Information for Emerson Alumni
You care deeply about Emerson—no less so now when there’s so much uncertainty around this pandemic and its effects. Here you’ll find answers to some common questions and concerns.
From Leigh Gaspar, Associate Vice President, Alumni Engagement
On behalf of the Emerson community, I want to thank so many of you for expressing care and concern for our students, faculty, and staff during this difficult time. Like so many colleges and universities across the country, we’ve been forced to make difficult choices with regard to College operations, room and board, and our learning environment. All of these decisions have been made to preserve the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and to follow directives put in place by public health, city, state, and federal agencies as they work to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Alumni are an important part of the Emerson family. Each of you is facing your own challenges during this pandemic, and yet so many of you have asked us, “How can we help?” Help is best given at this time through gifts to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, which is being used to assist students facing financial hardship during this transition home, and to remote learning. Once our students are settled and home, we will be sharing additional ways that you can support them, especially our seniors, as they navigate what’s next in their Emerson journey.
The following are some of the questions we’ve received directly from alumni and also questions we’ve collected from our various College social media channels and the Emerson Mafia Facebook group. We hope these answers are helpful to you and also serve to curb some of the misinformation circulating throughout the community.
We will continue to keep you informed with updates to this page, the College’s COVID-19 website, social media, and emails.
Please be safe and stay well.
Associate Vice President, Alumni Engagement
Can you tell us about any Emerson community members who are being screened for COVID-19?
Unfortunately, we have been informed that an Emerson staff member on the Boston campus has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual is currently recovering in isolation at home, off campus. The staff member was last on campus on March 21. The staff member did not have symptoms when on campus and did not have contact with students or faculty.
In addition, we have received word that an Emerson student is under home isolation for COVID-19, and another student who participated in a study abroad program operated by another university before traveling home tested positive. In both cases the students are recovering at home. One of the students was last on the Boston campus on March 16. The second did not return to campus after leaving the study abroad program.
Did Emerson cancel classes?
The College made the difficult decision to transition all in-person classes to online learning for the remainder of the spring term. As of March 13, the College ended face-to-face classes. During the week of March 16–20, there were no formally scheduled classes at Emerson. The hiatus allowed faculty and staff to begin the process to transition to online classes.
As you know, a significant amount of learning at Emerson is highly experiential. This transition week gave faculty and staff sufficient time and resources to develop a new online learning environment. Beginning March 23, classes resumed online.
Are students required to leave the residence halls?
On March 13, the President’s Office issued a message to all Emerson students, families, faculty, and staff asking students who could safely vacate the residence halls to do so for the remainder of the spring term.
Students who were unable to leave campus due to economic hardships, international homes, safety concerns, or otherwise, were given the option to request an exemption to remain on campus. Many were granted an exception to the vacate order and will remain on campus. College staff is working closely with these students to ensure their health and safety as continued residents of the College.
Residential students on the Boston campus continue to receive more detailed information about on-campus services. Students living off-campus are also receiving more specific information about services and supports on campus and in the Boston community. Students remaining on-site at Emerson Los Angeles have received more specific information and direction from Tim Chang, associate dean at ELA.
Will students receive a credit for room and board?
Continuing students who lived on any of Emerson’s campuses will receive a credit to their student account, which can be applied to any future charges. Graduating students will receive a refund for room and board. Those students granted exceptions to remain on campus are responsible for room and board payment. More detailed information is outlined in an email sent to students and families from President Pelton.
Why doesn’t Emerson issue a refund for students who will not receive the same educational experience remotely that they would have on campus?
Emerson College is sympathetic to the multiple ways in which a global epidemic has disrupted the lives of so many people and families, including those currently enrolled at the College. While Emerson students, who are currently enrolled, will receive a room and board credit or refund, Emerson will not grant a tuition credit or refund for students who remain enrolled in classes for which they will receive full credit toward fulfilling degree requirements. Emerson’s tuition decision is consistent with all other institutions of higher education.
Although moving our academic program online will present some challenges, our commitment to academic excellence—and to ensuring that our students receive the teaching, guidance, and support they need to achieve the learning outcomes of their coursework—remains steadfast.
Moreover, because classes can no longer be measured by being in a room together, but are disaggregated by time and methodology, the focus is on achieving the learning goals of the course. Assignments may become more frequent or challenging; even in the transition week, most students were asked to do readings and complete assignments. Furthermore, participation in a class could be different, placing more importance on writing than speaking, and thereby requiring more time.
The College understands the trepidation that some students and their families might have regarding the efficacy of online learning. The College notes that while it is a substantial change for both students and faculty, it also has the utmost confidence in the talent and creativity of our faculty and our students. One of the best aspects of college is learning together with peers and with the guidance of a faculty expert in the field. While the ways of communicating will be different now and take multiple forms, the learning community itself is intact, and that is essential.
Will Commencement still take place? What about the EVVYs?
EVVYs advisors have made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person April 19 EVVYs Gala and the in-person May 8 EVVYs Award Show. Despite these cancellations, EVVY nominations will still be revealed on April 6. Advisors are evaluating alternative ways to announce the winners and are exploring different modalities to ensure co-curricular credit.
Please see our announcement regarding Commencement.
Are local alumni chapter and affinity group events canceled?
All alumni events through April 15 have been canceled. Plans for events beyond that will be evaluated as we know more. Please know that your Alumni Relations team is safely working from home to support virtual connections in the interim. Contact us at alumni [at] emerson.edu; we would love to hear from you. We all look forward to the time when we can be together in person again. See a full list of chapters to connect virtually with your fellow alumni.
Will Alumni Weekend (June 5–7) be canceled?
Unfortunately, Alumni Weekend has been postponed. Visit our Alumni Weekend page for more information.
I'm an alum and my employment has been impacted by COVID-19. Do you have resources for alumni seeking employment?
If you are:
- Looking for remote work,
- Hiring for short-term work, and/or
- Interested in expanding your skills,
we recommend the Emerson College Alumni Association LinkedIn Group. Emersonians have been adding content daily to help each other, in any industry, get through this time of uncertainty. Visit or join the group and connect now.
How can I help students in need?
The easiest way to help our students right now is to donate to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
Your gift to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund will enable students with limited means to:
- Transport themselves home across the States or around the world;
- Rent or purchase reliable laptops to facilitate remote online learning;
- Rent equipment in their hometowns (supplementing tech provided by Emerson's Equipment Distribution Center) to complete crucial projects;
- Support themselves in the short term if epidemic control measures eliminate critical sources of income, and so on.
All grant decisions will be made by members of our Student Life and Student Success teams, who are positioned at the front lines of this emergency and can best evaluate how to distribute funds to those students in urgent need.
Why would Emerson College ask alumni for donations at this time, when so many people are suffering pandemic-related hardship?
We know it’s an incredibly difficult time for so many people, but we’ve been heartened by the members of our community who’ve asked us what they can do to come to the aid of our students. President Pelton and our Trustees took the first step, banding together to do what they could to help and asking others to join them in this effort.
Donations of any amount matter and can make a difference to students in need.