September 9, 2020


Report & Rough Minutes: Graduate College Top Tier Pivot Planning Working Group Meeting –

Committee met via WebEx from 3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., Wednesday, September 9, 2020

At meeting: Hui Zhao, Sara Jordan, Joel Snyder, Vivek Sah, Sean Clark, Peter Gray, Daniel Wright, Rhonda McElroy, Hyunhwa Henna Lee, and Doug Unger (Chair) & Associate Dean Lin and Dean Korgan (via WebEx) – 

  1. Check-in with group: Doug Unger (DU) asked about orientations and welcomes by our departments and programs. Success reported that increased engagement and feelings well-being because of increased welcome pre-meetings and post-meetings via Zoom and WebEx with new students & follow-up meetings with program students – an increase from face-to-face semesters; Sara Jordan (SJ) reported continuing meetings with students over the summer since COVID-19 extending to fall and success of those; Janet Dufek (JD) reported positive attendance the week before meeting for the semester; & Hui Zhao (HZ) reports attendance for remote meeting for T.A.s was higher than in face-to-face semesters – no negative issues reported – the orientations and reopenings are going well. 

  1. Topic – Remote Exams and Remote Defenses – Peter Gray (PG) reports that the Grad Council has approved language to provide more flexibility for exams and defenses and that these worked out well in spring; JD reports that defenses have gone smoothly, but expressed concerns about Comprehensive Examinations and Exams – specifically that Comprehensive Examinations may not have proper monitoring to prevent access to texts and materials not allowed at exams – 

Following discussion points: Sean Clark (SC) suggested looking into LSAT exam monitoring; SJ suggested possibility of asking students to use a mirror behind remote video conference stations so as to show no disallowed materials present; Hyunhwa Lee shared that for some exams (Nursing) a smartphone was placed as a second camera to show exam taker; DU asked if a second Webcam could be required to do the same. Dean Korgan suggested that external proctoring services that require fees should be included in the syllabus and announced to students at the beginning of the semester.

DU suggested that options may be available in departments or in the Gateway Building to provide a monitored campus space to take exams. Dean Korgan suggested such spaces would have to be carefully scheduled to meet UNLV COVID-19 space density policies. 

Action item: Dean Korgan suggested providing departments and programs with a list of options. These would include those discussed: finding out what LSAT exams are doing; using an external 2nd viewing device – either a smartphone or a 2nd webcam; using existing department spaces for exams on a safety conscious schedule; using third party proctoring services but only if announced ahead of time and included in the syllabus that these extra fees will be required. 

  1.  IRB and Research issues – with special focus on graduate student research. JD shared that this is taking up a great deal of her time – that the major problem is with Human Subjects research – and the approval process through Chair, Dean, OSP – 

Suggestion: communication to advisors that they be very careful about prioritizing research plans, with time sensitivity taking priority – and university restrictions to 30%-50% of usual population density in labs. Advisors and directors should rank projects according to time-sensitivity for graduate students who are closer to graduation. Others must be patient – and accommodations made for their research delays. 

Joel Snyder (JS) reported issues with Human Subject research in the neuroscience labs – and that there is not much (or enough) guidance through the VPR office for how best to accommodate policies, especially with E.E.G. equipment use which requires human touch. Some discussion followed about possible workarounds – PPE as in a hospital setting; this may be good for the researcher but not safe for the human subject. Also reported some misunderstanding of nature of research through college Associate Dean, who requires plexi-glass partitions (that don’t apply to every lab). Some low density research is being approved, but student research and progress toward degrees has slowed.


Some suggestions were made about possible sterility measures as in hospitals but they are not practical. HL reported that research with full PPE in hospital settings is proceeding for Nursing faculty, but student research has been delayed. 

SC shared that film productions have resumed but that they face stopping as soon as any actor or production crew member tests positive for COVID-19 – this is causing great loss of money and production delays. 

Question arose: what is the policy if a member of a research team and/or a subject in research tests positive for COVID-19?  Dean Korgan confirmed: research must stop, and follow up made according to Clark County Health District procedures and policies. 

Major issue: students in human research subjects intensive fields are delayed in completing their studies – accommodations need to be made (financial and otherwise); also need for information about best practices at other universities and institutes. 

  1. DU changed order of meeting agenda since student concerns were being discussed – to the charge to Pivot Group to conduct a survey of the impact of COVID-19 on graduate students. Dean Korgan suggested that the fall survey of all graduate students, the annual survey that also awards some scholarships for completing it – that yields between 1500 and 2000 responses (very high yield) -- contain a handful of questions to measure impact (emphasized that the questions should be simple, as survey will ask many questions). Discussion of the shape and content of the survey questions followed from the group – and Likert scale and/or Slider type questions as formats – and/or comment boxes (DU pointed out they are very labor intensive to assess and report). Dean Korgan suggested the questions should be closed-ended, also answerable from mobile phones. The group reported anecdotal issues with students over housing/finances/child care/ family issues – all complicating student lives during COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline for the fall survey is October 1st, so this survey is time-sensitive. Suggestion from group: 

Action item: Dean Korgan will post a Google share document for members of the working group to provide suggested questions and/or feedback on questions posted by Dean Korgan and the Graduate College. Questions and feedback will be needed soon. 

  1. DU presented Pivot Group charge to gather information and report on best practices for other Graduate Colleges and/or schools to address COVID-19 related issues, including: 

financial stresses on students and programs; IRB and Human Subjects research issues; 

Arts production issues; exam proctoring and defenses – all of the above – and question about how to gather such information and which schools to research. Peer institutions? R1 institutions only? Gallagher Study (salary study) comparison of colleges & universities? What questions to ask and to whom (to get started)? Peter Gray (PG) suggested the Council of Graduate Colleges might provide information. Dean Korgan answered that the CGS schools report taking similar measures as UNLV (PG mentioned that most R1 institutions have a timeline for graduation that has now been relaxed and UNLV does not – so is already relaxed on timelines). JD suggested that research should look to schools with a similar infection rate as Las Vegas (and Nevada); HZ reported the rate is 8% in Nevada. Associate Dean Lin suggested that the wellbeing and safety of students should be the focus of information gathered. Pathways of whom to ask are: school/college websites; the Office of Research at chosen institutions. An action item resulted from discussions: 

Action item: DU will share a Google document suggesting a list of schools (or various lists based on different criteria) and pathways of questions to ask to gather best practices information, to be assigned to a Graduate Assistant (R.A.) to conduct – for feedback and suggestions from the working group. Will commit to creating and posting this within a few days (as time permits). 

  1. Additional topics and questions raised: Dean Korgan reported the news that the Graduate College has $500,000 in Emergency Retention Grant funding for this academic year – 5 times the usual amount (which should help students in need). DU asked about sources – Dean Korgan reported that some $50K comes from CARES act funding; also reported on intensive lobbying being done by UNLV Government Affairs and CGS organization to provide future funding. Other funding ideas will be pursued – and shared by group. SC then showed off to the Pivot Group a bobble head sculpture made to resemble himself that his colleagues had ordered and given him as a gift. The group unanimously admired the gift and the idea. DU suggested that all members of the Pivot Planning Working Group should have made similar bobble heads as a fun idea, also to serve as a possible stand-in for our images on Webcams. DU will suggest this idea possibly included as a further recommendation from the Working Group. Thank you, Sean!  

After committing to pursue action items and charges, meeting adjourned at 4:15 p.m.

Additional Documents:

Proposed Research F2020