COVID-19 FAQs for Grad Students

As we work to keep our communities safe and healthy, we're also here to keep you informed as things change, sometimes quite rapidly.

We are working remotely and will address your inquiries through our ticketing system, Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm.

Last updated: June 25, 2020

Primary Sources of Information

Q: Where should I look and who should I connect with if I have questions?

A: Information will come to you from multiple sources at SFU. In addition to the links (above), please pay particular attention to the following:

  1. SFU COVID-19 FAQs: This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date source of information from SFU. https://www.sfu.ca/sfunews/alerts/sfu-community-frequently-asked-questions-about-coronavirus.html
  2. Student Services Bulletin: you will receive updates directly to your SFU email addresses. We are working with them to ensure that information is also sent to you.
  3. Your graduate program assistant: your graduate program staff are also working remotely. We are continuing to work with them to address your inquiries. Please continue to be in contact with them via the appropriate means.
  4. Your supervisor: It is important that you remain in contact with your supervisor. Develop communication and research plans for you both while you work remotely.
  5. International students: international student advisors are available to provide the most up-to-date guidance and resources to assist you. Please connect with them, here: https://www.sfu.ca/students/isap/contact.html
    Additional information can be found here: http://www.sfu.ca/students/support/us-and-international-students.html
    Immigration and medical insurance: https://www.sfu.ca/students/isap/international-faq-covid19.html
  6. Additional SFU Services (SFU Library, ORS, GSS, TSSU, etc.): they are also working remotely and will continue to provide relevant updates as required. Each of these services has information about how to connect with them on their websites.
If you have additional queries that do not seem to be addressed via the channels mentioned above, please submit a ticket or send an email to gradstdy@sfu.ca. We will respond as quickly as we can.
 
A reminder: If you're visiting campus, please practice physical distancing and additional measures to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

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Defences

Q: How should I prepare for an online defence?

A: At this time, we are recommending you use Bluejeans to conduct your defence remotely, with no one attending in person. We also recommend a secondary form of electronic communication as backup (e.g. Skype). Note, you may live stream or share the public parts of your defence over social media, but only if this does not require an SFU technician.

The audience is only allowed to attend the open portion of the examination via video-conference. This includes the your presentation and the questions from the examining committee and (optionally) the audience. Once the questions have been completed, the chair must request that the you and the audience sign off. The committee then makes the decision about the outcome of the examination according to GGR 1.10.2. You should be invited to re-join the video-conference once the decision is made.

Please check with your Graduate Program Assistant for further information for conducting online defences using videoconferencing.

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Finances and Awards

Q: Where can I find some sources of financial support?

A: While not a comprehensive guide, we have collated some sources of financial support found at SFU, through the Government of Canada and through the Government of British Columbia. Download this guide for Graduate Student Support. (Note: this document is subject to change.)  

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Q: Can I pay my summer tuition fees in installments?

A: Yes. You can pay your summer fees in three installments. Last day to sign up for the summer 2020 payment plan is July 5, 2020. Learn more.

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Q: I have to come up to campus. What is the cost for parking?

A: Effective June 1, 2020, pay parking is back in effect for visitors. However, if you're a student and you don't have a permit, you can contact parking@sfu.ca to request being put on a courtesy list for complimentary parking.

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Q: What kind of financial assistance am I eligible for?

A: Need to connect with a Financial Aid and Awards Advisor?
If you can't find an answer to your question through our website, please connect with a member of our financial aid and awards advising staff. We are available by phone 778-782-6930 or via email at fiassist@sfu.ca.  

Phone contact hours are currently available as follows: Monday – Friday – 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
*subject to change without notice

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Q: What is happening with the UPass program?

A: TransLink is continuing discussions with post-secondary school and student association representatives about potential refunds for students not using their April passes. Students not needing their April U-Pass are encouraged not to use it and to check their school, student association or TransLink’s U-Pass website for further updates.

  • The U-Pass BC program is offered to students under agreements in place between TransLink, participating colleges/universities and their associated student societies. Students pay for this pass through mandatory student fees.
  • Post-secondary institutions and student associations are working with TransLink to temporarily suspend the U-Pass BC program as of May 1.

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Q: Will I need to pay the Recreation-Athletics fee for the summer term?

A: No. Given that all Athletics and Recreation programming and activities are currently suspended, and all sport facilities closed, SFU will not be assessing the Recreation-Athletics fee (RAF) for the summer 2020 term, regardless if Athletics and Recreation facilities re-open part way through the summer term. http://www.sfu.ca/students/support/

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Q: How can I receive award payments and refunds?

A: Award payments and refunds (via direct deposit and cheques) will continue in accordance with the graduate awards payment schedule. The vast majority of you are enrolled in Direct Deposit, but for the few who are receiving physical cheques, the method to pick-up in person from the registrar's office has changed. Learn more.

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Q: Are there any employment or co-op opportunities available?

A: SFUs Career and Volunteer Services has a page that they're updating specifically for summer employment opportunities and working remotely.

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Graduate Progess  

Q: I am a domestic student. Is there an option for me to go on leave for the Summer 2020 term because of COVID-19?

A: Yes. Due to COVID-19, we are extending our current Compassionate Leave process for Summer 2020 to include such requests. The semester on leave will not count toward your time to completion and GPS will not require any specific documentation. Please contact your Graduate Program Assistant for more information about the Compassionate Leave process for Summer 2020.

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Q: What are some of the things I should be aware about in considering taking a compassionate leave over the Summer 2020 term?

A: It is your personal decision to take a leave and we want to provide further information to factor into your decision.  

Access to services and continuing research while on leave
When on leave, emergency supports like MySSP and access to Health & Counselling services may be available but you would not be eligible to access any other campus services. Students on leave should not be continuing with their research or meeting with their supervisor to discuss their academic progress, or to receive financial aid or scholarships. 

TAing and research funding on leave
While you can TA on leave, your ability to receive research funding depends on what you will be working on. If the research you are working on is in support of the faculty member hiring you, you would be considered employees and this would be permissible.

Work and leaves
In some instances, if you are considering a leave for financial reasons, unless you have an off campus job, there may be opportunities for you to receive more funding while enrolled as a student rather than going on leave.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit
The Canadian government does allow international students to apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefits (CERB). Please visit the government website to apply. Note: on this page, under their "Questions and answers" section, you will see, "Can you receive Canada Emergency Response Benefit if you are not a citizen or permantent Resident?" Their answer, "Workers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents -- including temporary foreign workers and international students -- may be eligible to recieve the Benefit if meet the other eligibility requirements."

Western Deans Courses and Summer Term
If you would like to remain enrolled over the summer term to take advantage of some of the benefits of being a student, there is an opportunity to make academic progress in this unique situation. We are working with the Western Canadian Deans of Graduate Studies to allow for late enrollments for online/virtual classes from universities across Western Canada that are being offered during the COVID-19 closure period.

Click to see lists of courses offered by Royal Roads University and the University of Winnipeg.

Royal Roads University
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, a select number of seats in the following Royal Roads University online graduate courses have been opened to registration under the Western Deans Agreement (WDA). Registration is limited and will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis to qualified students. If one of the courses listed below is of interest to you, please contact your Graduate Program Assistant and Supervisor asap.

Courses from July 13 - September 13, 2020
HUMS 672: Public Images of Justice and Fairness (3 credits) (MA in Justice Studies)
HUMS 661: Risk and Crisis Communication (3 credits) (MA in Disaster and Emergency Management)
HUMS 652: Adaptive Management for Complex Humanitarian Problems in the 21st Century (MA in Conflict Analysis and Management)
 
Courses from July 13 - September 20, 2020
INDS 525: LGBTQ2S+ Global Issues and Community Engagement (3 credits) (MA Interdisciplinary Studies)
 
Courses from July 27 - October 4, 2020
 
Courses from August 24 - October 25, 2020
BUSA 523: Corporate Finance (3 credits) (MBA in Executive Management)
 
Courses from September 28 - December 6, 2020

Q: Can international students go on compassionate leave for summer 2020 due to COVID-19 and still be eligible to work?

A: In regards to working on or off-campus, given that COVID-19 is beyond your control, we anticipate that if you are an international student who was eligible to work on or off-campus, you can continue to work on or off-campus even if you have been forced to drop to part-time studies or take a break in studies. However, you are still subject to the authorized number of hours you would have been permitted had you been a full-time student. Therefore, you can work part time (up to 20 hours a week) off campus during an academic session and full-time during a regularly scheduled break. Source: https://cbie.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/200320-ircc-covid19-EN.pdf

Please note, at this time, this information has not yet been posted on the IRCC website. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/coronavirus-covid19/visitors-foreign-workers-students.html

As graduate students at SFU don't have a "scheduled break" in the summer term, we interpret this may mean that on an exceptional basis, individuals on "compassionate leave" who met all of the eligibility requirements to work on or off campus, would continue to be permitted to work 20 hours off campus, as well as up to full time "on campus". See https://www.sfu.ca/students/isap/explore/enrollment/studying-working/active.html

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Q: I’m an international student. Can I withdraw from a course?

A: Withdrawing from courses may impact your study permit. We ask that you consult with an international student advisor before withdrawing from a course.  

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Q: How long do I have to complete deferred work from Spring 2020?

A: The DE (deferral) grade deadline for graduate courses taken in the Spring 2020 term has been extended until the Summer 2020 grade deadline term (August 26, 2020). This additional time should allow you to successfully complete all course requirements and to move forward in your program without financial penalty or adding more time to your degree.

Note: Completion of Spring 2020 deferred coursework during Summer 2020 does not constitute continuity of enrollment for Summer 2020. (See GGR 1.4.1 and 1.4.5)

NOTE: Please work with your course instructor to set deadlines for submission of term work.  

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Q: What are my grading options in Spring 2020?

A: You may request a Deferral (DE) for as many courses as you wish. DE is a temporary grade, which warrants an extension to allow you additional time to complete course requirements. If facing challenges with completing course work on time, it is recommended utilizing this option before considering any other options listed below. Only the DE option will provide you with a letter grade.

NOTE: Consultation with your supervisor or graduate program chair is required prior to applying for the above option.

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Working from Home (WfH)

Q: What are some suggestions for graduate students Working from Home (WfH)?

A: The challenge of working from home (WfH) will be different for everyone, as our home spaces, and our responsibilities within them, vary greatly. What will be shared experience is the change in of the physical resources you may be used to working with – and this ranges from books and manuscripts to specific laboratory tools and materials. However, we encourage you to work closely with your supervisor and your colleagues to define a way of working from home that suits you and your inclinations and which brings out the best in your research, even in this difficult context. Identify and reflect upon the issues that you may be having and set out to rectify, lessen, or deflect them before they stall you. You will have to no doubt innovate in accessing research materials. While our libraries have not physically opened yet, online resources have expanded and include the university libraries, public think tank publications, industry sponsored research sites, the websites of public art galleries and museums, etc., and many publishers and organizations have recently opened greater access to their online books, journals, and archives. Challenge yourself to develop new research skills even as you work in this limiting context.

We also urge you to pay attention to your own health and well-being –working from home can tend to collapse life and work, and work can take over in a way that can be physically or mentally unhealthy. Make sure you have an ergonomic workplace and that you take frequent breaks to give yourself time away from a screen. You are a graduate student, so take time to look off in the distance – good for the eyes – and ponder. And make sure you take walks or exercise if you are able, or meditate, or stream ambient music, or Erik Satie’s Vexations, a one-minute song played 840 times (as a colleague has done during research time).  The point is, find a way to find productive and enjoyable forms of work and living. If you do feel that you would benefit from speaking to someone about the myriad pressures of grad life at this moment in the world, you can reach out to MySSP – an online service brought to you by SFU and our student societies – which gives you 24-hour access to counselling (and in 30 languages.

Communication with your supervisor and committee

  • Communication is a key factor in starting and, unfortunately, stopping progress.
  • In this time where face to face communication will be extremely limited, learn to use other forms of communication to to ensure there is no mis-communication.
  • And as always, put all decisions in a follow-up email and have the other people affected acknowledge the accuracy of the memo.
  • Recognize that your preferred and learned style of communication may not work well with physical distancing. Accept that and develop new styles of communication may be needed in your communication repertoire.
  • Be open and transparent with your supervisor. Communicate regularly and more often than you may have done when the campus was open.
  • Listen, listen, listen. But more specifically, listen well. What you heard may not be correct. Document, and then authenticate what you heard.
  • Adopt professionally accepted styles of communication throughout all of your academic related interactions; it can be easy to fall into more casual forms of communication.
  • Unrecognized cultural norms do affect communication, or more specifically, mis-communication. Understand diversity in culture, and that a cultures norm for communication may not translate to another culture.
  • There are resources for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) available, as a starting point, at SFU VP Academic. See for example, Nature, 558, 19-20, 2018.

Program Requirements

  • Complete an academic progress report with your supervisor. If you have courses yet to take, peruse SFU and other University offerings in Western Canada. Use the Western Deans Agreement to enroll after consulting with your supervisor and Graduate Program Chairperson to get approval in writing to use toward your degree requirements.
  • Are major program milestones (e.g., candidacy examination, comprehensive examination, research proposal, thesis defence, general progress report, etc.) coming up in the near future? Discuss this with your supervisor, and develop a plan for you to progress to and successfully through this milestone.
  • Each milestone can be perceived as a daunting, new task. Learn how to compartmentalize a large task into smaller, manageable parts. Progress on small components can be rewarding as it is more easily observable and documentable. Similarly, learn how to synthesize the parts into a comprehensive report.
  • Consider developing, or joining, a peer-mentoring group with your colleagues in your program or in another on-line forum of researchers.

Research Requirements

  • Schedule and have frequent, open, dialogue with your supervisor. Explore strategies for you to make progress as you WfH.
  • If any aspect of your research changes, consult with your supervisor and then seek approval from the appropriate review board (e.g., ethics, biosafety).
  • Discuss with your supervisor a transition plan for when your research is again performed on campus. Put that plan in writing and provide it to your supervisor.
  • Discuss and plan with your supervisor a new academic timeline for you to complete program requirements in the event your research has been slowed down to the point where your degree completion date may have changed.
  • Discuss with your supervisor the possibility for an alternate plan for a section or portion of your thesis that will allow you to complete in a timely way.

Work-Life Balance/Life-Work Balance

  • Many things in our society considered norm only months ago are now not, and these stressors are affecting us as individuals. Review your goals often, and reflect on how external factors are affecting you and your goals. Talk openly and often with your trusted friends and family members.
  • Call MySSP or reach out to SFU Health and Counselling if you are feeling overwhelmed, the events in our communities are unprecedented across several generations (SARS CoV2).
  • Set realistic limits.
  • Expect up and downs.
  • Stay focused on goals. Learn when you are most productive, and learn to concentrate well on the more mentally demanding tasks during those periods. Learn when you are less productive, and use those times for other aspects needed to realize your overall goals.
  • Time management strategies. Many tips and hints are readily available through business-oriented publications online; some of these may work for you, some may not.
  • Manage your productivity to enable you to take time to meet with your friends.
  • If your academic unit is not conducting scheduled virtual meet times on a regular basis to allow social connection, ask for this to be initiated.
  • Understand the ergonomics of your WfH workstation and get yourself properly set-up. A small pain now means there is a problem, so don’t let it develop. Your muscles and mind need variety. Take time from your WfH station to exercise, stretch, and don’t forget your eye muscles!
  • Get creative with your social network, but stay within Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Provincial Healthcare Guidelines.
  • New skills, and new tools may be needed in your duties as an online tutorial assistant/laboratory demonstrator. Learn these skills that are being recommended to you. Communicate with the TSSU if you recognize aspects of your assignment that could be optimized with other tools.

Financial

  • Emergency finances can be available through SFU Aids & Awards, your Department, and your faculty.
  • New information regarding terms of study visas, funding opportunities, etc. are disseminated through the Dean of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies communications and International Student Services.

Additional Sources of Support

Q: I'm working at home and my computer/internet connection isn't working. What can I do?

A: IT Service has some information and links to software and support. You can connect with them with questions.

There is also a technology fund set up to help you work effectively online. Please check out the Financial concerns webpage, which details funding and support available for a number of specific needs. If you require more technological support for your online research and teaching, you can check out the question regarding “remote learning.” All of the emergency financial aid requests begin with a person-to-person phone call with someone at Financial Aid and Awards at 778-782-6930. For more information, please contact fiassist@sfu.ca.

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Q: I'm feeling anxious/isolated/lonely right now. Where can I go to get help with my mental health and/or well-being?

A: Your health and well-being is important to us. In addition to the services offered through SFU’s Health & Counselling Services and MySSP, our office has collected and collated some resources to ensure that you are taking the time and space for self-care where ever you may find yourself at this time.

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Q: I don't think I'm being treated fairly. Who can I contact for support?

A: If you're not able to get support through the channels mentioned above, you can connect with the SFU Ombudsperson. They are an independent, impartial and confidential resource for students. They provide information and assistance on issues relating to students' rights and responsibilities, and University regulations, policies and procedures. Please contact them at ombuds@sfu.ca and 778-782-4563.

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Q: I'm looking for additional support and information. Where else can I go?

A: While there is a lot of information out there, SFU's Morris J. Wosk Centre has put together a comprehensive website of information and resources. Learn more at wegotchu.ca

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Q: I'd like some suggestions with how to transition to an online learning environment or help my undergrad students do so. What resources are available?

A: SFU Centre for Educational Excellence has a number of workshops, resources, and helpful suggestions for remote learning. Graduate Students can take advantage of their support. SFU Student Services also prepared a toolkit for online learning that you might find useful.

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Newly Admitted Students

Q: What are my options for submitting my final transcripts?

A: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we made adjustments for students who have been admitted only.

Please note: We accept securely delivered digital transcripts.

If this option is available, please feel free to have your institution(s) send them directly to us at gradap@sfu.ca.

If these aren't currently available, we understand that some documents may be delayed, and ask that you check back with your institution(s) until such a time as they can be sent. 

If, by mid-June, your transcripts are still not able to be sent, please contact your program to inform them, so that they can liaise with our office regarding your documents.

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Newly Arriving Graduate Students to Canada

Q: I am an international student who recently arrived in Canada and I’ve been asked to self-isolate. What does this mean?  

A: All travelers arriving in Canada are required by law to self-isolate (quarantine) for 14 days. Please see our self-isolation guide to learn more about how to self-isolate and what contactless options for getting food (necessities) are available.

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Q: I am an international graduate student and have questions regarding my immigration status (e.g, effect of taking distance learning courses online on my post-graduation work permit and/or can I start my program online from my home country). Who should I contact?

A: Newly admitted international graduate students who have concerns about their immigration status (study permit, post-graduate work permit, visa) should contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist at International Services for Students. As every international student's situation is unique, Immigration Specialist with proper knowledge and training will provide more credible answers based on your program and individual circumstances. For more information, please visit COVID-19 FAQ for International Students.

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Fall 2020

Q: Will classes be held in-person or remotely for the fall 2020 term?

A: To ensure the health and safety of all our community members, most instruction will continue to be delivered through remote methods with some exceptions where there may be some in-person instructional activities, such as some graduate classes, laboratory-based classes, and co-op education, where the learning objectives associated with such activities cannot easily be replicated through remote instruction and provided that personal health and safety can be maintained. However, these will be limited and will be determined on a case-by-case basis. More information about which classes/activities will be in-person will be made available soon.

As we are still learning more, please continue to check here or with your Graduate Program as more decisions are made in the near future.

Please direct your inquiries to your Supervisor, Graduate Program Assistant, or send an email to us: gradstdy@sfu.ca.

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Visiting Research Students (VRS)

Q: I have plans to attend SFU as a Visiting Research Student for fall 2020. How is COVID-19 affecting these plans?

A: Due to the continued impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic and Canadian travel advisories, the University has made the decision to suspend admission for Visiting Research Students (VRS) for fall 2020 and until further notice.

If you have already been approved for fall 2020, please contact your SFU supervisor to discuss your options. If you choose to start your research in a future term, once the global health crisis is resolved, you will need to submit a new application.

If you were planning on applying to become a VRS, we will not be accepting VRS applications until further notice. 

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