A pre-fall 2021 Message from the Dean 

Greetings from the Graduate and Professional School. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well and that you’ve had a great summer so far. I am delighted to welcome you to the fall 2021 semester.

We have all been touched by the pandemic in a profound way. Academically, many of us had to adapt to modifications in the way we teach and do research. I have even talked to some students who were forced to abandon research projects altogether or reconceive dissertation chapters, especially those students who traveled for research. It has been a challenging year and a half, to say the least.

Over the summer, we began to see signs of recovery and were able to host outdoor events like Community of Scholars in person. It has been great to see so many graduate students gathered again as a shared community. Still, though, campus has been relatively quiet.

As we turn toward the fall semester, Texas A&M is moving ahead with plans to return to campus at full capacity. You received a message from President Banks on August 5 reiterating these plans, along with several important requirements and recommendations for everyone in our community. I want to highlight a few of these as they pertain to graduate and professional students.

President Banks’ message consists of both requirements and recommendations. Compliance with the requirements is mandatory. As students, you are required to adhere to the following requirements, punishable by sanctions:

  • Confirm you have read and agree to adhere to university-issued guidelines by logging on through the Howdy Portal.
  • Participate in the mandatory COVID-19 testing program at intervals designated by Texas A&M.
  • Log on to the Texas A&M University System COVID-19 Reporting Portal and complete the COVID-19 Report if you:
    • Test positive for COVID-19
    • Have COVID-19 symptoms
    • Have a close contact with someone who received a positive test result for COVID-19
  • Students who test positive are required to quarantine consistent with CDC guidance. (If you must quarantine, you will need to contact your professors and make appropriate arrangements to complete assignments and stay current in your classes. Such arrangements are expected to be like those offered in the past for students who missed class due to illness or other urgent matters, per Student Rule 7).

Mandatory Testing Program
All students, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to submit to a COVID diagnostic test, provided by Texas A&M, between Aug. 23, 2021 and Sept. 10, 2021. Testing sites, hours of operations and additional information are available on Texas A&M's COVID-19 Guidance page. Thereafter, we encourage regular testing at any of our campus free testing sites.

Sites outside the flagship campus (Galveston, McAllen, School of Law and Texas A&M Health) may have different mandatory testing dates, consistent with their academic calendars. If you are at one of these campuses, please confirm your required testing window with your local campus.

While the university does not require students to be vaccinated, vaccination remains the most effective way to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. For information about vaccines, visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Info page on the Texas Department of State Health Services website. All students are eligible for the vaccine.

Vaccines are currently available at Student Health Services at no cost for students. Schedule an appointment online or seek vaccination through your local health care provider or pharmacy. Locate a vaccine provider near you on the CDC's vaccine finder website.

To encourage vaccination, the university is conducting a vaccine incentive program. Students – including graduate students -- who submit proof of vaccination will be entered into a random drawing to be held Oct. 15, 2021; funding for education expenses will be awarded. Full rules for the random drawing will be announced soon.

Though the university has not issued a mask mandate, face coverings are known to be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and, thus, are strongly encouraged in public indoor settings.

Graduate Students with Teaching Responsibilities
Unless otherwise designated, traditional courses are to be taught face-to-face, with in-person course meetings and exams, and no remote option.

If you are assigned an in-person teaching responsibility and you have concerns regarding your safety due to having a medical condition that may lead to increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or having a household member with such conditions, you may contact your department’s HR liaison or the faculty or staff member who makes teaching assignments to discuss your concerns. The faculty or staff member who makes teaching assignments is also your point of contact if COVID-related circumstances arise during the semester that impact you or your students.

For more guidance about fall instruction, see the August 19 message from Dr. Patrick Louchouarn, Interim Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Interdisciplinary Initiatives.

Stay up-to-date with the latest guidance from the Vice President for Research at the Research Guidance during COVID-19 webpage. Additional resources and recommendations can be found in the CDC Toolkit for Colleges and Universities.

Domestic travel will follow approval protocols that were in place pre-COVID. International travel is only permitted if deemed essential to the mission of the University. For the latest travel guidance, check the Texas A&M Coronavirus resources travel page.

Information for Texas A&M Campus Sites across the State
For questions about COVID-19 guidance outside Bryan-College Station, please check with the following regarding testing and vaccine locations:

  • Texas A&M Galveston: Rebecca Watts, 409-740-4840, rwatts@tamug.edu.
  • All Texas A&M Health locations: Direct contacts and regular updates are posted on this site.
  • School of Law: Terri Helge, 817-212-3942, thelge@law.tamu.edu, or Viviene Crooks, 817-212-4082, vcrooks@law.tamu.edu.
  • Higher Education Center at McAllen: Adolfo Santos, adolfo.santos45@tamu.edu; Texas A&M Health-McAllen campus members can find their respective contact on the contact list on here.

Stay Informed
Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M University System will monitor our campuses and the communities surrounding our campuses. Do your part to protect Aggieland by getting vaccinated, wearing masks indoors, and reporting a positive test or a close contact with someone who tests positive. As conditions may warrant changes to these guidelines, please stay informed by frequently visiting the Texas A&M COVID-19 guidance page.

Be on the lookout for fall events for graduate students. We look forward to seeing new students at upcoming New Graduate Student Orientation on August 27. We hope to see both new and returning graduate students at an outdoor Ice Cream Social on Tuesday, August 24 during Howdy Week and at other events this fall, highlighted by our Three Minute Thesis competition in November.

I wish you a healthy and productive fall semester and thank you for all that you do for Texas A&M.

Dr. Karen Butler-Purry | Dean
Graduate and Professional School

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