2020-21 Graduate Student Information

The Annenberg School is aware of the profound disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and the impact it’s having on the research and scholarship of doctoral students. We are making every effort to support our Ph.D. students during this time.  

Vaccine Requirement

Per the University of Pennsylvania, students are required to be vaccinated for the fall semester

Academic Policies

Penn’s and Annenberg’s normal grading and course registration (add, drop, withdrawal, and pass/fail) policies will resume.

Building Access

Through the end of June, all non-essential members of the university community should continue to work from home, and for the safety of the entire campus community that should continue to be the default except in exceptional circumstances. However, it is understood that students may need uninterrupted workspace.

Beginning on Tuesday, July 6 at 8am, the building will fully reopen to the Annenberg community, and requests for access will no longer be required. 

Joanne Murray will be coordinating office assignments for the academic year. Annenberg students (and others in shared spaces) choosing to return to their offices in July are asked to be sensitive to other returning officemates and communicate their individual comfort level about shared space. Graduate students may request alternate short-term workspace if needed by emailing Joanne Murray.

Please consult the building procedures for information on masks and other safety requirements.

Childcare Support

Unfortunately, this is an issue affecting not only graduate students, but many across Penn’s community, including healthcare workers, university staff, and faculty. The Penn Family Center offers a full page of Childcare Resources. However, as long as the stay-at-home and social distancing orders are in place, childcare facilities will not reopen.

In addition, the university has strict policies on reimbursement for childcare and will not reimburse faculty, students, or staff for childcare services. However, be aware later this summer Penn’s Graduate Student Family Grant will open for Fall 2021. The Family Grant helps to offset the cost of childcare and other expenses for Ph.D. students with children. During the Fall Grant application period eligible Ph.D. students may receive up to $2,500 for one child, $1,250 for each additional child with a $5,000 maximum per family.


Summer 2021 teaching remains virtual, but the University is planning for a repopulated campus in the Fall 2021 semester. 


Many of the forms for the graduate program have been reformatted into DocuSign templates, which can be signed electronically. Please find them on the academic forms page here. 


  • Please remember that Telehealth services are available to all PSIP enrollees, which provides assistance in navigating your healthcare.
  • Aetna will waive copays for all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19.
  • The Student Health Service Referral requirement is lifted for the remainder of the plan year.
  • Please contact the Insurance Office at (215) 746-3535 or vpul-shsinsur@pobox.upenn.edu with any questions.

If You Are Sick

Any student who is showing COVID-19 symptoms, has tested positive, or has health-related questions can call Penn’s Student Health Service at (215) 746-3535 for guidance. Students outside of the Philadelphia region can still contact Student Health, or you can contact another provider. Penn Student Health Insurance covers students anywhere they go.

If you are unable to teach or work remotely due to illness, you should email your instructors as well as ASCGradCourses@asc.upenn.edu. If you are a TF this semester, you should also contact the faculty member teaching the course.

For more health guidance, please read Information and Guidance and Risks, Symptoms, and How to Get Help at the University's COVID-19 site.

Leaves of Absence

Penn's leave of absence policies were recently updated. The new policies can be found here.

Library Access

The Annenberg School Library will be closed through the end of Summer 2021, but Annenberg library staff are available remotely to assist with research, Canvas courseware support, streaming, and e-book requests. Starting July 6, you can also make an appointment to visit the Annenberg Library. Email Katie Rawson to set up a time.

Penn Libraries materials can be picked up outside of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library  through Pickup at Penn or mailed to you through Books by Mail.  For the latest on this and other library services, consult the Penn Libraries' Phased Service Availability FAQ. Please email Katie Rawson with any questions.

Milestones & Deadlines

Qualification Evaluation (QE) and Comprehensive Exams will take place under normal procedures. Proposal and dissertation defense meetings will continue to take place online. Please see the Graduate Student Handbook for detailed information about program milestones and other degree requirements.

Dissertation research sometimes requires travel for field work or archival research — trips that may not be currently possible. Advisors and advisees should communicate closely to discuss research strategies and adapt research projects as needed.

If you have concerns about the timeline of your progression through the program — related to Comps, the QE exam, dissertation proposals and defenses, or something else — please contact your advisor, Joanne Murray, or Guobin Yang.

Mutual Commitment to Academic Integrity, Equitable Instruction, Trust, and Respect

The switch to remote instruction in the context of the pandemic creates vulnerabilities and opportunities associated with teaching and learning. A group at the University of Pennsylvania has drafted and endorsed this set of principles for students and faculty.

Stipend Disbursement

The disbursement schedule of the academic year 2020-21 stipend  has  changed  from 9 months to 10 months and  will be dispersed from August 2020 through May 2021 unless other arrangements have been made with the ASC Business Office.

Please continue to contact ASCBusinessOffice@asc.upenn.edu with any financial questions.

Other Concerns

If you have any other concerns not addressed by this page, please contact your advisor, Joanne Murray, or Guobin Yang. In addition, you may find helpful the Graduate Center at Penn’s extensive library of resources.


Return to 2020-21 Guidance Page