Return to Campus: The Student Experience

Editor's Note: Today we continue our series regarding operations as the University enters Step Three in our Return to Campus Plan this fall. This semi-weekly series will run Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next several weeks.

Earlier this month, Michigan Tech began Step Two of our Return to Campus Plan. As the University prepares for Step Three this fall, students and employees, understandably, have questions. To address the student experience, we spoke with Bonnie Gorman, dean of students and vice president for student affairs.

"Our plans for students to return in the fall have been far-reaching," Gorman said. "I appreciate all the efforts by so many across campus who have been working to ensure a safe return and meaningful student experiences."

Gorman said there have been groups working in four primary areas:

  • Move-in and Orientation
  • Isolation Planning
  • Student Expectations and Behavior
  • Student Engagement

Q: How will Orientation and New Student Move-in be different this year?

BG: Things will be different in a couple of ways. We always appreciate members of the campus community who make move-in a family affair. This year though, we need to limit our volunteers only to people who are routinely on campus. Everyone who helps out will be asked to complete the daily symptom tracking form. A call for volunteers will be coming soon.

New students have been assigned a specific check-in time in an effort to reduce congestion and to allow for as much physical distancing as possible. Check-in and move-in will happen over a two-day period, from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22. Students are also offered an opportunity to drop off their property between July 31 and Aug. 9. This allows students to skip the traffic and focus on checking in for Orientation, buying books and doing a Walmart run while their mom and dad are in town.

Much like the faculty, who are rethinking their classes, all aspects of Orientation are being redesigned. A combination of remote activities and presentations will replace large group gatherings, and small in-person team meeting activities will allow for follow-up conversations and discussions. Departmental welcome events and advising meetings are being planned for synchronous virtual delivery. To give students the chance to meet others and make friends while maintaining physical distance, events like paddleboarding, yoga, anime screenings and gaming tournaments are being planned.

Q: What happens if a student in a residence hall tests positive for COVID-19?

BG: If a student living in a residence hall tests positive for COVID-19, they will be moved to an isolation space where they will self-isolate for the required time period defined by the Health Department. During their isolation, meals will be delivered and a Residence Education staff member will check on the student daily. Additional resources and services will be provided based on the expressed needs of the student.

Q: What about their roommate?

BG: The roommate of a student who tests positive would be provided with recommendations from the Health Department. They might suggest a test, self-isolation or a move to an isolation space as well. 

Q: How does the new Attendance Policy work for students who are ill from COVID-19?

BG: In response to recommendations from the American College Health Association, the attendance policy was changed so that students who become ill will not be required to make unnecessary visits to a health care provider for the purposes of obtaining documentation. 

In most cases, we are hopeful that even though a student is ill, symptoms will not be so severe that they are unable to keep up with classes during the full period of isolation. Rather, they will work remotely. Of course, each situation will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. These students will work with the Dean of Students Office for assistance and support.

Another important change to the policy is that students no longer need to contact the Dean of Students Office for excused absences involving fewer than three consecutive days unless they missed a major assignment, examination, or other graded requirements of the class. Students can review the Attendance Policy for more details. 

Q: How are students going to stay safe?

BG: Students, like faculty and staff, will be expected to do daily symptom monitoring, wear a face covering, adhere to physical distancing guidelines and volunteer to participate in random testing if asked. We know everyone is eager to return to campus and we are counting on our Husky spirit and sense of community to guide our decisions in complying with these public health guidelines.

There are also a couple of teams of students working on a variety of plans to hold themselves, and where appropriate, each other accountable. For example, one group is working on short videos for social media while another has drafted a pledge for everyone in the community to sign. By signing the pledge, you commit to doing your part to keep the community safe by adhering to the practices that will limit the spread of COVID-19. 

In an effort to further encourage everyone to do their part, Husky face coverings will be distributed to employees as we move into Phase Three, and to students when they return to campus. 

Q: What will events look like during the fall?

BG: Significant effort has been directed toward providing resources and support for the more than 230 clubs and organizations on campus so they can operate responsibly while adhering to the physical distancing guidelines. To introduce these clubs to new students, K-day will be virtual with smaller in-person interest fairs, like a day for club sports or cultural organizations, offered throughout the fall.

Similarly, we have purchased a new web-based platform to host our fall Career Fair, allowing employers to host students at specific times over two days. In addition, all of the support we provide students in preparation for the Fair will continue both virtually and in smaller in-person sessions. 

Finally, the Parade of Nations will be interactive and allow students to travel around the world without leaving Houghton. 

New Form Added to MTU Flex Portal

Data is one of the key tools Michigan Tech is using to try to find COVID-19 cases quickly, stop the spread, and keep the campus community and our local community safe. We need your help in order to optimize our success. While it is essential that we know when you are symptomatic or have a positive COVID-19 test, data that you are not exhibiting symptoms or have had a negative COVID-19 test is also important as we are actively monitoring our campus health conditions. We are now pleased to announce that in the ongoing efforts to keep our community as safe and informed as possible in the midst of the current global coronavirus pandemic, Michigan Tech is making it even easier for employees to add to the information being amassed to fight COVID-19 on campus.

Employees who have received a COVID-19 test, regardless of the results, are asked to inform the University via the new Report a COVID-19 Test Form, recently added to the MTU Flex Portal. If you have received a COVID-19 test, Michigan Tech needs certain information regarding the test, including the date of the test, the result of the test, the date when symptoms, if any, were first experienced and your last date on campus.  

Sarah Schulte, general counsel and secretary to the Board of Trustees, said employees are the first group reporting data on this form, but that a similar version will be used for students upon their return. "The test results reported by employees are currently being used by MTU Human Resources. When a negative test result is reported, HR works with the employee regarding when they are permitted to return to campus. For a positive test result, which we have not yet had, HR would provide employees with the work and leave options available for their individual circumstances," Schulte said. Additionally, the University would work with the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department regarding campus contact points and other actions that may need to be taken, such as enhanced cleaning.

Pushpa Murthy Retiring

Join the provost and academic deans in wishing Pushpa Murthy well in her retirement, which begins tomorrow (July 1). Pushpa has served as associate provost and dean of the Graduate School since 2016 when she returned from a three-year appointment as program director in the Division of Graduate Education at the National Science Foundation.

Murthy joined the faculty in the Department of Chemistry at Michigan Tech in 1985 where she is still an active professor. She also served as its department chair from 2000-04 and directed Michigan Tech’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program between 2007-12.

During her time as dean, Murthy has always had the graduate students’ best interest in mind. She has worked hard to communicate their concerns and find solutions to their problems. Her efforts have improved the quality of the graduate experience for Michigan Tech’s students. This is noted through quotes from Adrienne Minerick, dean of the College of Computing, “Dr. Murthy has been a strong and unwavering advocate for graduate students. Under her leadership, graduate student support and experiences improved and educational quality increased. A heartfelt thanks for all of your contributions and positive impacts.”

The dean of the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Andrew Storer, volunteered “I have appreciated the opportunity to work with and learn from Pushpa when I was chair of the Graduate Faculty Council and as a dean — she will be missed as we wish her a wonderful time in retirement”.

Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering said Murthy is always willing to help. "From the moment I arrived, two years ago, I felt a part of the MTU family. That may be because the house I bought had been the chemistry review Q&A homestead for years, and also a direct result of Dr. Pushpa Murthy's strong influence in the area and at the University for decades.”

Provost Jacqueline Huntoon said that she “has considered Dr. Murthy to be a friend and mentor since the she came to Michigan Tech. Pushpa has contributed to Michigan Tech and the Graduate School in so many ways. I’m going to miss having easy access to her wisdom.”

Following her retirement, Murthy plans to stay active. For the past six years, she has been on the board of COACh Global, an organization dedicated to the career advancement of women in STEM fields. This work has taken her around the world giving workshops to faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from San Francisco to Kigali to Delhi; she will continue her work with COACh.

Her other passion is graduate education. She will continue to serve on the Graduate Education Advisory Board of the American Chemical Society and stay active with the Council of Graduate Schools and the National Science Foundation.

On the personal side, upon retirement, Pushpa looks forward to spending more time with her parents, children, and granddaughter, and post-COVID-19, to visit friends, family and the many interesting places on her bucket list.

When asked to describe her 35 years at Michigan Tech, she sums it up in one word — FUN. “When we first arrived at Michigan Tech, we were sure we would be here for only a few years — too far, too cold, and too isolated, we said. We stayed because we found outstanding students, exceptional colleagues — faculty and staff, and a wonderful community. I would like to thank all the students I have worked with, including the thousands in my organic chemistry and first-year chemistry courses, and a very special shout out to the 75+ graduate and undergraduate research students who worked in my lab. I wish to thank my colleagues in chemistry and chemical engineering, and across the University for rich spirited discussions on teaching, learning, research, and university governance as well as other arcane topics of interest to few outside the university. And finally, to my colleagues in my current Tech home, the Graduate School — thank you for your support, hard work, and sense of family. I have always been passionate about graduate education, and you are the reason we were able to accomplish what we did. I have truly enjoyed it all!”

IPEC Addresses the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic

So many aspects of our lives have been challenged and changed since the onset of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. To bring some understanding to the turmoil, IPEC members have been contributing 1,000-word essays offering insight on the complex nature of the pandemic.

Each essay addresses a unique interdisciplinary component of the crisis, thereby adding to understanding the significance of what we are living through. These essays can be found on the IPEC website. Three new essays have been added with more to follow:

  • “Math Communication in Crisis: Responding to Numbers during a Pandemic” by Andrew Fiss, assistant professor of technical and professional communication
  • “A Crisis of Antagonism” by Marina Choy, Ph.D. student, humanities
  • “We Live in a Cost-Benefit Analysis Society” by Nancy Barr, professor of practice, mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics.

FY21 Fringe Benefit Rates

The Office of Naval Research has recently approved Michigan Tech’s Fiscal Year 2021 predetermined Fringe Benefit rates effective Wednesday (July 1, 2020).

The rate agreement can be found online. Beginning Wednesday, these rates will be applied to all funds including active sponsored projects. Effectively immediately, these rates will be used for Sponsored Programs proposal budgeting. In accordance with the Fiscal Year 2021 approved predetermined Fringe Benefit rate agreement, the rates effective July 1, 2020, are as follows:

  • Regular Non-Student Employees Rate - 40.0%
  • Summer/Additional Comp Rate - 19.7%
  • Graduate Student Rate - 8.5%
  • Temporary Employees Rate - 10%
  • Undergraduate Student Rate - 0%

If you have any questions regarding proposals and budgeting, contact Kelly Kallio or call7-2226.

For questions regarding charging of sponsored projects, contact Tammy LaBissoniere or call 7-2244.

For questions regarding the charging of non-sponsored funds, contact Sue Laajala at 7-2121.

Audra Morse joins the Environmental Engineering and Science Foundation Board

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Chair Audra Morse has joined the Environmental Engineering and Science Foundation (EESF) board.

The EESF was established to promote and recognize excellence in environmental engineering and science as well as support key strategic objectives of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.

For more information about the EESF, visit


Teaching Q&A session Tomorrow

Join us for the next weekly Teaching Q&A session from 3 to 4 p.m. Wednesday (July 1) as we welcome guests Provost Jackie Huntoon, CTL Director Mike Meyer and VP of Student Affairs Bonnie Gorman, who will help to answer your questions related to MTU Flex instruction this fall.

Registration is not required for the Teaching Q&A portion of the sessions; we will share a calendar invite to all faculty and staff with the Zoom link. For more information and the schedule, see Monday's Tech Today story.


Museum Opens Tomorrow

The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum reopens to public visitation beginning Wednesday (July 1).

The museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. However, the museum will be closed on Saturday, July 4, in observance of the Independence Day holiday.

Open Data Guide at the Library

Looking for datasets and statistics on a particular topic? The Van Pelt and Opie library has created a curated collection of sources to get you started.

Our guide points you to freely available numeric, statistical, geospatial and qualitative datasets and statistics on a variety of disciplines and topics from both domestic and international organizations.

Check out our Open Data guide and let us know what you think at Additional source suggestions are welcome!

Thermal Mattress Control of Sleep Quality

Do you ever suspect that you may be a poor sleeper? Do you have trouble maintaining or falling asleep? A multitude of factors may be impacting your sleep. One of the potential culprits is temperature control at night. Core body temperature dropping at night is essential for sleep efficiency, but when abnormalities in body temperature occur, it can be detrimental to your sleep. Help us to study the effects of a thermal heating and gradual cooling feature within a mattress that may improve sleep quality.

We are currently recruiting participants. The time commitment includes three overnight stays in the MTU Sleep laboratory: one familiarization and two consecutive testing nights.

Please read the attached flyer for additional information regarding the screening process as well as participation.

MSE Retirement Announcement: Owen Mills

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering congratulates Owen Mills on his upcoming retirement. We have enjoyed working with him during his years here at Michigan Tech and not only is he a valuable asset to MSE but we consider him part of the MSE family.

Owen you will be missed by all of us more than words can say! Your time, experience, expertise, has been so beneficial to MSE and Michigan Tech. We hope your successor will strive to follow your stellar example. We are saddened to see you go but wish you nothing but success and happiness in retirement. While his last day is today, we will celebrate his retirement at a later date in August.

Items Available

The Office of Advancement has the following surplus items available to give away to another department on a first-come, first-served basis:

  • Wood easels
  • Small workstation
  • Office chairs
  • Side chair
  • Veridesk

Contact Mary Stevens or call 7-2312 if interested. As always, University property may only be transferred to other University departments. It may not be given away or sold to individuals.

In the News

Seth Myers, a current Michigan Tech Master of Forestry student, was featured in “Field Notes from Michigan”, a Nature Conservancy quarterly publication, for his service-learning work with their Marquette office through the Michigan Tech VISTA/AmeriCorps program.


Cory McDonald (CEE) was mentioned in the article "GLA annual meeting Saturday goes virtual," in the Ripon Press.


A precede to the Keweenaw Waste Reduction Drive, held Saturday by the University's Sustainability Demonstration House was featured on UP Matters. The successful event was covered in Monday's Daily Mining Gazette.


A photo provided by Michigan Tech was used in the article "Harness the Power of Location," in The Startup.


Former Michigan Tech hockey player Brandon Schwartz, was the subject of the article "Brandon M. Schwartz: Hold the Rope" in Attorney at Law Magazine. Schwartz was a four-year letter winner at MTU and was both an assistant captain and captain. He is now practicing law in Arizona.

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