding activities required by the placement site. Onboarding requirements should be completed by the start of the fall semester. Current field education calendars for new and returning MSSA students can be accessed here.

The Field Education Department will distribute final policies for the fall semester in early August. Each student’s field activities will be determined by the placement site, student, and field faculty advisor, as they are each year. Each field site independently determines the availability of remote field hour activities for students. A remote activities policy will be in place for students who may need to supplement a portion of agency-based field experiences with additional field learning and practice activities. These plans will be developed collaboratively by the student, placement site field instructor, and Mandel School field faculty advisor. Individual placement sites may elect to require students to complete all field hours on site. All placement sites will also be provided with the Mandel School’s field education policies and an updated remote activity plan in August. Students are expected to adhere to the health and safety policies and protocols of the placement site. Students may elect to complete their remaining fall semester field hours fully remotely beginning the week of November 23 to coincide with the fully remote delivery of academic courses in the final weeks of the fall semester.

Any new or returning MSSA student who anticipates not returning to Cleveland must notify the Mandel School by sending an email to as soon as possible. The Field Education Department cannot guarantee the availability of field placement opportunities outside of the Cleveland area. Students who are unable to complete field placement in the Cleveland area may experience delays in completing field education requirements. Once the Mandel School is notified of the specific circumstances of students who may be unable to return to Cleveland, the availability of field education options will be assessed. It is imperative that this information be communicated to the Mandel School as soon as possible, but no later than July 31.

We realize that students may have many individual questions related to field placement. Please continue to stay connected with your Mandel School field faculty advisor for assistance––our field education team is always here to support and assist you.

As we noted at the beginning of this message, our ability to continue in-person offerings in the fall will depend heavily on your ability to comply with measures designed to protect your health and that of the rest of the campus community.

Health and Safety Orientation

All students university-wide shall participate in an online training session. This session covers the measures the university is taking to protect the health of the campus community—as well as the expectations students must meet. Informed by public health guidelines and expert recommendations, they include physical distancing, wearing of face coverings indoors, hand washing hygiene, and daily symptom screenings. We will share more details about dates and registration processes for these sessions once they are finalized.

Personal Health Monitoring Prior to Coming to Campus

Students will be expected to monitor for COVID-19-related symptoms for 14 days prior to arrival on campus. University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) will direct students with symptoms to appropriate clinical consultation, testing and result management. UHCS will also work with local providers to help coordinate and speed up the testing process. Students with symptoms should notify UHCS and delay arrival on campus until health services provides written permission. Per the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance, students coming to campus from outside the country will be required to quarantine for 14 days before coming to campus.

Health Kits

Upon arrival to campus, all students will receive a drawstring bag containing the following items: two cloth masks, one thermometer, travel-size disinfecting wipes, alcohol swabs, tissues, two individually wrapped disposable masks to be worn in the event of illness, and travel-size hand sanitizer on a silicone strap (so it can be attached to a backpack or the like).

Positive Tests and Potential Exposure

When a student tests positive for COVID-19, UHCS will follow its protocol for notification, isolation, and contact tracing. In addition, UHCS staff will immediately begin ‘contract tracing,’ which involves reaching out to those individuals (students and others) whose interactions with the student represent close contact (as determined by the nature and duration of those interactions).

The national surge in cases—with specific states emerging as new ‘hot spots’—has spurred questions from some about whether the university will require students from certain areas to quarantine in Ohio. Given the speed of recent developments, it is difficult to provide precise responses to such questions at this moment. What we can say for certain is that the university will comply fully with all state, county, and local requirements regarding students coming to Ohio to move onto campus.

Similarly, we have heard from students eager to know what campus developments would prompt a return to fully-remote operation. Again, directives from government officials would cause such steps, as would a significant number of positive cases among students. We certainly learned a great deal from the spring about the execution of such a transition and will apply those lessons to our protocols for such situations. As with so much else in these uncertain times, definitive answers offered now are likely to become moot—or at least somewhat inaccurate—in the wake of quickly evolving new circumstances.

The complexities that COVID-19 continues to create mean that no single message—even when as long as this one—can cover every point students and families want addressed. This message provides an overview of our preparations across multiple areas. CWRU and the Mandel School are moving as quickly as we responsibly can, and we will continue to share information with you throughout the coming weeks.

For now, we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. Again, we very much appreciate your patience as we work through the details of the new semester.


Grover C. Gilmore, PhD
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Dean in Applied Social Sciences

Sharon Milligan, MSW, MPH, PhD, LISW-S
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services