October 8, 2020

Dear Olin Families, Students, Faculty and Staff, 

Greetings from the Olin Bubble! We are pleased to say that Fall 2020 at Olin, while unusual, has been going extremely well. Our COVID testing partnership with the Broad Institute is running smoothly, aided by the implementation of the CoVerified app. So far, we have conducted over 1,500 tests with only one positive case in mid-September. This person works in a non-student facing position and is doing well; we’re thankful to report that this case was completely contained. 

Students have been enjoying the beautiful New England fall weather and gathering on the Great Lawn and under the Oval tent for socializing and studying.

Four Olin College students sitting in a circle outside eating together on campus

First-year students are benefitting from the creative alignment of households and Miller Academic Center access. In nine on-campus studios, 71 campus-based students interact safely with one another and with the materials in the room without masks or social distancing. Fifteen remote first-years and four instructors have physical presence through circulating tablet “avatars” — allowing them to participate in one-on-one and team interactions — complemented by live video feed in each studio. Students are fully engaged in the creative design, prototyping and making that characterizes Design Nature. We’re continuing to learn from this experiment in the future of hybrid learning, and perhaps to expand on it next semester.

Our dining staff is working hard to keep our students fed and happy (you can see some of the delicious meals they’ve prepared this semester on Instagram) with both in-person dining and take-away options made possible by our new mobile dining app.

We are also pleased to report that because on-campus students have done such a good job of following health and safety guidelines, Student Affairs has let our residential students know that residence hall lounges and kitchens will open for student use beginning on October 12. Rae-Anne Butera, Dean of Student Affairs, has emailed our on-campus community with more information, including more detailed rules for using these spaces. 

It is important to note that our success at controlling COVID-19 within our campus community has not been replicated statewide. The Massachusetts COVID-19 dashboard has begun to show increases in new daily cases, the positive test rate and other metrics over the past two weeks. Gatherings present a major opportunity for the virus to spread. So, even as we do loosen up a bit on our campus, it is especially critical that we stick with our “hardened bubble” approach and follow all of the requirements in place, especially for mask use, social distancing and testing. 

Although it’s barely autumn, we’re already thinking about the spring and have several updates to share regarding planning for the spring 2021 semester, as well as a timeline of important dates and deadlines: 

Academics. We expect that our hybrid in-person/remote course format will run as it is currently running this fall. Our course offerings pattern will be the same as this fall (Mon/Wed and Tues/Thurs patterns), course meetings will again be 90 minutes, and we will continue an extended lunch break to meet distancing in the dining hall during winter months when outdoor space is not useable. 

There will be a Virtual Spring 2021 Course Fair on Friday, October 9, 2020. The Course Fair is Olin's way of sharing a tentative list of offerings with students to help Olin plan to meet student curricular needs. Course Fair details were sent to students on Wednesday, October 7th. Next week the Registrar’s Office will circulate a pre-registration survey to inform construction of the spring 2021 course schedule. The updated list of spring course offerings will be posted the last week in October. 

Residential Life. As in the fall, students will not be required to live on campus at Olin during the spring semester. In the fall, we were able to accommodate all students who requested on-campus housing, and we will have room to welcome additional students back to campus in the spring semester. Single rooms will remain the default unless two students would like to propose rooming together. First years and seniors currently living off campus will continue to have priority standing for available rooms. Please be in touch with Seth Hodge if you have specific questions. You will be asked to indicate your interest in on-campus housing via the Declaration of Intent Form referenced below. We would love to see more of you on campus in the spring!

Declaration of Intent Form. We will once again ask students to let us know about enrollment and housing in early November by filling out another declaration of intent form. This form will be available, along with course offerings and modalities, the last week in October, and will be due to Olin on November 6. Please note that information about spring housing, including rental expense, is required in order to reissue financial aid packages. 

Calendar. The first day of classes for the spring 2021 semester will be January 28th, and campus activities are planned to continue through the second week of May.  Spring break will be replaced with several mini-breaks during the semester. Olin’s updated online academic calendar will be posted by mid-October. 

We’d like to thank each member of our community for all you are doing to make this semester a success. Keep it up! If you have any questions, please continue to contact us at OlinAhead@olin.edu

Timetable for Spring Planning: 

Virtual Course Fair 

(Instructors host a ‘fair” where students can learn about the courses to be offered in the spring semester) 

October 9 

Course Fair Survey 

(students inform Olin what they anticipate taking; results are used to finalize course offerings and to create a schedule minimizing course conflicts) 

Week of October 14 

Updated Spring Semester Calendar posted 

(including mini-break dates) 


List of Spring 2021 Course Offerings posted 

(including instructional modalities)  

Week of October 26 

Declaration of Intent Form 

(students indicate intentions regarding enrollment, housing, etc.) 

Posted: Week of October 26 

Due:  November 6 

Course Schedule Circulated 

(day and time details) 

Late November 


(students sign up for spring classes) 

Early December 

Reissuance of Financial Aid 

(taking into account spring changes) 

Early December 

Term Bills 

Posted: By December 15 

Due: January 15 

Last Date for Pre-Semester Leave/Withdraw 

January 27 

Spring Semester Begins 

January 28