Return to Campus: The Status of Campus

Editor's Note: We continue our series regarding operations as the University enters Step Three in our Return to Campus Plan this fall. This semi-weekly series runs Tuesdays and Thursdays through July 14.

Last month, Michigan Tech began Step Two of our Return to Campus Plan. As the University prepares for Step Three, students and employees, understandably, have questions. To address the student experience, we spoke with Sarah Schulte, general counsel and secretary to the Board of Trustees. Schulte said that once we enter Step Three and return to campus with the start of the fall semester, the University will immediately transfer to the five-tier Michigan Tech Campus Health and Safety Level system.

Q: How will we be making decisions regarding moving from level to level? When are those decisions made? 

SS: These decisions will be made in real time by campus leadership, using data from MTU's testing program (symptomatic and asymptomatic), data from Houghton county, including health care capacity (which has remained strong so far), and giving consideration to the academic calendar and the likelihood of travel. Our goal is to open safely in the fall and to keep our campus community safe — both to protect individuals' health and to keep our campus open and educating students.   

Q: Is information on the Health and Safety Levels available? 

SS: Yes, it is available on the MTU Flex Portal.

Q: How will outbreaks on other campuses affect the status of Michigan Tech?

SS: Outbreaks on other campuses alone are not likely to significantly affect Michigan Tech's Health and Safety Level. If we have individuals traveling to or from a campus with an outbreak, targeted additional protective measures are likely, and could range from heightened screening to testing to quarantine.  

Q: How will outbreaks in the region affect the status of Michigan Tech?

SS: Outbreaks in Houghton County are important to Michigan Tech's Campus Health and Safety Level to the extent they restrict the health care capacity in the community and increase the risk to students and employees engaging with the community. Michigan Tech is in regular contact with the area health care providers and the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, and is monitoring the community health and health care capacity on an ongoing basis.  

Up next: In our next installment on Tuesday, July 7, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Jacqueline Huntoon will address "Student and Faculty Flexing," as we return to campus.

Understanding Campus Health and Safety Levels

Last month, Michigan Tech entered Step Two in the three-step Return to Campus Plan. Prior to the start of the fall semester, the University will begin Step Three, which calls for a return to near-normal operations and the return of students to campus. Once the semester starts, the Return to Campus Plan will end, and the University will transition to using Health and Safety Levels on campus.

Sarah Schulte, general counsel and secretary to the Board of Trustees, said the five levels are focused on returning students and additional employees back to campus as safely as possible and on creating the environment needed to continue the fall semester uninterrupted. "The levels give us the flexibility to offer students and employees the most normal campus experience possible while keeping the health and safety of everyone on campus as our first priority," Schulte said.

The levels range from Level One, which allows face-to-face instruction and limited social distancing, to Level Five, which calls for remote instruction and limited campus activity. MTU Flex will be utilized as the instruction protocol for Levels Two through Four.

"Movements between levels will be determined by the COVID-19 public health situation on campus and in the community, the fall academic calendar and the strength of the local health care system with the real-time demand on it," Schulte said.

Each of the five levels includes specific actions for various health and safety protocols, including testing, cleaning, symptom tracking, the use of face coverings, contact tracing, employee presence on campus, indoor and outdoor events, visitors to campus and more.

Schulte said it's vital the students and employees are aware of which level is in effect at all times. "The current campus Health and Safety Level will be readily apparent," she said. "The level will be posted on the MTU Flex site, the main MTU website and communicated via email and text and on digital signage."

Schulte stressed that Michigan Tech's return to campus will be informed by state orders/guidelines and University health and safety evaluations.

Specific information on each of the five Health and Safety Levels can be found on the MTU Flex Portal.

COVID-19 Delays Great Lakes Buoy Deployment, MTU Helps Fill the Gap

Michigan Tech and the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) are collaborating to ensure buoys are deployed in Lake Superior despite delays stemming from COVID-19. An unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the delayed deployment of Great Lakes weather and wave buoys, which provide critical safety information to commercial shipping, recreational boaters and kayakers, anglers, swimmers and local businesses.

Into the gap step Michigan Tech and CIGLR. John Lenters (GLRC) requested rapid response funding from CIGLR in late May to purchase a Sofar Ocean “Spotter” wave buoy to measure wave conditions, wind velocity and surface water temperature. Michigan Tech has matched CIGLR’s funding by purchasing a second Spotter buoy.

The Spotter buoys join a third one that Michigan Tech deployed in late April off the coast of Gay, Michigan. That buoy is being used to measure wave conditions to aid with the dredging of stamp sands near Buffalo Reef, in an effort to help protect local fish spawning grounds and white sand beach along Grand Traverse Bay.


New GMES Department Chair

The College of Engineering announced that Aleksey Smirnov has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, as of Wednesday (July 1).

Smirnov joined Michigan Tech as an assistant professor of geophysics in 2007, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in plate tectonics and global geophysics, planetary geology and geophysics, and fundamentals of applied and environmental geophysics.

His research interests include the long-term evolution of Earth's magnetic field and its geological and geodynamical implications. Deciphering the early history of our planet—including the early history of its geomagnetic field—represents one of the great challenges in Earth science. Smirnov seeks to at least double the amount of reliable data on the Precambrian field by applying new experimental approaches to investigate the fossil magnetism of well-dated igneous rocks around the globe. He also investigates geodynamics and global plate tectonics, the magnetism of rocks, minerals, and synthetic materials, environmental magnetism, and develops new techniques and instruments for paleomagnetic and rock magnetic research. His work on the early magnetic field history has been supported by several NSF grants including a 2012 CAREER award.

Smirnov received his B.S. in geophysics from Saint-Petersburg State University (Russia) in 1987, and his Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Rochester in 2002. He conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of Rochester from 2002-2005, and at Yale University from 2005-2007. He is also affiliated with the Department of Physics.

"I am delighted that Dr. Smirnov will be chair of GMES and looking forward to him joining the leadership team of the College," stated Dean Janet Callahan. "His experience as a faculty member and long-term perspective of the department will be something he can strongly leverage as he works to grow the research profile of the department and student enrollment."

John Gierke (GMES) led the department as chair for two terms, or six years. “We are grateful for Dr. Gierke’s leadership,” said Callahan. "He is also a tremendous teacher and researcher, and is looking forward to giving both his full attention once again.”

Read more on the College of Engineering blog.

Server Upgrade Scheduled for Tuesday

Between the hours of 6 and 7 a.m. on Tuesday (July 7), Michigan Tech IT will replace campus servers that are used for authentication.

During this time, disruptions of approximately one minute may occur for those who try to log in using SSO for campus services. If you have issues logging in during the upgrade, wait for a few minutes and try again. If you continue to have issues after the upgrade period, please contact IT.

If you use an email client to look up people in the campus directory, you will need to change your settings after the upgrade. Refer to Find Michigan Tech directory information using an email client for instructions. For questions or additional assistance, we can help. Contact IT at or call 7-1111.

Tips and Tricks from Three Chairs and a Dean

A free interactive Zoom short course for future college students, "Tips and Tricks from Three Chairs and a Dean," starts this Tuesday (July 7).

Do you know anyone who is hoping or planning to go to college? If so, please invite them to join Janet Callahan (CoE), Glen Archer (ECE), John Gierke (GMES) and Audra Morse (CEE) to gain 100-plus years of collective wisdom.

In a new, free interactive Zoom short course they will share honest advice on how to leap into college learning with great confidence—all the tips and tricks they wish someone had shown them, back when they were all starting out.

“We’ve created this short course with students heading to Michigan Tech in mind, but everyone is welcome," says Callahan. “Even some middle school students, eighth grade and up, will find it helpful and useful.”

Each session will run for 20 minutes, plus time for Q&A. The first session takes place at 6 p.m. (EDT) each Tuesday in July (July 7, 14, 21, 21 and 28.)

Get the full scoop and register at

CCHA Announces Multiyear Partnership with FloSports

FloSports, the innovator in live sports streaming and original content, announced this week an exclusive multiyear agreement with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) that will see every regular season and postseason event hosted by a CCHA member school streamed live and on-demand on FloHockey.

The partnership brings elite NCAA Division I hockey to FloSports' fast-growing FloHockey platform starting with the 2021-2022 season. The CCHA also recently announced that highly respected hockey coach and college athletics executive Don Lucia has been named commissioner.

The seven CCHA member institutions, Michigan Tech, Bemidji State University, Bowling Green State University, Ferris State University, Lake Superior State University, Minnesota State University, and Northern Michigan University, each have a rich history of academic and athletic excellence and are dedicated to improving regional alignment, building natural rivalries, and enhancing the student-athlete and fan experience.

The multiyear partnership is expected to provide carriage for more than 150 regular-season games, including all 84 regular-season matchups. The agreement covers all regular-season games to include preseason, non-conference matchups, and the entire CCHA postseason tournament.

"We are incredibly enthused to announce this partnership with FloSports. Fans of the CCHA schools are already familiar with FloSports and this allows us to continue to build on that relationship," said Morris Kurtz, the renowned athletics and hockey consultant who has guided the CCHA member schools through legal incorporation, the creation of league bylaws, and the recently completed commissioner search processes. "I have enjoyed working with these schools as they continue to check off a number of significant milestone accomplishments that are setting them up for a very exciting future as a powerhouse in collegiate hockey."

Commissioner Lucia echoed that enthusiasm. "It's great to step in as the new leader and have this relationship already in place. I have obviously been around college hockey for a long time and I am extremely impressed with what FloSports has done to elevate and promote the game by making it more accessible to our fan base throughout the season. I look forward to working with them in my new role as CCHA commissioner and I am confident we can continue to grow together as we progress towards launching league play 16 months from now."

"CCHA represents the best in collegiate hockey, and we are honored to have the conference as a partner of FloSports," says Phil Wendler, SVP, Global Rights Acquisition, FloSports. "The excellent team at CCHA have established a truly impressive vision for their future and for the sport of college hockey and we look forward to helping them build their program, reach new fans and collaborate on engaging new content that will elevate the profile of Division I hockey."

Featuring live streaming of premier events, original video programming, and weekly studio shows, FloSports is a leading provider in the collegiate space, including partnerships with the Big 12 Conference, Conference USA, the Mountain West Conference, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The CCHA partnership further cements FloHockey as the No. 1 destination for college hockey with more than 600 college hockey games broadcasted from the WCHA and Atlantic Hockey.

To access live and on-demand coverage of CCHA, Atlantic Hockey, WCHA, and more, visit FloHockey to become a monthly or annual PRO subscriber. Either subscription unlocks access to premium content across the entire FloSports network. Watch the games across all screens by downloading the FloSports app on iOS, Roku, or Apple TV 4.

Items Available

Alumni Engagement has the following surplus items available to give away to another department on a first-come, first-served basis:

  • Love Seat and Matching Chair
  • Six Arm Chairs

Contact Carol Argentati or call 7-1827 if interested. As always, University property may only be transferred to other University departments. It may not be given away or sold to individuals.


No Tech Today Tomorrow

Because it is a University holiday, there will be no Tech Today published or distributed tomorrow (July 3) in observance of Independence Day.

Tech Today will resume on Monday (July 6). The deadline for articles published on Monday is noon Thursday (July 2). 

Questions can be emailed to Tech Today.

In the News

Laura Bourgeau-Chavez (MTRI) was featured in the North American Carbon Program newsletter.


 Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) authored a guest column "Finland's Research Dollars Stretch Further with Open Source" published in the Fulbright Finland News. In the same issue, Fulbright Finland announced that Ismo Heikkinen from Aalto University won a Fulbright award to visit Michigan Tech and continue collaboration with Pearce.

Pearce is quoted in the article "3D Printing: Reshaping our Engineering Culture? Innovative applications of 3D printing are reshaping our engineering culture", published in Plastics Engineering.

In Print

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE)  and student Ben Hubbard (ME-ME) published an article titled "Open Source Digitally Replicable Lab-Grade Scales" in Instruments.


Melanie Kueber Watkins (CEE), Brian Barkdoll (CEE), David Watkins (CEE) and Michigan Tech alumna Katelyn Zelinski '20, wrote the research publication "Highway Hydraulic Engineering State of Practice — A Synthesis of Highway Practice," published by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP).


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