May 18, 2021

Dear Heller Students,

We hope you are doing as well as possible. We know that many of you are curious about what level of flexibility will be available to students as they plan for the fall semester. Consistent with our prior messaging, all students are asked to attend class in person in Fall 2021, to the extent that state and university rules allow. There will be some limited exemptions from this requirement, detailed below.


We will evaluate requests to study online on a case-by-case basis--no request is guaranteed. Returning students may request permission to continue online for the Fall semester for the following reasons:

  • Students who obtain a medical or religious exemption from Brandeis University. 

  • Students who plan to graduate in December 2021 and are unable to secure short-term housing in the Waltham area. 

  • Students who are experiencing extreme, pandemic-related obstacles to their ability to study in person. Examples may include new/unforeseen caregiving responsibilities, extreme financial hardship, or being unable to travel due to international regulations.  


  • New international students whose student visa processing is delayed due to COVID-related issues may enroll online as a temporary measure, until their visa is processed. Note that international students who need to begin the fall semester online must receive special permission to do so, and will be expected to meet specific requirements.

All decisions about online study exemptions will be for the fall semester only (all students are expected to return to campus for Spring 2022). If you have questions about state or university rules, or if you are a returning student requesting online instruction for the fall semester, contact Assistant Dean of Academic and Student Services, Ravi Lakshmikanthan ( 

We are proud of our Heller community and all that you’ve accomplished during a pandemic, including countless hours of remote learning. Most of our courses include simulations, case studies, and/or engaged dialogue, all of which are more effective in person. We’ve heard you express the value of working face-to-face with one another, either on group projects or in after-class get-togethers. We’ve listened to your success and struggles, and we agree: the “Heller experience” works best when we are in-person as a community. That’s where the Heller magic happens.

Please read the frequently asked questions (FAQs) below if you feel that you may qualify for an exemption from the in-person attendance requirement. We will keep you updated on our planning efforts as the pandemic and related regulatory knowledge evolves. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to myself or Ravi Lakshmikanthan ( with additional questions. 


David Weil

Dean and Professor 




How do I request a medical or religious exemption for vaccines?

Brandeis University policy requires all students to be fully vaccinated before returning to campus, with limited exemptions granted for medical or religious reasons. This vaccine exemption process will be managed centrally through Brandeis’ Office of Student Accessibility Support. They will provide additional instruction on how to submit a medical or religious exemption as we get closer to the start of the semester.

If I am exempted from a vaccine requirement may I attend class in person?

Brandeis is currently considering whether students who obtain a medical or religious exemption can attend class in-person or remain online for the fall semester. We will provide updates on these policies in coming weeks. 

What counts as an “extreme case” that would warrant continued online instruction? 

We will consider individual student requests to attend the entire fall semester online in cases of extreme, pandemic-related obstacles. Examples may include having new/unforeseen caregiving responsibilities, extreme financial hardship, inability to travel due to international regulations, or inability to obtain a short-term housing rental for December-graduating students (see below).   

What if I am graduating in December? I’m concerned about finding short-term housing.

We strongly encourage December-graduating students to attend their final semester in person, and are working with the Brandeis Graduate Student Affairs office and local partners to identify short-term housing options for the fall semester. Housing resources will be posted on the Graduate Student Affairs website on an ongoing basis. Please contact Steve Weglinski ( with specific questions or concerns around short-term housing. 

If short-term housing is unavailable, December graduates may be considered an “extreme case.” These students may request an exemption to the in-person attendance requirement for their final semester (Fall 2021 only).


I am a returning international student residing out of the U.S. and may not be able to get to Waltham before the start of classes. What should I do?  

As an international student you may be facing a different set of challenges, including fast-changing travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. We are working with the International Students and Scholars Office at Brandeis to coordinate our response across the university and will continue to work with each student on a case-by-case basis. Please contact Sandy Jones ( if you believe you will have difficulty entering the U.S. in time for the start of the fall semester.

I am a new international student and am not sure I will be able to secure a student visa in time for the start of classes. Can I start the fall semester online?

Newly admitted international students will be permitted to enroll online in Fall 2021 courses temporarily, if: 

  1. They have completed the VIDOF process
  2. They have received an I-20, and, 
  3. They have a visa appointment scheduled prior to January 1, 2022.

In order to enroll online, these students must also consult with an advisor at Heller who will speak with them about their continued visa application, internet/computing requirements, financial/billing procedures, their target arrival date, and their extended course of study at Heller. 


I want to request an exemption to continue studying remotely. Who do I contact?  

Contact Ravi Lakshmikanthan, Assistant Dean Academic and Student Services, for COVID-related exemptions and questions related to the fall return to campus (

Is there a deadline for making this request? 

If you wish to request an exemption from the in-person attendance requirement, we ask that you do so as soon as possible, or by Monday, August 2 at the latest. 

Can I request permission to study online for the entire year?

No. Each request will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and decisions will be valid for the fall semester only. As of now, all students will be expected to return in person for the spring 2022 semester.  

Can I request to only take some courses in person, and other courses online?

No. Students who receive permission to attend the fall semester remotely will take all fall courses online. 

What if I want to take a leave of absence?

Even prior to the COVID pandemic, some students had challenges balancing personal, professional, and financial obligations. For these students, taking a leave of absence from Heller may be the best course of action. Students who wish to request a leave of absence should contact Ravi Lakshmikanthan, Assistant Dean Academic and Student Services (