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The 2020-2021 Academic Year: A Letter from the Provost


Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to share with you the outcome of the process of planning for continuity in Fordham’s academic programs next year. As you know, over the course of the past three weeks we have been engaged in intensive conversations about how we can best protect the health and well-being of the members of the Fordham community while still delivering the quality Jesuit education our students expect.

Fordham’s Educational Mission in a Time of Pandemic

We are living through a global societal crisis, the full ramifications of which may not become clear for some time. The academic year ahead will be dramatically different than all the others we have experienced as teachers and students.

In our 179-year history, Fordham has faced major crises of various types: civil war, worldwide economic depression, urban neglect and conflict, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. During each of these perilous moments, the University community came together to discern how to live out our mission as educators and persons for others in the midst of uncertain and painful circumstances.

With this message, I am humbly asking for your assistance, as all members of the faculty, staff, and administration work collaboratively and creatively to help Fordham address the unprecedented challenge emerging from this pandemic: in the face of uncertainty and significant environmental constraints, to fulfill the promise that drew our students to Fordham, the Jesuit university of New York City. The University community is relying on us to ensure that Fordham stays strong through this crisis.

Our Plans for the Year Ahead

Here I would like to outline in broad strokes Fordham’s academic approach next year. The University’s schools and colleges will each have the opportunity to adapt this model to the needs of their own students and academic programs. At the same time, our colleagues across the University are already engaged in a parallel process of planning for Fordham’s finances and operations, including crucial work in the realms of health services, student life, facilities, research continuity, and academic technology. Importantly, the Office of Human Resources, the Office of the Provost, and the Office of Finance are developing policies that address appropriate accommodations for individual employees who may have compromised immune systems or other complications. Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Jeffrey L. Gray and I are co-coordinating, along with a steering committee of senior administrative leaders, a set of working groups on Reopening Fordham, and we will be reporting to the campus community as further details become available.

Over the past few weeks, the process of planning for the continuity and resilience of Fordham’s academic programs has unfolded rapidly, and for that reason I am all the more grateful for the thoughtful and generous engagement of numerous members of our community. More than 170 faculty and staff attended a town hall meeting, and more than 100 proposed ideas individually or in groups. We spoke with more than sixty students (admitted undergraduates and current undergraduate, graduate, and professional students) in focus groups. Several dozen administrators with expertise in technical areas of the University’s operations offered feasibility assessments, and a group of twenty-one members of our Academic Review Team, led by Kendra Dunbar and Bozena Mierzejewska, made recommendations to the deans, President’s Cabinet, and Father McShane. Rosters of these colleagues appear beneath my signature below, and I extend deepest thanks to each of them.

The model we have adopted to guide teaching and learning at Fordham this coming year draws upon insights offered by all the groups I just named. I have prepared a document conveying details about the academic calendar, summer session, instructional delivery, community building, and the start of the fall semester. I am sharing the same document with members of the faculty, as well as with our students.

Let me be clear: Fordham will be fully in session throughout the academic year 2020-2021. To the greatest extent that the public health situation permits, we seek to teach our students in person and on campus. However, if on-campus operations are disrupted by the pandemic, our fundamental commitment is to continue providing an outstanding, transformative Jesuit education without interruption and without any sacrifice of quality.

This commitment necessitates that we deliver instruction in ways that will differ notably from years past and from this spring’s. Across the University, we will be implementing a flexible hybrid learning environment that will combine, and enable students to benefit from the different advantages of, both asynchronous and synchronous learning. With your help, the University  will be able to provide all those who teach with resources and support in adapting unfamiliar pedagogies to meet the needs of our students and embody the values of Jesuit higher education.

Next Steps and the Critical Role of Administrator and Staff Colleagues

As I indicated earlier, the next stage in academic planning for the year ahead will occur at the school and college level. Each unit will have the freedom, and the responsibility, to adapt the University’s overall approach to its own disciplinary context and circumstances. I have asked the deans to work with the school and college councils, as well as with department and area chairs and the faculty at large, in developing creative and flexible ways to implement our model in the context of each academic discipline and profession. Input from staff and administrative colleagues throughout the University, whether in Enrollment, Facilities, IT, Student Affairs, or other equally important areas, will be critical.

We will also be inviting incoming undergraduate students to join small virtual communities, in which we will offer a new set of engaging activities and opportunities so that our students can learn with and from one another, even at a distance. Fordham’s administrators and staff enable the University to function not only professionally but also with grace and compassion. I fully acknowledge that what our present circumstances demand will place new burdens and responsibilities on you and on colleagues throughout the institution, especially during summer months usually devoted to other activities. I recognize the sacrifices that will be necessary, and I thank you profusely for making them.

Indeed, how Fordham prepares and delivers our academic programs next year will make the difference between our students thriving in a novel educational environment adapted for our times, or languishing in one that leaves them disaffected and disengaged. Alongside our colleagues on the faculty, you represent the University and our mission to our students at a time of precarity.

You will not be alone. This past Friday, I met with colleagues in the Provost’s Office, the President’s Cabinet, and Martha K. Hirst, senior vice president, chief financial office, and treasurer, to begin identifying the suite of new resources needed to facilitate the adjustments that the year ahead will require. Even though the University’s budgets are severely constrained, we will need to invest significantly in the areas of instructional technology and support for online and hybrid pedagogies. I am grateful to our colleagues in IT, under the leadership of Shaya Phillips, interim chief information officer, who have begun to carefully review existing classroom technologies, software solutions, and the availability of instructional design experts. We will provide further details in the very near future.

Concluding Thoughts

In closing, I am proud that our community’s work to discern together our plans for the year ahead has resulted in a model that is true to Fordham’s deepest values and aspirations. Along with the deans, the members of the President’s Cabinet, and Fr. McShane, I am convinced that our plans (a) prioritize the health and well-being of every member of the University community, especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19; (b) enable outstanding, deeply relational education even amidst variations in the public health situation; (c) assure our students that their studies will not be delayed; and (d) honor the expertise and creativity of all who teach. Most of all, I am proud that we have arrived at this model together, as members of a shared community of learning and inquiry.

Please know that all of you, and especially all those who contributed to the intensive planning of the past few weeks, have my most grateful thanks.

Best wishes,

Dennis C. Jacobs
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Academic Review Team

  • Kendra Dunbar, Assistant Director for Equity and Inclusion, Office of the Chief Diversity Officer; co-chair
  • Bożena Mierzejewska, Associate Professor and Area Chair for Communications and Media Management, Gabelli School of Business; co-chair
  • Gregory Acevedo, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Service
  • Robert Beer, Associate Dean for Science Education, Fordham College at Rose Hill; Associate Professor of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Steve D’Agustino, Director of Online Learning, Office of the Provost
  • Hooman Estelami, Professor of Marketing, Gabelli School of Business
  • Anne Fernald, Special Faculty Advisor to the Provost for Faculty Development; Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Carl Fischer, Associate Professor of Spanish, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Christina Greer, Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Samir Haddad, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Iftekhar Hasan, University Professor and E. Gerald Corrigan Chair in International Business and Finance, Gabelli School of Business
  • Jeffrey Haynes, Director of Information Technology, Gabelli School of Business
  • Margo Jackson, Professor, Graduate School of Education
  • Joseph Landau, Professor of Law
  • Ji Seon Lee, Associate Dean and Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Service
  • Sophie Mitra, Co-Director, Disability Studies Minor; Professor of Economics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Patricia Peek, Dean of Undergraduate Admission
  • Barbara Porco, Clinical Professor of Accounting and Taxation, Gabelli School of Business
  • Jacqueline Reich, Chair, Department of Communications and Media Studies; Interim Chair, Department of Classics; Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Alessia Valfredini, Lecturer in Italian, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Sarah Zimmerman, Professor of English, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Panel of Expert Colleagues

  • Lerzan Aksoy, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and Strategic Initiatives; Professor of Marketing, Gabelli School of Business
  • John Buckley, Vice President for Enrollment
  • Mary Byrnes, Director, Office of Disability Services
  • Roxana Callejo Garcia, Associate Vice President, Strategic Planning and Innovation, Fordham IT
  • John Carroll, Director, Public Safety
  • Jonathan Crystal, Vice Provost
  • Megan Decker, Assistant Dean for Sophomores, Gabelli School of Business
  • Keith Eldredge, Dean of Students, Lincoln Center
  • Fleur Eshghi, Associate Vice President, Instructional Technology/Academic Computing, Fordham IT
  • Monica Esser,  Director of International Enrollment Initiatives, Office of Undergraduate Admission
  • Beth Fagin, Deputy General Counsel, Office of Legal Counsel
  • Gene Fein, Assistant Vice President for Academic Services and Records, Enrollment Group
  • Toni Jaeger-Fine, Assistant Dean for International and Non-JD Programs, School of Law
  • Joshua Hummert, Assistant Director of Financial Planning and Analysis
  • Ron Jacobson, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost
  • Maureen Keown, Director, University Health Services
  • Lisa Lancia, Director, Office of International Initiatives
  • Christina McGrath, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment and Operational Services, Enrollment Group
  • Robert Moniot, Associate Dean, Fordham College at Lincoln Center
  • Francis Petit, Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Gabelli School of Business
  • Jeannine Pinto, Assessment Officer, Office of Institutional Research
  • Paul Reis, Associate Vice President for Academic Finance and Planning, Office of the Provost
  • David Swinarski, Associate Dean; Associate Professor of Mathematics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Marco Valera, Vice President for Administration

Steering Committee

  • Eva Badowska, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Associate Vice President, Arts and Sciences
  • Patrick Hornbeck, Special Faculty Advisor to the Provost for Strategic Planning; Secretary, Faculty Senate; Chair and Professor, Department of Theology, Arts and Sciences
  • Dennis Jacobs, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs; chair
  • Eve Keller, Past President, Faculty Senate; Director, Fordham College at Rose Hill Honors Program; Professor, Department of English, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Donna Rapaccioli, Dean, Gabelli School of Business
  • Peter Stace, Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Strategy

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