Preliminary information on spring 2021

President Stephens provides preliminary information about Mount Holyoke College’s plan for spring 2021.

The Mount Holyoke College seal

October 28, 2020

Dear students, families, faculty and staff,

After careful study and extensive deliberation, both by the leadership team and with the Board of Trustees, I am writing to share preliminary information about our plans to welcome more students back to campus this spring. More detailed information will be available by November 12, but I wanted to share this information as soon as I could. At this distance from the start of the spring semester, it is difficult to predict with any certainty what the conditions will be in mid-January, and so our plans continue to be subject to change, and will depend on the course of the pandemic.

Living on campus

All students who wish to live on campus are invited to apply to do so, understanding that, in these extraordinary conditions, we can safely accommodate up to 60% of the student body.

  • Our goal is to safely accommodate as many students wishing to return as we possibly can, and to continue to ensure that those for whom Mount Holyoke is their permanent address or who need to be on campus can remain in residence. All students will be asked to complete a residential intent form that will be distributed later this week by the Office of Residential Life. Understanding students’ intentions is a critical step in achieving our goal of housing all who wish to join us on campus in January. Should those intentions indicate that more than 60% of students are planning to return, we will put in place a prioritized application process.

  • Students who cannot travel to the United States at this time or who prefer to continue their studies from home or another location will be able to do so.

Classes and registration

The curriculum will continue to be delivered through Flexible Immersive Teaching (FIT) to ensure that all students have access to a Mount Holyoke education, regardless of their location. As you know, FIT allows for flexibility and inclusive engagement by making the Mount Holyoke educational experience available to all of our students. 

  • As in the fall, and based on the learning goals for their courses, faculty will make a determination about the mode of delivery for their classes, while ensuring that everything is available remotely for any student enrolled. We anticipate that the majority of courses will continue to be delivered remotely.
  • To help students in planning for the spring, we have changed the dates for Mount Holyoke undergraduate advising and registration and added the deadline for the Residential Intent Form:
  • All graduate programs offered through Professional and Graduate Education will continue to be offered remotely. Graduate students will continue with academic advising as planned. Course registration for graduate level January Intersession and spring semester courses will shift to November 30 to December 11.
  • Students will continue to have the opportunity for some in-person, small-group activities that enrich the experience for everyone on campus. Students who are studying with us from a distance will also have programming opportunities, as was the case this fall . There will be some resident access to indoor and, weather permitting, outdoor fitness facilities and recreational activities.

Study abroad

There will be no opportunity for study abroad in spring 2021, given the continued challenges of travel and COVID-19. 

Student employment

We anticipate remote and on-campus student employment opportunities, though these will continue to be more limited than usual.


No decision has yet been made by NEWMAC and the schools in the conference regarding intercollegiate competition for either winter or spring sports. We will share more information as soon as those decisions are made — and perhaps for winter sports as early as next week.

The campus experience

The campus experience will be different. From the outset:

  • Only resident students will have campus access.
  • Students living on campus will not be able to host visitors at any time.
  • Frequent testing (i.e., at least twice per week for students in residence and at varying frequencies for employees who are on campus regularly) will be required.
  • Many buildings and facilities will be closed or used in limited ways.
  • Food will be take-out only.
  • Travel away from campus will be limited, and all compacts and agreements will be strictly enforced. 

If things go well, we may consider expanding access to facilities as the semester progresses, but we cannot make any such guarantees, or even promises, until we are confident of the community’s continuing health and safety. We take these measures as precautions and protections for all students, faculty and staff returning to campus.

Employee information

As campus operations resume, and with more students in residence, more employees will return to campus to conduct their work, supported fully by our testing and health and safety measures. In order to create the space and distancing needed, and to facilitate the safe expansion of work, study and other activities on our campus, some employees will continue to do their work remotely. Discussions about this are underway, and there will be more detail to follow.

Building upon “Opening the Gates”

The decision to invite more students back to campus builds upon both the Mount Holyoke reopening plan, prepared in the summer, and upon a careful and thorough review of this by a focused Spring Review Group, in consultation with the Emergency Response Teams. We come to this decision with increased experience in managing these conditions over recent months, a deeper understanding of how Mount Holyoke’s campus operations can adapt with extraordinary health and safety guidelines in place, and clear evidence that good practices have been shown to reduce risk. 

We have also examined international, national, regional and local COVID-19 data and trends that inform the requirements for campus quarantine and isolation spaces, other recommended or required conditions that mitigate spread of the virus, and many other details related to campus testing and tracing, facilities, and access. 

Everything that we have put in place respects federal and Massachusetts public health and safety guidelines, and we will adapt to these should they evolve. Some recent changes have, for example, enabled us to identify more rooms on campus that can be used for quarantine purposes. To maximize the opportunity for residence on campus, we have also identified off-campus quarantine space, if needed, where students would be able to continue their academic work, supported by Mount Holyoke staff.

We make all of these determinations for our specific location, facilities and resources, and in full consideration of what is right for our unique Mount Holyoke campus community. We know that we simply cannot operate at full capacity on campus while adhering to health and safety guidelines.  

We  know that you will have many questions, and we will endeavor to include as much information as we can in the update on November 12. Once you have reviewed that information, please do contact us at if you have further questions. We are very much looking forward to the spring and to welcoming many more students back to campus, as well as to continued opportunities to engage with each other, using all of the technologies at our disposal.