Dean's Messages

Latest information for Engineering students, faculty & staff from Dean Chris Yip

Returning to campus and start of Fall Term

July 19, 2021

To our U of T Engineering community

I’m delighted to share some extremely positive news from Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities, announced on Friday afternoon. The latest update indicates that if vaccination rates and public health indicators continue improving, universities will be permitted to resume in-person instruction and activities in Fall 2021, without physical distancing or capacity limits. Masks in indoor settings will still be required.

As I shared in my last Dean’s Message, U of T Engineering continues to optimistically prepare for a safe return to fully in-person learning in the Fall Term. (You can review our scenario plans for undergraduate students and graduate students.)

Our staff and instructors are preparing undergraduate laboratory spaces for in-person labs, and we are working with the Engineering Society to safely plan for Skule™ events, as well as club and team activities. Research facilities have been continuously ramping back up, with our capacity for in-person graduate student research gradually and safely growing.

  • Undergraduate students: Fall Term undergraduate courses in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering are scheduled to begin in-person on Thursday, September 9, 2021.
    • During the week of August 9, 2021 — about one month before the start of the Fall Term — the Registrar’s Office will begin a process to collect information from undergraduate students who think that they will not be able to be in Toronto on the first day of classes due to exceptional, extenuating circumstances that slightly delay their arrival to campus.
    • These students will be able to apply to the Registrar’s Office to request accommodation and to provide supporting formal documentation. Each application will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Accommodations may include conferring access to course materials and assessments; however, online course delivery and time-zone accommodation will not be guaranteed.
    • Students seeking an accommodation due to a disability should contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible to discuss their individual situations: accessibility.services@utoronto.ca.
  • Graduate students: Most graduate courses will begin in-person on Tuesday, September 7, 2021, subject to public health guidelines.

At long last, this update from the Province is the news we have been hoping for, and I am thrilled that we are on this positive trajectory towards the Fall. I strongly encourage everyone who is able to get fully vaccinated to do so as soon as possible, and to make your plans to be in Toronto and ready to start in-person classes in September. I hope you’re each finding a bit of time to enjoy a well-earned break from your studies, research and work during these summer months — Fall Term will be here before we know it, and I can’t wait to see you back on campus soon!

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

Scenarios for Fall on campus

June 7, 2021

To our U of T Engineering community

More than half of the population in Canada has now received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and in Toronto, the proportion is over 70% of adults. Second doses are coming, and the Ontario government recently announced its three-phase reopening plan. As I shared in a past Dean’s message, here at U of T Engineering, we’ve also been mapping out our plans for a safe and gradual return to campus.

Our plans are being built from the latest public health guidance and government directives. Indeed, the entire University has been working diligently since the pandemic began to rethink every facet of our operations – from signage and scheduling, to ventilation and vaccination – to ensure the safety of our whole community.

Of course, there are still a lot of questions and details outstanding, but I wanted to provide the outline of our scenario planning, the rationale behind it and the considerations we have made. I know it’s a lot of information, but I am sharing this so that each of you, whether you’re an incoming first-year, returning undergrad, graduate student, staff or faculty member, can begin to imagine how the Fall Term may look for you, and have as much info as possible to make your own plans.

Our leadership team, Departments, Divisions and Institutes, the Registrar’s Office, our Faculty’s Health and Safety advisors, and the Graduate Offices are working hard to develop a schedule that will prioritize as many in-person course activities as possible, while considering student workload, travel or commute times, health and safety and well-being. We also continue to work closely with EngSoc into and throughout the summer on scenario planning for extra-curricular activities such as student teams and orientation.

It is crucial to remember that even if we start the term under one plan, changes in public health guidelines could mean an unpredictable switch. We need to be prepared to pivot and adapt. We advise preparing for both Plans A and B, as these are based on the current provincial health and safety guidelines, which could change. Course instructors are also working to develop in-class delivery under both plans.

My central message is this: plan to be in Toronto. I encourage those who are able to be vaccinated to get their shots, as I have. While I acknowledge the past 15 months have been a grind, and I know many of you have faced challenges in your personal, professional, academic lives and beyond, I’m also enormously energized by the prospect of seeing you on campus again this Fall Term.

There will be bumps in the road ahead, but we’re moving forward. I will continue to keep you updated as we go.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

Scenario Plans for Fall Term in U of T Engineering

Undergraduate students

Plan A: In-Person Course Activities

  • This is our “as in-person as possible” scenario, which involves in-person delivery of all course activities.
  • This is our default plan.
  • This plan is feasible as long as we do not have any physical distancing or significant gathering limit restrictions imposed by public health guidelines; however, we anticipate the continued use of non-medical masks indoors and outdoors while on campus.
  • We hope that in this scenario, small club and student group gatherings will be possible but realize that, at this time, this cannot be guaranteed.
  • When registration for U of T Engineering undergraduates opens on July 14, 2021, students will register for courses as if they will take place in person under Plan A.

Plan B: In-Person Pods, Labs & Tutorials

  • The University has asked all divisions to develop a Plan B in the event that public health guidelines do not allow us to proceed with Plan A.
  • U of T Engineering’s Plan B is based on a hypothesis of having the strictest public health restrictions that would still enable us to facilitate some in-person activities: gathering limits of 50, and no physical distancing requirements. We also anticipate the continued use of non-medical masks indoors and outdoors while on campus.
  • Since not all course components can be in-person under Plan B, we are prioritizing those smaller in-person activities that are focused on hands-on and/or interactive experiences, which are generally the laboratories and tutorials.
  • With gathering limits of 50, the numbers of tutorial and laboratory sections drastically increase. In this scenario, with the anticipation of classrooms being fully utilized (at low capacities), U of T Engineering does not have the space required to satisfy public health restrictions that would allow students to congregate, wait, study or attend synchronous online lectures between their in-person labs and tutorials.
  • We also do not have the space required for students to wait and study within our buildings between course activities. We are being mindful to avoid crowded and congested spaces.
  • Therefore, Plan B involves designing cohorts of undergraduate students in Years 1 and 2, divided into ‘pods’, whereby each pod’s in-person course activities (labs and tutorials) are scheduled together, so that they can leave campus when they are done their in-person activities for the day. Due to the custom nature of Years 3 and 4, we do not have a pod structure for upper-year students.
  • In developing a Plan B, we are prioritizing in-person labs and tutorials over synchronous online lectures. While we understand that this is not ideal for every course, we believe this will provide students with a better overall experience, addressing their desire for in-person peer-to-peer interaction.
  • Since undergraduates will be grouped into pods, we are encouraging students to come to campus only on days when they have in-person course activities.
  • In this scenario, we expect that all extra-curricular activities will stay virtual. If a club or design team has a specific request or concern, they are encouraged to first coordinate with EngSoc, whom we have been working with continuously through the pandemic and into this summer.

Plan C: Remote (with some exceptions)

  • If physical distancing is required, then the vast majority of in-person activities will not be feasible. We will run our Plan A schedule for undergraduate courses, but it will be fully remote with the exception that some programs will still hold some in-person laboratories.
  • All extra- and co-curricular activities will also be remote under Plan C.

Graduate students

Plan A: In-Person Under 50

  • If public health guidelines require little or no or physical distancing or gathering limits, for graduate courses where the class size is smaller than 50, the default plan is to be in-person as much as possible.
  • We anticipate the continued use of non-medical masks indoors and outdoors while on campus.
  • For courses where the class size is 50 or more, the default plan is online lectures with in-person components in small groups. For example, when possible, these could include in-person office hours scheduled in a classroom, while still offering a portion of the office hours online.
  • Course enrolment opens for graduate students on August 4, 2021. Students will register in courses as if we are proceeding with Plan A.

Plan B: Remote (with some exceptions)

  • If significant physical distancing and gathering limits are still in place: most classes will be delivered remotely.
  • In-person course activities that are possible under public health requirements, and that can be delivered equitably for all members of the class may be held in person.

Quick links:

Checking in as final assessments approach

April 15, 2021

To our U of T Engineering community

 Here in Toronto, the days are getting longer, trees and flowers are budding (which for some means the start of allergy season) and it’s getting warmer. All signs that we are nearing the end of the Winter Term and the school year.

While I welcome spring, and the hope for a new beginning that this time of the year brings, I am also very aware and in tune of the myriad other events that are currently taking place around the world, impacting us not only as a community but also individually. Many of us are taking care of those who have fallen ill or who have lost jobs. Others have sadly lost loved ones.

 From talking to so many of you over the term and indeed this past year, I can hear and see the tremendous weight of all the unique challenges that we each are facing. Each of us have different ways to cope and manage, and as we approach the final assessment period, I really encourage each of us to think about what gives us strength, energy, and a sense of belonging. Whether it’s keeping up that weekly touch base with a friend, going for a walk, mastering yet another cooking challenge, or just pressing pause for a few minutes — mute your mic, block your camera, and resist the urge to doom-scroll. 

Drink lots of water and enjoy the foods that refresh and refuel you. If you’re celebrating Ramadan, take time for iftar with your household.

Here are a few upcoming options across the Faculty to support students:

While your studies and work at the University are important, do keep in mind that that all aspects of your life need to thrive.

Striking the right balance is not easy so I encourage you to reach out whenever you need support. I’m sharing the list of academic supports and mental health resources below and, as I’ve said before, I encourage us all to keep them handy for ourselves and for those moments when we find ourselves supporting others. We also have a reworked page on our Faculty website for immediate access to help if you’re feeling distressed.

Remember that you belong here. It’s easier said than done, but take care of yourselves, and someone else, if you can. We’re all here, working together to ensure the success of each and every member of the U of T Engineering community.

Wishing you all the best on final assessments,

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

 

Support Resources for Students

Academic Concerns & Advising 

You may have concerns about upcoming academic work that you may feel unprepared for or are unable to complete at this time. There is a petition process that can help mitigate the impact via extensions or exceptions to deadlines. You can read more about this process at https://undergrad.engineering.utoronto.ca/petitions/term-work-petitions/, and reach out to your Academic Advisors (through the advising portal or by email) & your Graduate Administrators (by email).

 

Mental Health Resources for Students 

Each of us responds to stress, grief and tragedy differently — at one time or another, we all need help. If you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure where to turn, please reach out.

U of T My Student Support Program (MySSP)

  • Immediate and/or ongoing confidential, 24-hour counselling support
  • 1-844-451-9700 (outside of North America, call 001-416-380-6578)
  • Download the My SSP app: Apple App Store | Google Play.

Multifaith Chaplains

U of T St. George Health & Wellness

  • Physical & mental health care by physicians, nurses, counsellors and psychologists.
  • 416-978-8030

Good2Talk

  • Confidential support services for post-secondary students in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
  • 1-866-925-5454 (Ontario), 1-833-292-3698 (Nova Scotia)
  • Text GOOD2TALKON to 686868

U of T Engineering Mental Health & Wellness

  • Mental Health learning opportunities, COVID-related resources, reports, services & supports for U of T Engineering.

Student Mental Health Resource

  • U of T’s mental health resource hub containing the tools, strategies and experts to meet you exactly where you are on your mental health journey.

 

Support Resources for Staff and Faculty

All U of T staff and faculty members have access to the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). If you are experiencing distress, please reach out at any time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – by contacting the EFAP at:

 

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