George Mason University

Coronavirus: FAQs for Graduate Students

Find information about the impact of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic on Mason graduate students. We also encourage you to review the information on our COVID-19 information page, and information on student success on the University Life page.

Will the Office of Graduate Education remain open during the spring 2020 semester?

Yes. The Office of Graduate Education, is committed to helping students continue to make progress toward their degrees while safeguarding their health. Staff will work remotely, and can be reached via e-mail to the Graduate Education staff during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). You may also schedule a remote meeting with Graduation Education staff.

What arrangements are being made for international students?

Mason’s Office of International Programs has set up a web page to help international students navigate the situation.

What arrangements are being made for Graduate Assistants and Graduate Lecturers?

Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs), Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs), and Graduate Professional Assistants (GPAs), and Graduate Lecturers (GLs) are expected to continue their responsibilities, in most cases by working remotely.

Any questions about how to deliver your particular assistantship and/or lectureship responsibilities while protecting your health and that of those around you should be directed to your supervising faculty member in consultation with your graduate program director.

Similar arrangements are being made for summer assistantships. If your assistantship responsibilities are happening outside the United States, contact your supervising faculty member to receive guidance on your individual situation.

What if I am unable to fulfill my duties as a Graduate Assistant or Lecturer due to becoming ill with COVID-19 or caring for a family member who is being treated for the virus?

Graduate Assistants (GTA, GRA, or GPA) or Graduate Lecturers may be eligible to receive Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia. For more information on PHEL, please see guidance provided by Human Resources.

What if I need emergency funding due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak?

University Life has established a process for students seeking temporary, short-term, financial assistance, and you can apply for emergency assistance funding

Eligibility criteria:

  • You are currently enrolled as a degree-seeking full-time or part-time undergraduate or graduate student at Mason.
  • You are experiencing unexpected financial hardship resulting from the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak.

Expenses covered by coronavirus/COVID-19 emergency funding include:

  • Emergency medical and dental expenses
  • Technology/equipment needed to ensure continuity of online learning
  • Travel expenses
  • Homelessness or sudden loss of housing
  • Overdue utility bills reaching a turn-off notice
  • Loss of child care
  • Health insurance
  • Tuition and fees related only to the fulfillment of payment plans for the spring 2020 semester
  • Other financial needs arising from individual and/or special circumstances to be determined on a case-by-case basis

If you have any questions, contact University Life

Will graduate students who need to conduct experiments can access campus facilities?

Only graduate students engaged in activities designated “critical” will be permitted to conduct experiments at campus or at off-campus clinical and field settings after March 20.

Critical activities are those that include animal husbandry, research related to COVID-19, and activities essential to the maintenance of critical equipment and materials.

Graduate students are not permitted to conduct research on campus after March 20, unless their activities have been designated “critical” by the vice president for research, innovation and economic impact.

My research involves interaction with human subjects, including conducting interviews and physical examinations. Will I be able to continue?

Research involving human subjects that can be done remotely (e.g. administering electronic surveys) may continue consistent with approved IRB protocols. In-person interviews/interactions are prohibited.

My research involves travel (domestic or international). Will I be able to continue?

Mason has suspended all university-sponsored and/or university-related domestic and international travel for students, faculty and staff until further notice.

Travel for thesis/dissertation research/fieldwork is considered “university related” regardless of the source of funding. If your travel is supported by Mason, contact the Graduate Education staff.

Am I allowed to continue in my internship, practicum or clinical site?

In-person participation should be based upon the policies of the host site and the ability to practice appropriate safety precautions. After discussing with your faculty/staff coordinator, if the host site remains open and safety precautions are adequate you can continue with your field placement.

What happens if my internship, student teaching, or other field work site is closed?

Academic units are working on alternative means of acquiring insights that normally would be gained experientially. Students should consult with their supervising faculty or staff member regarding your individual situations.

For all academic actions conducted to comply with graduate policies, can graduate students submit forms electronically?

Graduate students can submit forms electronically.

Signatures of committee members and program officials can be collected electronically and documents can be forwarded to the appropriate office(s) for review and recording.

University Dissertation & Thesis Services (UDTS) is also accepting electronic submissions of all Final Submission materials.

All signatures, including Signature Sheets and Embargo Request Forms can be digital, as long as they are actual signatures (as opposed to a text box stating “I certify that this is correct” or something similar).

What should we do about scheduling and holding required milestone examinations (Preliminary Exam and Thesis/Dissertation Defense)?

Consistent with the university’s commitment to support online learning, your advisory committee and program will make preliminary or thesis/dissertation defense exams available through web-based conferencing platforms.

Instructors are not permitted to conduct these exams or any other exams on campus at this time.

If there are well-founded concerns that will prevent you from holding your defense remotely, you should work with your committee chair to mitigate such issues. 

If your academic progress is affected by the Coronavirus/COVID-19, what arrangements are being made for graduate students approaching their time limit to advancement to candidacy or to finish their degree?

When academic progress has been impacted by the Coronavirus/COVID-19, academic units and the Office of Graduate Education will provide appropriate consideration and accommodations to graduate students who are approaching their time-limit to advancement to candidacy or to finish their degree on a case-by-case basis. If needed, students should communicate with their faculty advisor and program director and discuss their individual situation as soon as possible. 

I anticipate defending my dissertation this semester. Will commencement be held in May?

Mason is postponing commencement and our degree celebrations indefinitely. Our hope is to either reschedule at a later date, and/or to find a creative way to celebrate our students online. We will be seeking input from our graduating students on how they would like to be celebrated during these unprecedented times.  

Please continue to monitor this page and the main COVID-19 information webpage for more information.

What will happen to the graduate student events scheduled through the end of the year?

Most graduate education events, including Graduate Education Week, have been canceled through the end of the semester.

Some events may be rescheduled, but will likely be provided virtually.

Graduate Student Life has made updates to their events. Please check back on this page and the main coronavirus page, and follow us on Twitter for live updates.

University events have been cancelled through the end of the semester.

I am currently conducting my graduate research outside the U.S. Am I required to return?

If you are in your country of permanent residence, you should remain in place.

If you are in a country you are not a resident of, Mason’s Travel Abroad policy only orders mandatory recalls for students abroad when the State Department Travel Advisory level for the country is a 4.

For countries at State Department Level 1-3, it is the student’s decision whether to remain and shelter in place or return to the United States or home country.

As an emergency planning precaution, coming home among a network of friends and family can help if conditions deteriorate, so our recommendation would be to return. As you consider your next steps, consider your current access to health care, current travel limitations, as well as the risks of the actual and future travel and quarantine requirements. 

Do graduate students have the option of choosing an alternative grading mode?

Yes. Detailed information can be found on the Graduate Education - Spring 2020 Alternative Grading Options for graduate students page.

Additional details can be found on the Office of the University Registrar - Spring 2020 Grading Options page. 

To ensure graduate students make the best selection for themselves and maximize their potential for long-term academic and professional success, we strongly encourage you to:

  • Seek advice and guidance from your advisor, mentor and/or coordinator prior to making a decision about course grading.
  • Determine the impact electing an alternative grading option may have on financial aid, licensure, admission to professional programs, scholarships, and fellowships, as well as anything else this option could affect.