Up to date information regarding Fall 2020 FIRE Semester 1


Updated: July 15, 2020, at 9:00 am

Hello FIRE Students,

I hope that you are doing well and having an enjoyable summer and are looking forward to the fall semester. w


I am writing to you today because you now have a full picture of how your Fall 2020 courses will be instructed.  We know that you likely have a wide range of questions with some of them related to your FIRE experience.

Our message to you is unchanged from the one we shared approximately one month ago.  That said, you will also receive a message from Dr. Ian Page this week.  Dr. Page was one of FIRE's first Research Educators, he is the Associate Director of FIRE and someone you have interacted with while joining our program.  He is also the lead instructional designer and coordinator for FIRE Semester 1 course.  He will be in touch with you this week to provide more specific information about the course experience we are preparing for FIRE Semester 1.

I am going to include the bulk of the message we shared with you in mid-June as new students have joined FIRE in the past month and many of you might not have seen it at that time.


First and foremost, we are thrilled you will be a part of FIRE.  

We take our mission seriously - providing you a faculty-mentored research experience that drives your accelerated professional development.  If you have not done so in a while, we encourage you to revisit our website.  


Why?  Remind yourself of a few things:


  • FIRE is more than just what happens this Fall semester.  In fact, under any circumstances - this Fall would be when we would just be getting started together.

  • FIRE is a 3-semester process - even more, if you decide to become a Peer Mentor with FIRE after your initial research experience.

  • The FIRE experience has been designed to help you come to fully understand the program, develop initial university-level research-readiness, join a specific FIRE research stream, and then drive a research project to completion and communicate your results to a broad audience.

  • FIRE is a long-term investment we are making in you and a long-term commitment you are making to yourself.  It’s about far, far more than the Fall 2020 semester.  FIRE is your on-ramp to faculty-mentored research, to developing your professional story, to accelerating your professional growth and opportunities.  With FIRE you have the opportunity to start from square zero and progress from trainee to practitioner to leader.


With respect to your Fall 2020 course experience, FIRE Semester 1 (FIRE120) will be an online engagement.


We are confident in this decision and hope you will be, as well.  This decision was made based on a number of factors - most of them balancing your FIRE experience with your safety and well-being:


  • Safety - FIRE’s instructional facilities are not built for effective and safe social distancing.

  • Delivering excellence - We investigated both the use of other facilities and alternative uses of our facilities and continually came back to a core truth - we strongly know that we can develop and deliver a stellar online version of FIRE Semester 1 if we singularly focus on that as the goal (as compared to delivering an in-person course for some of you and online engagement for others).  


FIRE Semester 1 is all about university research and FIRE-program readiness, empowerment, the capacity to work with and understand diverse sources of information, and developing initial capacities for you to communicate highly complex concepts efficiently and effectively.  We know how this course has worked in-person and we know how to translate these goals into this new setting.


We can do this, together.  Here’s how:


  • Learning from our experience - We made a transition to remote instruction and mentorship this past Spring and have learned from our successes, challenges, and interactions with current FIRE students.

  • Fulfilling the goals of FIRE Semester 1 - We will do this in a way that fully provides you the ability to get to know and understand the FIRE program, work with peers, and receive mentorship from our faculty.

  • Using resources that work - We are acquiring resources and engaging training for all FIRE faculty members to be ready to excel at this mode of working with you.

  • Building a course designed for this - We are hard at work refining FIRE Semester 1 for instruction in this way.  You will not be experiencing an old version of FIRE Semester 1 slightly modified for online instruction - you will be a part of an entirely new version built for online instruction.

  • Seeking deeper meaning for the research engaged - New times call for all of us to look for ways to make a difference.  With this in mind, we are designing FIRE Semester 1 to be part of a larger research initiative called FIRE PERSIST.  We are still developing how this initiative will work but we can tell you that it will allow your FIRE Semester 1 research efforts to contribute new knowledge and insights regarding the broad social, technological, and biological characterization of COVID-19.

  • Building community safely - We are putting a lot of thought into how we recreate the forms of community you would have had with FIRE and an in-person first-semester FIRE course.  We take this part of the FIRE experience seriously and will work hard to deliver.  We know that some of you will be on our campus, some of you will not.  While our instruction for the course component of FIRE Semester 1 will be online, we will look for every opportunity to safely connect first-semester FIRE students with each other and our faculty.


Remember, the long-term plan.  


FIRE Semester 1 is just the entry-point to the longer-term experience we have planned for you.  We are confident in how we will work with you in an online environment this Fall semester and look forward to working directly with you in the semesters that follow.  Please be sure to revisit our summer orientation resources which provide you up to date information on enrollment information for FIRE Semester 1.


I am looking forward to being a part of the FIRE community with you this Fall and ask that you continue to do everything you can to protect your emotional and physical health and well-being during this challenging time.  Please reach out to me at any time if I can address any questions or concerns.






Patrick Killion

Director of Discovery-Based Learning​

Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost

University of Maryland


How will this online class work?  Will I be on my own?

The class will be hosted online but will come with broad support.  The class will meet online each week on the scheduled day and time to ensure all FIRE students have the opportunity to work with each other and their FIRE faculty member as they would have in person.

Students will engage training and receive feedback during each week.

How do I pick my FIRE stream?

We have a comprehensive process during the fall that will allow you to learn about each of our streams, meet the faculty leaders, talk to FIRE Semester 3 students, and get a sense of what the day-to-day looks like with respect to each stream's research mission.

By taking FIRE Semester 1, you will automatically participate in that process and will make your stream selection during spring course enrollment

Does my section of FIRE Semester 1 affect which stream I will join?

No. Stream selection occurs during the fall semester and we will provide all students complete and total information about that process at the right time.


No matter which section of FIRE Semester 1 you take, you will be eligible to join any FIRE research stream.

​Do I have to enroll in FIRE Semester 1?

Yes. If an admitted student does not enroll in FIRE Semester 1 during their orientation, we have to assume they are no longer interested in participating in the program.


Students who do not enroll in FIRE Semester 1 will lose their spot in the program. 

Can I defer my participation in FIRE to Spring 2021?

The training you receive in FIRE Semester 1 is crucial to your success in the 3-semester process to come. 


If you are unable to complete FIRE Semester 1 during the Fall of 2020 we will not be able to advance you to FIRE Semester 2 in Spring 2021.

Similarly, we are not able to offer FIRE Semester 1 in Spring 2021 as a potential starting point.

Can I defer my participation in FIRE to Fall 2021?

We are not able to offer this option to you at this time. 


We are following all policies of the University of Maryland on this issue.  If you request and receive a formal deferral from UMD (for a year), we will honor your place in FIRE for 2021.

When do I get my FIRE t-shirt?

As soon as possible!


Ordinarily, you would get it during orientation. We have explored a few workarounds in light of the current situation: drone delivery, an STL for 3D printing, and teleportation.


So far, nothing seems feasible until we are back on campus.  We will look for every safe way to get you a FIRE t-shirt this coming Fall semester.