Student Voices
Town Hall 2020 featuring Mark Searle, Elizabeth Wentz, Cassandra Aska and Kenja Hassan

First Graduate Student Town Hall leads to new graduate student FAQs

town hall COVID-19 pandemic 2020 fall
By Keith Chandler on August 10, 2020

On Tuesday, July 28, the Graduate College hosted its first-ever Graduate Student Town Hall virtually to address graduate student questions concerning the plan to return to campus this fall. Viewers were joined by panelists Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost, Elizabeth Wentz, newly appointed vice provost and dean of the Graduate College, Cassandra Aska, deputy vice president and dean of students, and Kenja Hassan, director of cultural relations for the Office of Government and Community Relations.

As a part of the event registration process, the Graduate College received more than 300 questions from new and returning graduate students. Those questions were divided into categories and distilled into 20 questions to be addressed by panelists and an FAQ web page was created to reflect the questions and answers addressed during the Town Hall. 

Fall 2020 opening

Panelists addressed questions related to the fall 2020 semester and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have built an incredible effort to address things like the necessary precautions to limit the spread of the disease,” said Provost Searle. He is referencing the new provisions being implemented on campus such as the requirement to wear face coverings in ASU buildings and community spaces, increased cleaning procedures and students having a choice in their learning environment when possible.

“If you’re a graduate student, we want you to be able to still get in and do the research that you need to do.” Searle continued. “If you’re needing to be in class, we want you to find ways to do that whether it’s physical or otherwise.”

Equity and inclusion

Another topic of concern were those around the issues of equity and inclusion during a period of heightened racial tensions in the United States.

“We’re working across all of our different units [...] in terms of these concerns,” said Dean Wentz, referencing more than 150 ideas that have been submitted to ASU leaders that are currently under review to determine feasibility and implementation. The Graduate College specifically is reviewing over 100 applications for a newly formed student advisory board to address these and other concerns related to graduate students.

“We know you want to see change at the university,” added Kenja Hassan, “and change is underway.” The dean of students has been working in partnership with IPOC organizations and academic units to create or improve their equity and inclusion committees as well as curriculum for students. “I encourage you to reach out to your academic deans to find out what their committees are doing and how you may be involved,” continued Hassan.

New Graduate Student Novel Coronavirus FAQs webpage

To answer questions that went unanswered in the live Q &A, the Graduate College created the Graduate Student Novel Coronavirus FAQs web page to help graduate students find the answers they need. In most cases, students are directed to primary ASU resources like the Fall 2020 website, the ASU Novel Coronavirus FAQs webpage and the ASU Sync website.

The Graduate College is dedicated to enriching and advancing the graduate school experience for all students. Please do not hesitate to contact us for personal assistance at 480-965-3521 or email grad-gps@asu.edu.