Pitt Public Health COVID-19 update (6/10)

Dear Pitt Public Health faculty, staff, and students, 

In the six weeks since our last school-wide message, the university has gone through an extensive planning process to start describing what operations, research, and education will look like in the coming weeks and months. Monday the chancellor sent out a message outlining the University’s current plans, and the provost followed with more faculty-specific information. Faculty, staff, and students from our school had significant input into those plans via several different task forces. The purpose of this missive is to update you on the state of planning and specifics within our school. Thank you for your patience over the past several months.

Upcoming Virtual Town Halls

As we navigate these changes, clear communication is critical, yet challenging.  In an effort to facilitate the distribution of up to date information and to support dialogue and discussion we are holding several Virtual Town Hall meetings. Look for emails from the Office of the Dean with links for the events below.

Research Restart

Pitt Public Health faculty who run research labs have received all of the paperwork and instructions for re-starting their non-COVID related lab research. (COVID-related lab research has been ongoing throughout the shutdown.) From the time each PI submits the associated paperwork it’s an estimated one-week timeline before the re-start process can be completed and the lab work will be able to resume. Any questions should be directed to departmental administrators. All staff and students returning to the lab will be contacted to confirm their consent, and will be ensured at least one week’s notice before returning. Many thanks to the school committee that developed all of the plans and processes.

Processes for re-starting clinical and community-based research are also underway, but because of potential protocol modifications these projects will require additional IRB review before re-start and the timeline will be a bit longer than for laboratory research. 

All research that is normally performed in offices will continue to be done remotely at this time. 

Please contact Velpandi Ayyavoo (, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Affairs, with questions about research restart plans.

Fall Education

The chancellor and provost announcements Monday laid out the foundation of what educational programming will look like in the fall. The focus will be on high-quality interactive instruction and on ensuring the community-building, networking, and mentoring experiences that are an essential part of a high-quality graduate education. Here are the key updates.  Please contact Jessie Burke, Associate Dean for Education, with specific questions about fall education plans (

  • The undergraduate academic calendar has been compressed. The fall term will begin August 19th, include no long weekends, and end by Thanksgiving break (November 20). Some finals may occur after Thanksgiving, but all remaining activity and any remaining exams will occur remotely. Pitt Public Health expects to follow the undergraduate calendar, but with minor modifications for graduate-specific issues such as thesis and dissertation deadlines. We expect to release a fully-detailed graduate calendar within the next week. 
  • Classes this fall will rely on a dynamic, hybrid approach to teaching and learning that the University is calling “Flex@Pitt”. Essentially, the basic operational principle of this approach is to accommodate both in-person and remote options for classroom teaching with a variety of course designs. 
  • For students with questions about whether to be physically in Pittsburgh in the fall, we believe that there will be benefits to being in Pittsburgh, including the ability to participate in in-person activities at the school and university such as lab work, local practice experiences, and hybrid courses. However, if you choose not to move to Pittsburgh at this time your participation in classes and most co-curricular activities will be accommodated with remote options. 
  • The University Center for Teaching and Learning resources are available to support faculty with course revisions. In addition, we recommend taking advantage of their Canvas training opportunities (the new learning management system that replaces Blackboard). 
  • Pitt Public Health specific guidance and resources for “Flex@Pitt” fall courses are in development and will be available soon. The school’s graduate program directors and departmental curriculum committees have been meeting regularly to develop specific plans for classroom instruction and out-of-classroom experiences. All faculty teaching in the fall will be contacted to review next steps, and to assess their technology and resources needs.    

Operations and Facilities

All faculty and staff whose jobs can be performed remotely will continue to work from home at this time. Individuals who need brief access to their offices to retrieve materials or equipment should contact their department administrator, who can arrange timed access. 

The University and our school are embedding infection prevention and control into everything we do. Specific approaches to minimize the risk of infection on campus will involve multiple strategies based on established public health guidance and validated by our Healthcare Advisory Group. The building has been “de-densified” for the return of lab staff, with bathroom modifications and furniture changes. There will be further modifications before the start of fall classes. IMPORTANT: water fountains have been turned off. Lab staff working in the building will need to bring their own beverages.

Please contact Renae Brinza, Associate Dean for Administration and Finance, with specific operations and facilities questions (

Summer Orientation and Community-Building for Incoming Students

New student orientation has been converted into a summer-long series of virtual activities intended to build community among incoming students and prepare them for everything the fall holds in store.

Student Emergency Assistant Fund

The health and safety of our Pitt community, particularly our students, is paramount. The Student Emergency Assistance Fund is being administered at the direction of the Provost and used to provide financial support for degree-seeking students of the University of Pittsburgh with unanticipated and insurmountable expenses related to emergency situations that may result in students facing financial hardship. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students are eligible to apply for funds when they experience a financial barrier based on an emergency situation, and when they have exhausted all other available resources.

Eleanor Feingold, Executive Associate Dean

Jessie Burke, Associate Dean for Education

Renae Brinza, Associate Dean for Administration and Finance


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