Weil Hall at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at UF
Message from Dean Abernathy: Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering’s Response to COVID-19

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I hope that you and your families are healthy and safely weathering COVID-19. The health and economic conditions brought on by this global pandemic are affecting many of us in ways we have never experienced before, but I am certain that we will handle this crisis as Gators always do, with innovation, creativity and resilience.

I would like to take a moment to update you on our current status and policies we have put in place to tackle these challenges.

Governor Ron DeSantis issued a safer-at-home order for the state of Florida on Friday, April 3, restricting travel away from home to essential activities only.

Currently, UF is under modified operations, limited to essential activities only. The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering has 2,700 people now working remotely. Only faculty and researchers who are working on COVID-19 related research are permitted to operate on-campus under enforced social distancing rules. All business meetings are conducted via Zoom or other virtual meeting tools. Supervisors and team leaders continue to monitor progress and ensure deliverables.

Our expertise in delivering distance education in the last two decades through EDGE (Electronic Delivery of Gator Engineering) has allowed us to transition to online education expeditiously during this time. All of the college’s 457 courses in the spring semester have now been moved to online instruction. The Engineering Innovation and Leadership Institutes continue to provide remote instruction through about a dozen courses reaching over 1,000 undergraduate, graduate and working professional engineering students. The development of the college's professional development short courses continues, particularly as many employees are working from remote locations, thus providing opportunities for them to retool. The initial offerings are Engineering Leadership and Persuasive Communications for Engineers, with other short courses such as Crisis Leadership and Business Acumen for Engineers in development.

The Department of Engineering Education (EED) has also opened up its seven classroom studios to provide accelerated recording for an additional 100 hours of lectures for other courses. Altogether, the college is able to host all 1,600 engineering education sessions online. UF’s virtual library is also open with help available for students and academic advisors are meeting with students via Zoom.

Our college continues to play an important role in community outreach during this time. In response to school closures, MSE faculty Dr. Nancy Ruzycki partnered with K-12 teachers to develop a comprehensive directory of online resources for educators. Dr. Ruzycki has also been hosting webinars and online sessions with K-12 teachers across the state to help facilitate the move to online instruction across Florida. In addition to education and outreach services provided by UF Innovation Station in Sarasota County, the college is increasing K-12 engagement, industry outreach, workforce development, and distance education services to the region of the UF Research and Engineering Education (REEF) facility in Okaloosa County, Florida.

Lastly, UF has rescheduled Spring Commencement tentatively to the weekend of July 31-August 2. As this remains uncertain due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, our college is gearing up to produce an online celebration where our 2020 engineering graduates will have the opportunity to be recognized individually. There will be opportunities for personalized photos and messages which can also be downloaded and shared with family, friends, and on social media. We hope that this online celebration – while it pales in comparison to the traditional UF Commencement festivities – can nonetheless provide a meaningful tribute to each and every newly graduating Gator Engineer and all that they have accomplished. The online celebration will be available on Sunday, May 3, 2020 at 2:00 p.m.

This crisis is incredibly disruptive to the research, education and service missions of the college, but we are committed to continue to move ahead in ways that Gator Engineers know so well —safely, collaboratively and creatively. The college is now prepared to review and apply the lessons learned during this time and with the help of our stakeholders and industry partners, lead in a robust recovery process to take us to new heights in the future. I can’t thank you enough for your patience, your understanding, and your support for our college during this difficult time.

Stay safe and healthy,

Cammy R. Abernathy
Dean, Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering

In this time of uncertainty, many students will face difficulties due to diminished family finances and difficulty in finding employment. The Aid-a-Gator program offers financial assistance to help our students as they navigate through challenging personal circumstances.