Welcome to Recap, MICA’s official regular communication on the College’s progress and planning around the return to campus for Spring 2021 and beyond. Given the evolving nature of the public health situation from week to week, Recap is not intended to be an official record of finalized policy or agreed-upon decisions, but rather a weekly snapshot of MICA’s current and developing planning around safely and successfully mounting the 2021 academic year — giving faculty, staff, and students the transparency they need to stay informed, make decisions, and collaborate together as a true One Team MICA.

Importantly, the intent of Recap is to not simply inform, but also to listen. That’s why every issue will include the ability for MICA community members to provide feedback on any of the topics presented, with the common goal to facilitate input and create a shared understanding of this complex and evolving situation from multiple viewpoints. Please note that this feature is intended to provide a channel for collaborative feedback on specific topics and not designed to serve as a channel for immediate question or problem resolution. For immediate questions or concerns, please use the departmental directory at the end of this issue.

We hope you find it useful and, as always, your feedback is highly valued.

As this is the first issue of Recap, a broad overview of the current state of planning — the concepts, models, ideas, and projections — will be discussed. While Recap is intended to be a general update on MICA’s AY 2021 reopening efforts, some information may not apply to all programs and constituents, such as Open Studies. For specific information, please use the departmental directory at the end of this issue.

In This Issue:

  1. The 5 Tensions: A Balancing of Competing Priorities

  2. Current Thinking: Campus Operational Modes and a Progressive Return to Campus

  3. On Track: Campus Testing Strategy

  4. Academic Approach: Online and Remote Learning with a Progressive Return to Campus

  5. Community Feedback: Recent Cohort Surveys

  6. Timeline: Draft Planning Milestones

  7. What If: Real World Questions from the Community

A Balancing of Competing Priorities
As we’ve learned from our Fall efforts, there are several competing priorities that must be balanced for any reopening strategy to be successful. Earlier this Fall, following conversations with academic leadership, including undergraduate chairs and graduate program directors, Provost Council articulated this multiplicity of priorities as MICA’s “5 Tensions.” This concept is now serving as a conceptual sketch to help frame the priorities that MICA will need to balance in order to ensure a successful academic year.
The 5 Tensions are:

  1. Public Health and Trust in our Public Health Measures

  2. Students’ (general) desire to be on campus

  3. Faculty’s and Staff’s (general) desire to be empowered to choose whether to work remotely or on campus

  4. An overall need for stability and time to plan as part of the decision-making process.

  5. Long-Term Success of MICA

The 5 Tensions have been a useful concept during planning discussions and provide valuable framing for our emerging approach to Spring 2021.
Operational Modes and a Progressive Return to Campus
As the public health situation continues to evolve, planning for the Spring semester emphasizes our ability to establish strong public health measures, objective metrics, and an approach to teaching and learning that will allow us to adapt to changing conditions and progressively ramp-up or down any on-campus activities accordingly. To accomplish this, a set of 5 campus Operational Modes (Mode) are in development. Each operational mode is connected to a science-based, decision-making matrix including metrics for on-campus and broader public health conditions, like COVID positivity and hospitalization rates in Baltimore. The matrix will provide clear and unambiguous guidance for the determination of the operational mode of the college. The following chart details these modes and corresponding decision-making metrics.

Overview of Operational Modes Chart

Additionally, we are developing a web-based dashboard to provide realtime visibility into these metrics and the current operational mode of the campus.

MICA’s COVID-19 Dashboard prototype. Note: This is a prototype for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the current Campus Operational Mode nor the public safety conditions.

Campus Testing Strategy
Any reopening strategy is dependent on a rigorous and effective testing program for both asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals. Significant research and outreach has been done by Doug Mann, Dr. Judith Kinney, and Mike Patterson to develop MICA’s on-campus testing strategy for Spring and beyond. With support from the University of Maryland Medical System and in consultation with an epidemiologist from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the College will implement a program of regular testing for any MICA community member who is physically accessing campus. As a critical metric of the College’s operational mode decision-making matrix, testing results will be fed into the online dashboard on a regular basis.

(The next issue of Recap will feature a more comprehensive overview of MICA’s public health and safety measures)

Online and Remote Learning with a progressive return to on-campus access and engagements
While the official announcement for the format of the Spring 2021 semester will be communicated by November 9, 2020 (see Timeline: Draft Planning Milestones), our proposed academic approach to Spring centers on the continued development of online and remote learning with a progressive return to campus and on-campus engagements for prioritized groups. This approach is based on the assumption of Operational Mode 3, which will provide opportunities for limited on-campus access for students, including the ability to house a limited number of students in the residence halls. This approach will allow us to more easily ramp-up or down with on-campus activities in response to any changes in our operational mode during the semester. We are also investigating alternative approaches to the academic calendar and Spring Break that will allow us to balance the need for a restorative period with the public health concerns associated with a long break in mid-semester.

Graduate students will have access as assigned by their programs to individual studios and workspaces. Undergraduate seniors will have access as assigned by their departments to individual or semi-private studios and workspaces. We will also be able to welcome 280 to 540 students in the residence halls and will initially prioritize first-year, senior, and graduate students. The MICA Social Contract, including protocols for wearing masks and physical distancing, will apply to all on-campus spaces both indoors and outdoors.

Additional areas for proposed campus access and on-campus activities may include:
Continued improvement of campus services (such as equipment check-out, printing, etc.) in support of remote and online learning.

Limited and modified access to Academic Services fabrication studios and shops with remote production and select shops with physical distancing for prioritized student cohorts.

Limited in-person curricular engagements for senior undergraduate and graduate students with physical distancing in place.

Limited in-person curricular engagements for FYE students with physical distancing in place, depending on faculty availability.

Library open for checkout and return of circulating items by MICA students, staff and faculty.

Recent Cohort Surveys
To help better understand the needs and priorities within the 5 Tensions, both undergraduate and graduate students were surveyed about their priorities for a Spring Semester at MICA. Here’s a summary of key responses:
Results from the Spring 2021 Survey, which includes both graduate and undergraduate student respondents, show that, if both hybrid and remote courses were offered, 51% of respondents would choose hybrid while nearly a quarter, or 24.1%, would choose hybrid depending on the class. Approximately one-fifth of students, 21%, would remain remote.
The most influential decision to return to campus is in-person/hybrid classes (35.4%), though the combined responses to studio/workspaces and shops/equipment access (38.4%) outweighs in-person/hybrid classes. Residential Halls/Community was most influential for 18.9% of respondents.
Draft Planning Milestones
While there is much work to do—and feedback to solicit—before any Spring reopening timeline is solidified, we believe having a shared understanding of the major planning milestones — even if they may be subject to change — is important. So they are being provided here with the intent to use Recap as the method to provide regular updates and refinements.
October 13-22: Partnership meetings with Academic Services, Registrar, Undergraduate Chairs and Associate Deans, Graduate Studies to identify appropriate resources and support.

October 15: Ongoing department and staff planning.

October 15-30:
Undergraduate and Graduate Spring schedules finalized and submitted to the Registrar.

November 9: The official announcement of Spring format communicated to all constituents. Spring 2021 schedule published, final academic calendar published.

December 7:   Spring 2021 Registration for graduate and undergraduate students begins.

Real-World Scenario Questions from the Community
What If is an upcoming feature of Recap to help create a shared understanding of what the 2020 - 2021 academic year will look and feel like, both on campus and off. By posing real-world questions from the community that illustrate a vivid scenario of what campus members want to know about how a particular situation will be handled – e.g., what happens when a student gets sick on campus; what happens when a faculty member gets sick, etc. — we can collectively understand how our policies and procedures will take shape when applied to a real-world situation.  So if you have a What If for the next issue, please send us a comment.
Please address specific questions to an appropriate departmental contact.
Graduate Studies:

Undergraduate Students:

Student Affairs:

Open Studies:

Finance and Operations:


Strategic Communications:

Human Resources:

Strategic Initiatives:



That’s it for this installment of Recap. Thank you for your engagement in this ongoing dialogue and building of shared understanding. If there are any topics you would like to have addressed in future installments, please provide your ideas here.

Stay safe and be well.

Coming Up in the Next Issue: Facilities, PPE, and Campus Safety protocols.

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