Returning to Clarkson: Restart Teams Opening Campuses and Planning for Students to Return in Fall 2020

As America is making plans to open up again, so are we.  Next week,  Clarkson will begin a phased return of faculty and staff to our downtown and hill campuses in Potsdam, and anticipate later in the month to Schenectady and Beacon, with the intention to reopen and welcome students to classrooms, laboratories and residence halls in the fall.  

In accordance with the Governor’s Forward New York Plan, Clarkson has launched three Restart Task Force teams, comprised of a breadth of faculty and staff, to focus on University operations in Academic Affairs (Robyn Hannigan), Facilities & Infrastructure (Joshua Fiske) and Student Affairs & Residence Life (Brian Grant); and two additional Restart teams are integrating Communications (Kelly Chezum) and Personnel & Policies (Amy McGaharen) matters across the teams and University for these plans.   A Special Scientific Advisory & Experts Group of Clarkson researchers and alumni is available to all of the Task Force Restart Groups. You can see the Task Force’s guiding principles, contact information and their working subgroup leads creating detailed plans at

Our University’s greatest asset is our people.  The health, safety and well-being of our greater Clarkson community is our first priority as we partner with local, state and federal officials to review data, make decisions, and implement plans that can flexibly pivot to ensure we are all future ready.

Each employee will get information directly from their managers and HR about when they will return to campus. (You will get authorization from HR when you can return to campus.)  The order of return will be prioritized for those faculty and staff who can best fulfill their jobs by completing their work on campus, including researchers who need to access their labs and scientific equipment.  

We recognize, as we bring people back to campus, that some employees with underlying health conditions, complexities associated with child or elder care etc., may need accommodation. Managers will work closely with employees to ensure alternative plans. 

With modifications to physical spaces launching soon and following public health guidelines for social distancing, health and wellness checks, we expect most operations will fully resume in Potsdam, Schenectady and Beacon, NY this summer with customized plans for each campus. Reopening phases will be aligned with the local Health Department requirements and the Governor’s directives, which are influenced by the New York State COVID-19 regional impact.

For employees, we recognize the enormity of this task and the changes that will be required — a far greater task than our quick pivot in March to remote teaching and services.  Everything from class scheduling, space utilization, recreation, class attendance policies, career counseling, cohort building, residential housing, student activities, dining and gatherings will need to be reviewed and, most likely, reimagined.   These next few months will require us to amplify the very skills and traits we seek to instill in every graduate – to have the entrepreneurial mindset and skillsets to innovate, work collaboratively in teams and lead in a global world. As we approach Clarkson’s 125th anniversary since our founding in 1896, this is a generation-defining opportunity to build a stronger University.  

The restart of the Potsdam campus (Hill and Downtown) centers on undergraduate and graduate student achievement and academic planning. Residential and co-curricular learning remains fundamental  to the Clarkson experience. We are assessing how to best schedule classes, extend learning opportunities in and outside of the classroom, as well as expand academic support and tutoring services to serve a broader array of courses and needs that ensure the academic achievement of all students, both new and continuing.  We want all students to know they are fully supported so they can confidently and effectively work towards their personal and professional career goals.  

Reopening timelines will also be created for the Schenectady and Beacon operations, which have their own regional guidelines and “NYS control rooms” for opening.    

Through RISE (Reframing Instruction for Success Everywhere) and other steps, Clarkson has already begun to invest in faculty and staff development to facilitate increased use of a variety of teaching and learning modes from true online courses to technology enhanced face-to-face courses, as well as investments in course development and instructional technology, co-curricular activities, and financial support for continuation and expansion of research.  

With our community and corporate partners, we encourage active identification of course projects and service learning initiatives that will amplify the Clarkson Experience  – those integrated experiences, in and out of the classroom, that guarantee the resilience of our greater communities and nation and make our graduates even more attractive as employees.  

For the safety of everyone on our campuses, in our communities, and the ones we go home to, we all should be prepared to undergo regular COVID-19 testing, work staggered shifts, wear Personal Protective Equipment, and adhere to social distancing requirements.  There will be additional safety trainings and daily check-in procedures for every member of our community.  In addition to the Special Advisory Group counseling the Restart Teams, more than 30 members of our campus are in contact tracing training to aid in quick responses to any new cases in the larger regional community.  We anticipate our Lewis School of Health Sciences and our health sciences students will also play an important role in the regional response to the restart.  

Some of our future ready approaches are captured in our guiding principles outlined on this new website,  As we move forward with plans to resume all University operations, we will keep updating this site and sharing more information with you.  

If you have questions or comments to add to our dialogue, or want to add your professional expertise, please contact the Task Leads below.   

Thank you for all that you do to make Clarkson a stronger and better institution that is future ready under all scenarios.  

Academic Affairs 315-268-6544, Robyn Hannigan

Facilities & Infrastructure – 315-268-6718, Joshua Fiske

Student Affairs & Residence Life, 315-268-6419, Brian Grant

Communications, 315-268-4483,  Kelly Chezum

Personnel & Policies, 315-268-3788, Amy McGaheran

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