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Pandemic-Related Information for Graduate School Students

Page updated July 30, 2021

This page provides information for Duke Graduate School students and will be updated as Duke's operations evolve with the pandemic situation. Graduate School students who have questions about Duke’s pandemic-related plans should first check this page and returnto.duke.edu. If the answer is not on either site, please send your question to gradschool@duke.edu. We will try to answer questions as quickly and fully as we can, but please understand that plans could change on short notice depending on how the pandemic develops. 

Click each header below to expand that section.

Latest Notables

[7/30/21] Important policies on fall semester entry testing, vaccination, surveillance testing, and DukeCard have been sent to all active Graduate School students.

[7/28/21] All individuals will be required to wear face masks in all Duke-owned and leased buildings effective Friday, July 30, until further notice due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in North Carolina related to a combination of the Delta variant and the number of people who remain unvaccinated.

[7/6/21] Effective August 9, 2021, faculty, staff, and students who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to travel with Duke support to U.S. states, territories, and territorial waters. Travel to international destinations that do not appear on Duke’s Restricted Regions List can also once again proceed for individuals who are fully vaccinated with the usual budgetary and departmental/school approvals. See the university's July 2 announcement for more details and guidance.

Duke announced protocols for the start of the fall 2021 semester, addressing vaccinations, testing, symptom monitoring, masking, and social distancing.

Summer 2021
  • [5/11/21] The Graduate School has emailed Ph.D. students with information about Duke Rec access for summer 2021. TGS will cover the cost of a summer membership for Ph.D. students who are in their guaranteed funding period. Eligible Ph.D. students who purchase a summer membership will receive a reimbursement for the membership cost.
  • [5/10/21] The university has announced changes in restrictions on gatherings and events on campus. Effective June 1, Duke schools, departments and units may host events, activities and performances on and off campus, including meetings of faculty, staff, students and invited guests, without prior approval as long as they observe current CDC and State of North Carolina guidelines for capacity. Food and drink will be permitted subject to state and local regulations. 
  • [5/3/21] The university has announced it will no longer require students, employees, or visitors to wear masks or face coverings while outdoors, unless they are in crowded areas and gatherings where social distancing is not possible.
  • [4/27/21] The university sent an email on April 27 to all students who will be on campus in summer 2021, outlining community expectations, summer plans for COVID entry and surveilliance testing, and directions for updating COVID vaccination records.
Fall 2021
  • [7/30/21] Important policies on fall semester entry testing, vaccination, surveillance testing, and DukeCard have been sent to all active Graduate School students.
  • [6/29/21] Duke has announced protocols for the start of the fall 2021 semester, addressing vaccinations, testing, symptom monitoring, masking, and social distancing.
  • [4/9/21] Duke announced that it plans to require all new and returning Duke students to present proof of vaccination to Student Health before they can enroll for the fall 2021 semester. This policy will cover all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students—in all degree programs—who intend to be on the Duke campus for any period of time starting with the fall 2021 semester. Documented medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated.
  • We know that many incoming international students have questions about their ability to secure visas in time to travel to Durham for the Fall 2021 semester. While we do not have any information at this point, Duke has been actively advocating on behalf of international students. For instance, the university recently joined with other institutions in the American Council on Education and sent a letter to the U.S. Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, advocating for specific actions to be taken to allow international students to study in the U.S. this fall.
International Students

[Updated 4/16/21]

Health and Safety
COVID-19 testing
COVID-19 vaccine information
  • All Duke staff, faculty and students can receive the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost, either by scheduling an appointment at the clinic at the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center or by going to the walk-in clinic (no appointment needed) at the Duke Medicine Pavilion (Room 2 West 91) from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. | Details
Public health measures
  • [7/28/21] All individuals will be required to wear face masks in all Duke-owned and leased buildings effective Friday, July 30, until further notice due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in North Carolina related to a combination of the Delta variant and the number of people who remain unvaccinated.
  • [5/10/21] The university has announced changes in restrictions on gatherings and events on campus. Effective June 1, Duke schools, departments and units may host events, activities and performances on and off campus, including meetings of faculty, staff, students and invited guests, without prior approval as long as they observe current CDC and State of North Carolina guidelines for capacity. Food and drink will be permitted subject to state and local regulations. 
Health insurance / Duke Student Medical Insurance Plan (SMIP)

[Updated 5/20/21]

  • Incoming and continuing Ph.D. students who remain outside the U.S. can ask for coverage through the Duke SMIP, but it is important to note that the SMIP only covers emergency care if you are outside the U.S.
  • If you have specific questions regarding your health insurance scholarship provided by The Graduate School, please email grad-fellowships@duke.edu.
Campus Access, Facilities, and Services

[Updated 7/30/21]

Campus access
  • See the July 30, 2021, email to all active Graduate School students for information on setting up your mobile DukeCard.
  • For summer 2021, most students are required to complete an entry COVID-19 test to have their DukeCards activated for summer. They are also required to participate in surveillance testing every week. See details in the university's April 28 announcement.
  • For the fall 2021 semester, Duke announced that it plans to require all new and returning Duke students to present proof of vaccination to Student Health before they can enroll. This policy will cover all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students—in all degree programs—who intend to be on the Duke campus for any period of time starting with the fall 2021 semester. Documented medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated.
Graduate School offices

The Graduate School is limiting the number of staff members at its offices (third floor of Old Chemistry Building) at any one time and implementing a set of safety protocol for interactions with students, facutly, staff, and other visitors to our offices. The protocol includes such measures as meeting by appointment only (no walk-ins) and meeting remotely as a rule. Please review the protocols before you come to our offices.

Campus facilities/services
Travel

[Updated 7/6/21]

  • Effective August 9, 2021, faculty, staff, and students who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to travel with Duke support to U.S. states, territories, and territorial waters. Travel to international destinations that do not appear on Duke’s Restricted Regions List can also once again proceed for individuals who are fully vaccinated with the usual budgetary and departmental/school approvals. See the university's July 2 announcement and the latest policy for more details and guidance.
  • Students participating in exchange programs funded by Duke should not plan to travel until the current Duke travel suspension is lifted or modified.
  • See the Finances section of this page for information on Graduate School conference travel awards and other Graduate School fellowships that support travel.
Finances

[Updated 7/6/21]

Summer Research Fellowships for summer 2021

Both competitive and guaranteed Summer Research Fellowships for summer 2021 have been awarded as planned. However, recipients must follow current restrictions on university-funded travel, per the Duke travel policy.

To provide students with greater flexibility in seeking funding opportunities during the COVID-19 disruption, we have lifted caps on stipend supplementation for recipients of the Summer Research Fellowship.

What about prepaid expenses for a conference or research travel awards from The Graduate School?

New applications for conference travel awards from The Graduate School will resume in fall 2021 for travel starting on or after October 1, 2021. Until October 1, TGS will award funds for web-based conference registration with the same guidelines regarding the expense and application process. 

Students who have received the following research travel fellowships from The Graduate School for the 2021-2022 academic year must follow current Duke travel restrictions. If travel restrictions prevent planned travel, fellows will not be asked to return fellowship awards to TGS.

Fully funded academic year fellowships that include a travel component, such as the James B. Duke International and the Julian Price, as well as the Domestic and International Dissertation Research Travel Awards, will be disbursed as originally awarded. However, recipients cannot use fellowship funds to facilitate travel while restrictions on Duke-sponsored travel are active. If travel restrictions prevent planned travel, fellows will not be asked to return fellowship awards to TGS.

The Dean’s Research Award for Master’s Student is currently available for non-travel research applications and will be available in fall 2021 for travel starting on or after October 1, 2021. Until October 1, qualifying applications may propose support for items such as equipment and software purchases, licensing, and materials acquisition. 

Fellowship questions can be sent to grad-fellowships@duke.edu.

How do I get my stipend check if I am not participating in direct deposit?

Payroll services is mailing all live checks generated in the regular biweekly and monthly payrolls to home addresses. If you have elected not to participate in direct deposit, please make sure your home addresses are updated using Duke@Work for compensatory payments and through your graduate program for non-compensatory payments. (Details)

Financial support during COVID-19 disruptions
  • Duke has created a mechanism for Ph.D. students whose progress to degree has been significantly delayed by the pandemic to apply for funding extensions as they approach the end of their guaranteed funding period.
  • Duke provided funding and employment opportunities during summer 2020 for any enrolled and continuing Ph.D. student who needs it and does not have 12-month funding. As part of that commitment, Duke created more than 100 experiential fellowships with external organizations and RAships of various kinds with internal Duke units. For summer 2021, a robust slate of summer funding opportunities were developed for Ph.D. students. There are currently two categories—experiential fellowships with external organizations and internships with Duke units.
  • The GPSG Community Pantry is open for in-person shopping on Thursdays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 2:00 p.m. Volunteer opportunities are also available. See the pantry website for more information, signups, and COVID-19 policies.
Academics
Academic calendar

[Updated 5/20/21]

The Graduate School follows the Duke University academic calendar. Here are some key dates for fall 2021:

  • July 7, 7:00 a.m.: Fall registration begins
  • August 23: Graduate and undergraduate classes begin
  • November 23: Graduate classes end
  • December 3: Undergraduate classes end
  • November 24-December 7: Graduate reading period
  • December 8-13: Final examinations
Course formats

Per the university's FAQs for graduate and professional students:

  • All students who can travel to Durham should plan to study in-person in fall 2021.
  • Duke expects that in-person will be the dominant form of teaching. Graduate/professional students who cannot attend in-person should consult with their academic program directors/advisors about fall 2021 options.  
Milestone examinations (prelims, dissertations/thesis defenses)

Please see the published schedule. For students planning to graduate in May 2021, thesis and dissertations exams must take place by April 1, and Non-thesis master’s examinations must be held by April 15.

Preliminary exams, as well as qualifying exams, must occur by May 1, 2021.

Here are The Graduate School's updated guidelines regarding defenses and examinations in summer and fall 2020:

  • See published deadlines for summer and fall 2020 Ph.D. dissertation and master’s thesis submissions and defenses, as well as submission of non-thesis master’s documentation.
  • For preliminary examinations, those already planned and scheduled should occur when feasible. The deadline for third-year students to complete their prelims by the end of the spring 2020 semester is extended to the end of fall 2020 semester.
  • For fall 2020 and spring 2021, all parties may participate in milestone exams (prelims, master’s thesis, master’s non-thesis and dissertation defense) remotely as needed. The student and committee members may participate in-person if they desire, but they must follow university social distancing guidelines in effect at the time of the exam.
  • There is no need to submit a formal email request to hold a remote milestone exam.
  • If there is a public component to a defense, such as a seminar, university social-distancing guidelines must be followed. Guests can participate remotely, and we recommend using Zoom meetings.
  • For all dissertation and thesis defenses, students no longer need to schedule exam certificate appointments with the Graduate School administrator who conducted the format check of their dissertation or thesis. 
  • The hard-copy exam card has been replaced by an Electronic Milestone Exam Certificate that will be pre-populated for each graduating student by Graduate School staff and emailed directly from The Graduate School to each dissertation or thesis committee Chair and DGSA.        
  • No physical signatures are required. Instructions for chairs and DGSs will be in the electronic exam card. 
  • Students will not submit signed title pages or abstract title pages.
  • Students will receive instructions regarding electronic submission of the advisor-approved embargo document in the email they receive from ProQuest after their initial submission has been reviewed by a TGS administrator.
  • The Graduate School’s Office of Academic Affairs is working on a separate electronic examination certificate form for non-thesis master’s examinations. 
  • Students should direct inquiries about qualifying exams to their Ph.D. program or department DGS.

If you have any questions about defenses and exams that not addressed by the guidelines above, please contact The Graduate School's Office of Academic Affairs (gradacademics@duke.edu).

When holding a remote defense, please follow these security and privacy tips for Zoom.

See a compilation of guidelines and tips on holding a remote defense.

Graduate School Communications to Students