Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Planning for Fall 2020 - May 12, 2020

CICS Faculty & Staff - 

I hope that the final weeks of the semester went smoothly and that you get some well-deserved downtime now that the academic year is over. This has been a time of tremendous upheaval in our professional and personal lives. I am extremely proud of the way the CICS community has responded--with ingenuity, concern for one another, and a commitment to our mission. 

As the Chancellor shared with our campus community last month, a decision regarding the fall semester on whether the campus operates remotely, in-person, or in some combination, will be made by early July. While we await the university's decision, I'm hoping to give you a sense of what we do know, as well as the preparations the CICS leadership team is making, come what may, to ensure the continuity of our teaching, research, and student support services. 

Though numbers are in flux, enrollments in our undergraduate computer science and exploratory track programs are currently looking similar to last year's. We will also have a sizable, but smaller-than-hoped-for, number of students enrolled in our informatics program. Enrollment in our PhD program is on pace with previous years. While we're pleased overall with this news, the changing circumstances around the pandemic mean that there may be some students who make a deposit but choose not to matriculate in the fall.  

In the master's program, concerns over travel restrictions and student visas will likely mean a significant drop in the number of enrolled students--almost 85% of our incoming master's students live outside the U.S. The master's program committee is working to maximize the number of students who enroll, and to offer incentives to students who start the program (remotely, for most international students) in the fall. 

Teaching and Learning
The challenges facing our master's students mean that, at the very least, we will be teaching some graduate students online in the fall. The MS program committee, together with James Allan, chair of the faculty, and David Mix Barrington, associate chair for academic programs, will be working to devise a plan for offering instruction in September in which some of our MS students will be taking courses online and some will be on campus. 

While we await the university's decision on plans for the fall, James is also working with David on plans for teaching all of our students in a variety of scenarios, including fully remote, mostly in-person, or something in between. Broader discussions with faculty on this topic will start next week (after they've had a chance to breathe) and a portion of the faculty retreat will be dedicated to the topic. 

Shlomo Zilberstein, associate dean of research and engagement, has been in close contact with the Office of Research and Engagement and his counterparts in other colleges to discuss the continuity of our research operations. While research in the computer and information sciences has mostly been able to continue remotely--by and large, our work does not depend on hard-to-access facilities--we suspect that the campus closure has had an impact on CICS research productivity. Shlomo has asked faculty to complete a survey detailing their experiences. The information gathered from the survey will be used to assess the impact and help faculty, staff, and students overcome obstacles should the campus closure continue through the fall. 

When public health restrictions on social gatherings are relaxed, we will make every effort to prioritize access to office space for those who need it most, subject to the necessary safety protocols.

Student Support Services
Like our academic programs, all CICS student support services, including academic and career advising, transitioned to remote delivery during the second half of the spring semester. CICS Advising and CICS Careers will continue to work with students remotely this summer (e.g., New Students Orientation will be held online this year) and will adjust plans for the fall if students are not on campus. Our Diversity Office is continuing to offer (now virtual) programming and do outreach to our various constituencies.

College Finances -- FY20 & FY21 Budgets 
Donna Falcetti, assistant dean of finance and administration, has been working through a variety of scenarios to understand our exposure in light of potential university budget cuts, a drop in master's program enrollment, and other factors. Our college does have some reserves, though without our usual streams of MS students, and with our impending and much-needed increase in faculty, they will go quickly. The sharp decline in tuition dollars from our 2-year master's program will mean that the college budget will be extremely tight for the next two years. With scaled-back, prudent spending, CICS should be able to sufficiently support research and teaching through this difficult time.  

However we gather together in the fall--hopefully in-person, but perhaps online--I am confident that we will do so with the same collaborative spirit and commitment we have demonstrated over the past several weeks. 

In the meantime, please take care. Should you need help coping with stress or anxiety during this tumultuous time, please know that there are resources available through the university that can help, including the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at dean@cics.umass.edu

With pride and gratitude, 

Laura Haas