Up to date information regarding Fall 2020 FIRE Semester 3


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. 


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.

FIRE Semester 3 (FIRE298) will be an online-only engagement.  We will not be hosting in-person class sessions in The Atlantic Building for any FIRE course this coming semester and we are not able to open FIRE research environments.  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.  Though we investigated every option and tried very hard, we could not successfully design an approach where FIRE students could safely work in a safe, mentored way with FIRE faculty in a manner that respected the safety of both you and our Research Educators.  Following UMD guidelines for research environment operations would have required us to adopt a strategy that placed FIRE students nearly-alone in our labs (FIRE faculty could not be expected to work all day in close proximity to students entering and exiting the laboratory environment).  We felt this strategy posed far too much risk for our students and far too little gain in terms of the research progress that would be possible.  

  • 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 3 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 3 is all about working with you to help you achieve a final summative research product with FIRE and participating in the FIRE Summit.  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 3 - We will do this in a way that fully provides you the ability to achieve a summative product, 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 3 for instruction in this way.  You will not be experiencing an old version of FIRE Semester 3 slightly modified for online instruction - you will be a part of an entirely new version built for online instruction.

  • 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 third-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 3 will be online, we will look for every opportunity to safely connect third-semester FIRE students with each other and our faculty.

This semester our research streams will be working hard to deliver on preparing you for Fearless Career Readiness - this includes the continuation of authentic research, the capacity for discovery, doing work that is relevant to our times as well as developing your critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and overall professionalism.  As mentioned, we will be hosting a The FIRE Summit.  This event will be virtual, of course, but that may actually be an advantage to you!  We are looking at ways in which this event will happen on a specific day and time, allowing you to showcase work and interact with others while also providing you the potential to reach broader professional audiences.


You will hear from your FIRE Research Educator in the next week.  They will provide much higher levels of specificity with respect to how courses and research will work this coming Fall semester.  Please know that they have been working incredibly hard all summer to prepare the best, most impactful experience possible.  Please remember that completion of FIRE Semester 3 qualifies you for participation in FIRE's Peer Mentoring program and earns you your FIRE Transcript Citation.  Additionally, it gives your FIRE Research Educator a much better chance to continue their work with you so that they can author substantive and professional letters of support for you in the months and years to come.

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


Will my FIRE stream have our scheduled class session in person or online?

Exclusively online.

Will my FIRE stream's research environment be open?

Unfortunately, this will not be possible.  


Research with FIRE will be exclusively online.

Will I still be able to do the research I designed in FIRE Semester 2?

The research may be modified due to restrictions regarding the availability of the FIRE research environment for your stream. 


Our goal is to allow all third-semester FIRE students to pursue either the core of the projects you developed and described in FIRE Semester 2 or research that is highly related. 


Your FIRE stream faculty member will be in touch with you in the weeks to come to describe both research environment availability and the research agenda to come for your FIRE stream.

Is it still possible that my FIRE stream will focus on COVID-19 research?

We are working with FIRE faculty members to make this an option that may be available in specific FIRE streams. 


Not all FIRE streams will participate due to their readiness to fully engage in research initiatives designed during FIRE Semester 2.  This is simply an option we are developing to allow some proportion of FIRE Semester 3 students to shift gears in the event that a shift will help make the work more interesting, relevant, and engaging.

Your FIRE Research Educator will be in touch in the next week to tell you more about the research goals for the coming semester.