Skip to main content

University Planning and Academic Calendar Updates for Faculty & Staff

Dear colleagues,

We want to thank you for your extraordinary efforts in getting our academic year off to a strong start. Whether you are on campus or at home, we know you have endured challenges and disruptions. We appreciate both your commitment to protecting the community’s health and your flexibility as we navigate the challenges in our nation and world, and in particular, the impacts of the ongoing pandemic.

We write today to provide you important updates about the upcoming Winter and Spring terms, including changes to the academic calendar and the timeline for future announcements. We are sending a similar message to students, outlining these changes and asking them to take a survey about their plans for January.

We know it is important for you to have the most updated information possible. We will provide you with regular updates to equip you with the information you need. 

Academic Calendars

After evaluating many scenarios and consulting with students, faculty and staff, we have decided to begin Winter Quarter undergraduate classes Monday, Jan. 11 – one week later than originally planned. To help promote the health of our community after winter break, we again will observe a two-week Wildcat Wellness period, from Jan. 3 to 17, with all classes scheduled during that period held remotely.    

As was the case for Fall, you will be asked to observe Wildcat Wellness and refrain from scheduling in-person activities except those that are essential or necessary to support students’ return and cannot be delivered remotely. Schools and units should evaluate whether faculty and staff should be on campus or remote and how best to support the Wildcat Wellness period.

Graduate and professional schools on the quarter system that are closely linked to undergraduate programs – including The Graduate School, all Ph.D. programs, the School of Professional Studies and programs in the Bienen School of Music – also will begin Winter Quarter on Jan. 11. Graduate programs that operate more independently from the undergraduate experience will begin Jan. 4 as originally planned, including those professional programs offered by the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, the School of Communication, the Kellogg School of Management, the School of Education and Social Policy, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and clinical programs in the Feinberg School of Medicine: Prosthetics-Orthotics, Physician’s Assistant, Physical Therapy and M.D.  

Students in the Pritzker School of Law will hear from their school about updates to the Spring Semester calendar within the week.

The remainder of the 2020-21 academic calendar will continue as planned, including originally scheduled spring break and Spring Quarter dates.

Our decision to start Winter Quarter one week later was not made lightly. We recognize the challenges this poses to curriculum and academic planning and want to make clear that this change does not signal a desire to shorten our quarters for the long term. But after evaluating many different scenarios, we determined that the move-in and testing time necessary to return students to campus after the winter holidays would not be possible if we began on the previous start date of Jan. 4. 

We appreciate the adjustments you will make to plans for Winter Quarter classes and programming and the myriad ways in which faculty and staff members have worked to continue delivering a strong Northwestern experience amid ongoing challenges.

Return to Campus

We know the revised academic calendar information will spark many questions – among them, which undergraduates will be invited to campus starting this Winter. As a baseline for our decision, we plan to continue to allow those students currently on campus to return in January, including third- and fourth-year undergraduates, first- and second-year students with a housing exception and most graduate and professional students. We are actively working to finalize our plans, including whether first- and second-year undergraduates will be able to return to campus in the Winter Quarter, and will share these decisions no later than early November. As we have previously stated, our goal is to have as many students come to campus as possible. 

We are also continuing to evaluate the impact on the need for faculty and staff to be on campus. Please expect information regarding return to campus plans and updates for winter later this quarter.

Course Modalities and Registration

We continue to be tremendously appreciative of your efforts to transition to remote instruction and of your effectiveness in doing so. At the same time, we recognize, as we are sure you do, that some of the benefits of learning, teaching and collaborating with colleagues and students are more easily realized when we are on campus together. With this in mind, while the majority of instruction for Winter Quarter will continue to be remote in most schools, we aim to increase hybrid and in-person opportunities, recognizing that the trajectory of the pandemic and social distancing requirements still limit our ability to do so. Schools and units should evaluate how to do so in ways that are meaningful for specific programs. We will continue to offer instructors support through the Practicum in Foundations of Online Teaching, which offer guidance for those teaching fully remote classes as well as a cohort for those interested in hybrid instruction. 

Timelines for publishing class schedules and holding registration are below:

  • Evanston graduate and undergraduate class schedules, including those for TGS programs operating in Chicago, will be released Nov. 13, with undergraduate pre-registration beginning Nov. 19 and graduate registration beginning Nov. 30.
  • The Kellogg School of Management has already published Winter and Spring Quarter class schedules, and bidding for Winter Quarter begins Friday, Nov. 9.
  • The School of Professional Studies will publish a Winter Quarter class schedule Nov. 2 with registration to begin Nov. 16.
  • The Pritzker School of Law already has published Winter Intersession and Spring Semester class schedules. Bidding will begin for Winter on Oct. 20 and for Spring Semester on Nov. 20. 

Undergraduate International Travel

In addition, we have made the difficult decision to continue to restrict undergraduate international travel and prohibit student international travel associated with all Winter 2021 and Winter-Spring 2021 undergraduate credit-bearing study abroad and exchange programs. If you have questions, we encourage you to reach out to the Global Learning Office or review these FAQs for additional information.  

Stay Vigilant

The pandemic has changed our lives in myriad ways since March, yet we could not be prouder of the way our communities have responded to these challenges. The measures we have enacted have required a lot of work from everyone, but the results have been exceptional. Since Aug. 22, we have conducted more than 23,000 COVID-19 tests. For the week that ended Oct. 4, the positivity rate for our on-campus tests was 0.38%. This is due, in large part, to your efforts, and we thank you.

However, to continue to keep our numbers low and to enable a January return to campus to the fullest extent possible, it is imperative that we continue our social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, adherence to testing and behavioral responsibility throughout the rest of the academic year.

We deeply appreciate your efforts and look forward to your continuing collaboration as we prepare for Winter Quarter and Spring Semester. We hope you take time over the Winter Recess period, which this year will be Dec. 28, 29 and 30, to rest and recharge. May you return to your work and classrooms rejuvenated after a much-deserved break.



Morton Schapiro
President and Professor 

Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor 

Craig Johnson
Senior Vice President for Business and Finance 

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier
Vice President for Student Affairs