Spring 2021 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.  

Academic Policies

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

Building Access

As a reminder, official university guidance is that 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.

Joanne Murray will be coordinating office assignments for the academic year. Please note that officemates must create a staggered schedule (splitting days, splitting days of the week, or any other mutually agreed upon schedule) so that no more than one person may work in the office at a time. This will apply to all days and hours that the building is open. Each office must submit its plan to Joanne Murray. She can also coordinate with Teaching Fellows (TFs) who may need to use another designated space in the Annenberg building. Please consult the building procedures for information on masks and other safety requirements.

Penn Cares Testing Program

Annenberg graduate students who intend to come to campus each week during the spring semester must be tested once per week. Students who live in on-campus housing must be tested twice per week on selected day pairs of their choosing. Those who meet the testing criteria must enroll in Penn's testing program by January 18 using the online scheduling application. In addition, gateway testing, or day-of-arrival testing, is required by the university for all students who are reporting to campus for the spring semester. Students who live off campus must perform a gateway test as soon as they arrive in Philadelphia, and no later than January 18. Students coming from outside Pennsylvania should follow the university’s most recent quarantine guidance at the time of their arrival. As soon as students take their gateway test, they must enroll in their regular testing schedule using the online scheduling application. You can find more information about the university’s testing program on the Penn COVID-19 Response website. If you have any questions about the Penn Cares testing program, please email Donna Burdumy, Annenberg School Director of Human Resources.

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.


All Annenberg courses will be conducted virtually. Instructors will be in contact with their students about how each course will operate. All classes, no matter the size or format, will be recorded and available on Canvas for registered students who, due to time zone, internet access, or health issues, cannot be virtually present during the official class time.


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’sStudent 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 for the Spring 2021 semester, but Annenberg library staff are available remotely to assist with research, Canvas courseware support, streaming, and e-book requests.

All Penn Libraries materials will be picked up outside of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library and arranged through Pickup at Penn. For the latest on this and other library services, consult the main library homepage as well as the 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 thAnnenberg School Policies page 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 possibleAdvisors 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 YangIn addition, you may find helpful the Graduate Center at Penn’sextensive library of resources.