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Summer/Fall 2020 FAQs for Graduate Students


When can I return to my research lab?
Each PI will be asked to prepare and submit a plan for resumption of research, which will include details on when all researchers may return to the lab. To the extent that it is possible, priority to return to research spaces will be given to those who cannot work remotely and are under time constraints, such as to complete a degree. Further details are available on the Research at Brown website.

What should I do if I have concerns about safety in my research lab? 
Graduate students who have concerns about their lab and/or behaviors inconsistent with or in violation of the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policy should report those concerns to their department Director of Graduate Studies and also to the Associate Dean of Student Support Services, Maria Suarez in the Graduate School, if appropriate. 

More details for Stage 2 of the plan for resuming research on campus is available through the Research at Brown website. Guidance specifically for graduate students as it relates to safety is available in the Resuming Work in Research Facilities Principles and Procedures: Stage 2 document on page 4.

What should I do if they don't feel safe returning to lab work and have not been able to resolve it with their DGS or advisor?
Following the Resuming Research Guidance and Resuming Research FAQs, graduate students (whenever possible) should first speak with their DGS about their concerns to return to lab work and explore with the assistance of the DGS whether a reasonable accommodation and/or flexible work arrangement can be identified. If a student has spoken to their advisor and DGS and/or feels unable to address their concerns and wants additional assistance addressing their concerns, they should schedule an appointment with Maria Suarez, Associate Dean of Student Support in the Graduate School. Students with personal health concerns should register with SAS (Student Accessibility Services, formerly SEAS).

What will the Graduate School do with these student concerns?
Associate Dean Maria Suarez in the Graduate School will work with affected students to address their concerns and needs. Dean Suarez will consult with departments, PIs and DGSs, as needed. For medical accommodations related to the health of the student, she will refer the student to SAS (Student Accessibility Services, formerly SEAS), if they have not already registered with that office. Depending on the nature of the concern and given the potential complexity of the concerns in the research work environment, she may also consult the relevant Research Continuity Committee subcommittee or an Ad Hoc team in the Graduate School. As part of this process, depending on the nature of the individual case, considerations will be given to questions of funding, continued academic progress and standing, accommodations or flexible work arrangements, and whether a leave of absence is warranted. 

Will drinking water be available in my lab?
Yes. Please use either a hydration station or a five-gallon water cooler, whichever is available in your lab. Any commonly touched surface on a station or cooler should be cleaned with disinfectant before and after use.

Where can graduate students find more information about the process of resuming research?
We encourage all graduate students, including those who are not returning to labs this summer, to read the Resuming Research FAQs and to watch to one of the Resuming Research Town Hall recordings (under Additional Resources at bottom of the webpage). Details about the submission guiding principles, the process, and the multiple levels of approvals for lab plans can be found in the guidelines to resuming research.


Will I need to quarantine?
The start of classes each semester will be preceded by a “quiet period” during which students will mostly self-quarantine within their residences. Brown will be conducting mandatory COVID-19 testing during this period.

Any student who is arriving from out of state or out the country must follow the current Rhode Island law regarding quarantine. This may require you to complete the 14-day quarantine before conducting any on-campus activities.


Brown University has restricted all University-sponsored travel or travel associated with a University appointment through August 14 (see announcement), if the travel is:

  • international;
  • domestic, non-essential; or
  • involves conferences or large groups

What is the definition of University-sponsored travel?
This is travel resulting from or connected to your graduate research, studies, teaching or research appointment at Brown. This includes travel organized or hosted by Brown, or funded in any part by University funds, including personal funds reimbursed by Brown; start-up or internal research funds, the Doctoral Research, International, Joukowsky or Conference Travel grants, Global Mobility Award, departmental funds, etc.; externally sponsored grant or contract dollars (e.g., NIH or NSF awards); or funds from another institution.

For more information on University definitions of sponsored travel, visit Brown's International Travel Risk Management website.

What is considered essential travel?
Graduate students are expected to make their own judgment on whether domestic travel is essential, consulting with chairs or DGS and advisor when appropriate. In no case will travel to conferences or large-group meetings be allowed unless it is pre-approved by the Provost. Exceptions to the ban on international travel must also be pre-approved by the Office of the Provost. 

My travel has been canceled and I am concerned about my academic progress. Whom can I speak with?
Contact your faculty advisor or director of graduate studies to discuss the impact of travel cancelations on your academic progress.

How should I go about cancelling existing reservations?
If you inform your airline that your University has restricted travel to your destination, you may be able to receive a credit for the price of your ticket. You may also be able to receive a refund for hotel accommodations and conference fees. If you require a formal letter from the University explaining the impact of the University’s travel policy on your travel plans, please contact [email protected]. If you receive a voucher for a trip that was cancelled due to Brown’s guidance on COVID-19, it is your responsibility to use the voucher for future University-sponsored travel.

How can I be reimbursed for expenses already incurred?
Students with previously approved travel funding from the Graduate School, their program or another source should seek refunds where possible. If not, the Graduate School will provide reimbursement up to the original approved amount, inclusive of cancellation fees. Where funding was approved from other sources, including programs and centers, students are encouraged similarly to seek reimbursement from those sources. 

What about University-sponsored travel after August 14, 2020?
For travel beyond August 14, we recommend that students consider delaying non-refundable airline purchases for as long as possible as travel restrictions may quickly change or be extended. No new applications for travel or conference funding are being approved at this time. Students may apply for funding to present at virtual conferences through UFunds.

If I am already traveling internationally, can I apply for funding?
All travel requests must be reviewed carefully and approval may not be possible, as it would be hard for the University to assess the safety of such travel. The Graduate School will review such questions on a case-by-case basis, please email [email protected].

Am I still covered by International SOS under the new travel restrictions?
Yes! International SOS provides Brown University travelers with 24 hour worldwide medical and travel assistance.

What about personal travel or traveling home to teach remotely?
Graduate students considering leaving Providence are encouraged to review with their programs that they can meet their Brown obligations remotely and, if so, notify their programs that they plan to continue their teaching and research out of residence. Please review the University guidance on Travel, where any changes will be updated. 

Graduate students considering international travel, for instance to return home, should be aware that you may face a quarantine and/or flight cancellations. Also, you may be unable to return to campus for an extended period after international travel, face visa complications, or be unable to travel to some U.S. destinations contending with the spread of coronavirus. If you are unable to return to campus, you may be required to take a leave, depending on the requirements of your program. All students are encouraged to think through the steps and potential issues before considering any travel.


For information related to accessing health services, please see the Health and Wellness section of the Healthy Brown pandemic planning website. All Brown services, including Health Services and CAPS will be available both remotely and in-person once building on campus have reopened.

Can I add my spouse, partner or dependent to my health insurance plan if they have lost their insurance recently?
Yes. When the loss of insurance is the result of a qualifying event, such as the loss of employment related to COVID-19. The student would need to complete a qualifying event form and obtain a letter from the spouse or partner’s insurance company indicating current coverage is being terminated. To start this process, please contact [email protected].

Is my health insurance valid outside of Providence?
Yes, students enrolled in Brown’s student health insurance plan should know that their plan covers care both domestically and internationally. UnitedHealthcare Choice Plus and United Behavioral Health Network are the provider networks. Please log in to Gallagher Student Health ( and click on “Find a Doctor” to search for a provider in the network. When making an appointment, you should always confirm that the provider currently participates in the network.

Can I access health insurance when outside the United States?
Yes. When outside of the United States, you will likely be asked to pay for your medical care first and will then need to submit for reimbursement. Covered Expenses will likely be reimbursed on an Out-of-Network basis. When you submit claims for reimbursement, you will need to have the itemized bill(s) translated into English and include a letter informing the claims administrator that you are seeking reimbursement for charges previously paid. Please ensure that your name, ID number, address (to receive your reimbursement check), and your school’s name are on the bill. Please review additional information on the Gallagher Student Health website, including the 2019-2020 Brown University Frequently Asked Questions.

Does my student health insurance cover COVID-19 testing? Does it also cover treatment?
Any testing for and treatment of COVID-19 will continue to be covered in the same way that any serious illness would be covered. In addition, the insurer has waived some out-of-pocket costs for defined periods. Please see the link provided by Brown’s Insurance Office to a statement from the health insurance provider, Important Insurance Information Regarding COVID-19. As outlined in the insurer’s information, the following applies:

  • Testing for COVID-19 (testing, testing-related visits, antibody tests) is covered and member cost-sharing will be waived, including copays, coinsurance, and deductibles, for COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided at approved locations in accordance with CDC guidelines through October 22, 2020
  • Member cost-sharing for the treatment of COVID-19 will be waived through October 22, 2020. After that date, treatment of COVID-19 is covered as for any illness, and copays, coinsurance, and deductibles would, if applicable, apply. (Please see here for the out-of-pocket costs and definitions.)
  • Through September 30, 2020, UnitedHealthcare will also waive cost-sharing for in-network, non-COVID-19 telehealth visits
  • Cost sharing for telehealth visits related to COVID-19 testing and for 24/7 Virtual Visits with preferred telehealth partners are waived through October 22, 2020.

Should you receive a bill for testing or treatment that you believe should be covered, please reach out to [email protected]. For the most up-to-date information, please consult the UnitedHealthcare Student Resources webpage directly; including Student FAQs.

Details on the plan and coverage can be found at Gallagher Student Health (, which outlines the annual policy deductible, in-patient copays, emergency room copays, and the out-of-pocket maximum, which could apply, depending on the individual circumstances, as for any serious illness.

I see a therapist at CAPS. Can I keep seeing them?
Yes, please see the CAPS website for the latest information, as well as information on Student Support on Brown’s COVID-19 website.

What about my prescriptions?
For students who are not in Providence, prescriptions can be transferred to their home or a local pharmacy. Students must contact the pharmacy and request that they contact the Brown pharmacy at 401-863-7882 to transfer their prescription. The pharmacy fax number is 401-863-2178.

Per state regulations, the Brown pharmacy can only mail prescriptions to a Rhode Island address.


I am experiencing financial hardship. What are my options?
The Graduate School has established a Graduate School COVID-19 Summer E-GAP Fund for graduate students with high demonstrated financial need to assist with emergent expenses due to this crisis. The application can be found in UFunds, listed under E-Gap Funds. As always, we will give these requests the fullest consideration that our available resources will permit. The current application period is for summer expenses through August 31, 2020.


How will I keep in touch with offices about time-sensitive issues if I am not in Providence?
The Graduate School is able to offer all services and support virtually. The best way to reach the Graduate School with questions is to email [email protected]. Deans and staff can meet with you remotely by phone or zoom. You can make a remote meeting appointment with the Associate Dean of Student Support, as well.

What about my SAS accommodations?
Please contact SEAS with any questions and or requests for accommodations. Please call 401-863-9588 or email [email protected], and identify yourself as a graduate student. You may also wish to review with your instructors how your accommodations may be impacted by online instruction. For additional expenses that may be incurred due to accommodations with remote learning, please review with Student Accessibility Services and submit an application in UFunds to "Graduate School COVID-19 E-GAP Fund.” 

We ask that all instructional staff be as flexible as possible, within reason, during this time. This may be due to a student’s accommodation need, but also due to a variety of other concerns such as technology issues, location/time zone differences, etc.

Can I still use my meal vouchers that I received through the Meal Gap program? 
Meal gap vouchers that have been issued to students by the Graduate School can be used at the Sharpe Refectory. See more about Dining Services operations during this time.

What access to graduate students have to the Library and scholarly resources during the campus closure?
Brown University Libraries are offering a variety of enhanced services for students during the campus closure that include individual research assistance and increased digital access to materials. If Brown does not have electronic access to a source you need, please contact a librarian about the possibility of Brown purchasing it. Learn more

What other University services are available virtually?

I am having challenges with my internet. Are there options for me?
Please see our Off-Campus Internet Resources Guide, for information on connecting to the internet, including additional support that providers are offering in the U.S. For students with no internet access or severe internet challenges, please submit a request through UFunds to "Graduate School COVID-19 Summer E-GAP Fund," where we will review computer/technical hardship needs.


I need assistance planning to teach online this fall.
See the Teaching & Learning section on the University’s Healthy Brown website, as well as Teaching Resources for Graduate Students from the Sheridan Center and Digital Learning and Design team.

Who should I go to if I face challenges with remote teaching?
Should any student serving as a TA or instructor have difficulty fulfilling their responsibilities remotely, please notify the department chair, who should then contact [email protected] and/or [email protected]. We ask that departments also remain in regular contact with graduate students serving as Independent Instructors.

How can I work effectively with my dissertation advisor(s) and mentors remotely?
While many effective mentoring practices can translate from face-to-face in person interactions to online and remote mentoring, there are some effective practices that are specific to online mentoring. Students and mentors interested in effective "e-mentoring" practices might begin with Doctoral E-mentoring: Current Practices and Effective Strategies,(Brown authentication required) a literature review of the scholarship on best practices.


Can I defend my dissertation virtually?
Yes, all dissertation defenses and similar events should have the option to be conducted virtually, such as through Zoom.

Can my friends and family attend my defense?
We understand that your dissertation defense is an exciting and pivotal time in your Ph.D. experience, and represents a cumulation of years of intensive courses, conversations, research, and writing at Brown. You are more than welcome to share a Zoom link with family and friends if your defense is open to outside guests.

Can I postpone my defense?
It is recommended you review this request with your advisor and defense committee. While academic deadlines remain in place, individual students may be able to work with their programs to modify the defense date.

Can I submit my dissertation signature pages electronically?
Yes. In addition to the electronic dissertation submission process, all Ph.D. candidates can submit their signature page to the Graduate School electronically, by sending it to [email protected]. The Graduate School will accept scanned signatures, as well as electronic signatures. Please see the Graduate School’s Dissertation Guidelines webpage.


My child’s daycare or school is closed, are there any options to secure backup care?
We understand the disruption this may have on your academic progress and that this may cause additional stress for both you and your children. The National Association of School Psychologists has released a parent resource guide to think about ways to talk to your children about COVID-19.

In the event of the potential disruption of your regular care channels, using backup care via may help. Please register at and carefully review any updates on services from Each active degree-seeking graduate student is eligible for a maximum of 5 subsidized days of care per year. If you have used your 5-day benefit, please contact the Graduate School at [email protected]. For more information on using backup care please see our Backup Child Care page. If you are experiencing financial hardship, you may complete a request for emergency funds in UFunds, listed under E-Gap Funds.


International students with questions should check out Global Brown's FAQ for international students. Please see the OISSS website for recent communications. Additional questions can be directed to the following contacts:


For Students in Master's Programs beginning in Fall 2020:
Should it be the case that it is not possible for you to travel by the beginning of the fall semester due to COVID-19 related circumstances, we will allow you to begin your program remotely, and we would expect you to arrive on campus for the spring 2020 term. Alternatively, prior to the beginning of the fall term, you can request to defer your attendance until spring or fall 2021. Please note that students in programs in the School of Public Health can only defer until fall 2021. 

With regard to student visas, the begin date on the immigration document I-20/DS-2019 will be deferred to the fall semester. With regard to student visas, the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS) at Brown is in the process of issuing immigration documents (I-20/DS-2019) in time for the fall semester, assuming all required documents are received in time. 

What about Orientation?
In your initial welcome letter from Brown you received information on specific Orientation dates for International, Student of Color, and All-Student Orientation. Our plans have shifted a bit and we do plan to offer all of these Orientations virtually with both live and recorded sessions and modules that will be available starting in mid-August. More schedule information is available on our Admitted Students webpage. Students who are deferring to Spring or Fall of 2021 may choose to take part in the Fall 2021 Orientation and/or future orientation sessions.

Housing & Relocating to Providence
All incoming students who are safely able to travel to Providence should plan to secure housing for the start of the fall semester. Students are able to begin courses online if their travel and relocation is delayed.


What are the changes to my services?
Your Brown Google content will stay with you—your password, your Google Drive, Google Meet and all your Google email content. You’ll continue using BrownConnect, Handshake, and Rosetta Stone, with minor differences.

Student services such as software (ex: Adobe Creative Cloud, Zoom), VPN, card access, wifi, and your current library access ceased on June 1 (once your requirements are marked as complete by the Registrar’s office). See full details on the Computing & Information Services webpage for graduating students.

When will my email address change?
Student email accounts will be migrated to an lifetime address (unless the graduate is going straight into a Brown staff or faculty position) on July 10 (it would normally shift on June 1). Messages will be forwarded from your student address to your new address through January 4, 2021.


For answers to the following more general questions, please see the University’s Healthy Brown pandemic planning website.

Whom should I contact for more information?
Please know that the Graduate School will remain open. We are able to meet with you virtually and/or answer questions via email at [email protected] or phone at 401-863-2600.