Message from Dr. Martin about COVID-19

Important Announcement

Wednesday, March 18, 2020, 7 pm (MST): Effective Wednesday, March 18 until Monday, May 18, the IAIA campus and the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) will be closed. Please refer to the COVID-19 page for additional resources.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Dear Students,



Osiyo, hello, my name is Robert Martin, President of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). I hope this message finds you safe during these trying times.

On March 18, 2020, the IAIA Campus and Museum closed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. With the abrupt closure of our campus and transition to online learning, your world has been disrupted. In addition to the stress caused by the Pandemic and return to your home communities, you may have struggled with privacy and competing priorities such as caring for family members and other responsibilities—thus impeding your focus on studies.

Another challenge for many of you has been the quality or lack of connectivity to the Internet. Coverage may be spotty or lost during virtual class sessions. We also know that you face financial challenges paying for food, gas, and other expenses. Your situation is not unique—other Native students are confronted with similar circumstances throughout the Southwest and the Nation, but we are committed to supporting your success this semester.

In addressing these concerns, we loaned laptops, identified local Internet providers and paid for enhanced services or increased data plans for cell phones. We will also continue to process applications requesting emergency student aid. Moreover, on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, we received $171,000 in Federal CARES Act funding earmarked for emergency student aid. By Friday, IAIA staff had processed 280 checks for students ranging from $700 for full-time students to $175 for students enrolled in three credits.

My hope is that you will complete this semester and the class of 2020 will graduate on time. I ask for your patience, persistence, and flexibility during these challenging times. Your safety and health are at the forefront as we develop plans to reopen the campus, scheduling events, and planning for the fall semester.

The 2020 Commencement Ceremony is scheduled for 11 am, Saturday, August 22, 2020. This is our best opportunity to bring closure for the graduating students and celebrate their successes. This date is at the end of the first week of the Fall semester classes and students will have returned to campus.  We are especially pleased that Joy Harjo (Mvskoke Nation) ‘68, IAIA alumna and United States Poet Laureate, has cleared her calendar to be our keynote speaker and receive an honorary doctorate degree from the college. Pending the status of the Pandemic, we also will be developing a contingency plan for a virtual ceremony. Regardless of what occurs, the 2020 graduating students will also have the option of participating in the 2021 graduation ceremony as well.

The plans for the 2020 Fall semester follow along a continuum. On one end, is our preference is for a normal, face-to-face semester. On the other end of the continuum is to offer courses exclusively online—which is certainly not our preference. Falling along the middle of the continuum is an option offering two eight-week sessions in which students would enroll for the first session in two or three courses, requiring access to studio and specialized equipment. Students also would enroll in a second eight-week session in academic courses that could be completed on campus or in an online environment. Additional information will be forthcoming, but whatever is decided, flexibility and your safety will be highest priority.

Please reach out to your professor, counselor, academic advisor, the student success center, or other staff members for assistance. (Our student support programs are available remotely.) Please check our website for additional information. My email address is rmartin@iaia.edu. Conversely, our faculty, staff, and administrators will reach out to you as well.

Remember, IAIA remains your college and we look forward to your return to campus. Together we will continue to empower creativity and leadership in Native arts and cultures.

Be safe and well,  Wado, and thank you,

Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation)
IAIA President

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff,

IAIA is now in the second week of online delivery of our classes. Reports from faculty and students thus far have been generally positive, especially in terms of student attendance and engagement during the initial week. The Academic Division’s faculty members have made remarkable progress in transitioning to online delivery of their classes. This achievement reflects commitment to our students and their success.

Of course, we are continuing to encounter technical glitches and Internet connectivity issues. The Information Technology (IT) and Academic Technology (AT) staff are working diligently to address these issues. We have reached out to those students without Internet access, or who have other challenges with connectivity, and informed them to contact IT for support. Students who have had to purchase new Internet access or upgrade their service have been advised to submit their costs for reimbursement by IAIA.

I continue to be impressed with the rapid response of the faculty and staff to incorporate technology in offering classes online and working remotely. Understandably, we would all prefer to be at our beautiful campus with state-of-the-art buildings and equipment, but unfortunately, that is not possible at this time.

Working Remotely Extended—The New Mexico Department of Health has detected community spread in several New Mexico counties, including Pueblo and Navajo communities. The agency reports that, given the infectious nature of the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus, it is likely many residents are infected but have not yet been tested or confirmed positive. New Mexicans have been instructed to stay-in-place by the Governor except for outings necessary for health, safety, and welfare. These additional restrictions have been enacted to aggressively minimize person-to-person contact and reduce community spread. All businesses except those deemed essential have been ordered to close.

As a result, the IAIA campus and museum will remain closed and staff will continue to work remotely until at least Monday, May 18. I am grateful for the work of the Facilities staff to ensure continuity of essential campus and museum functions during this closure period, including mail delivery, security, and deep cleaning.

Hiring Freeze—As you know, with the campus and museum closed, IAIA implemented a temporary hiring freeze effective April 1, and until further notice. An announcement of the freeze has been sent to all applicants and posted on the website. Position descriptions have been removed, and no further applications will be accepted at this time. Once we reopen, positions will be re-posted, and applicants will be notified.

Two of our senior leadership positions, the Academic and Student Life Deans, were being advertised and will be affected by the hiring freeze. I am pleased to announce that Dean Charlene Teters has postponed her retirement during this critical period for up to six months or until we resume normal business operations. In addition, Paul Moore will continue as the Interim Dean of Students.

CARES Act (Phase 3 Emergency COVID-19 Response Bill)—To date, IAIA has received $78,000 in CARES Act funding to assist in responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There are three other sources of funding that have yet to be allocated to higher education institutions, including IAIA and the TCUs, which should be available soon. We expect to receive additional funding to assist in paying for increased levels of student emergency aid, building institutional capacity in delivering online learning, and offset losses in revenue due to potential decreases in student enrollment and forced cancellation of facilities rentals and events.

Communication—Please check out the #IAIATogetherApart website (togetherapart.iaia.edu) which now has more than 20 moving, inspirational, and insightful stories. Please consider submitting your own stories.

Student Emergency Aid—The Student Pantry has become an important resource for the more than 30 students housed on campus in the Casitas. We recently received many essential items from an extremely generous donor. The Student Success Center continues to dispense Emergency Aid to our students. To date, $51,200 has been awarded to 16 students for gas, food, and direct housing payments to landlords.

Postponed 2020 Commencement Ceremony—Given the level of uncertainty regarding when we will be able to return to some form of normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not yet proposed an alternative date for the postponed 2020 commencement ceremony. In response to the survey in which graduating students were asked about their scheduling preference for the ceremony, the students expressed an interest in holding the graduation exercises later, but that their safety and health should be of the utmost importance.

Staying Healthy—Remember, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, please call your health care provider, Indian Health Services, or the NMDOH COVID-19 hotline immediately at (855) 600-3453. If you have other questions or concerns, you can also call (833) 551-0518 or visit www.newmexico.gov, which is being updated and finalized as a one-stop source for information.

Thank You—Again, I express gratitude for your coming together as a community and rising to the challenge of transitioning to a virtual learning and working environment.

Stay safe and well,

Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation)
IAIA President

Tuesday, March 27, 2020

Dear Students,

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) has moved rapidly in the last several weeks to implement the college’s Emergency Response Plan to protect students, faculty, and staff from the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Emergency Operations Center Team continues to meet on a weekly basis to update the plan. We have closed the campus, required employees to work remotely, transitioned classes for online delivery, extended our spring break by one week, and closed our Residence Center for the remainder of the semester. I deeply appreciate the commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm of faculty, staff, and students to implement these changes as quickly as possible. We understand that your success depends on our ability to adapt to this rapidly changing environment.

Campus Events—Due to the continued spread of the virus, the 2020 Commencement Ceremony, Powwow, and Alumni Reunion Dinner must be postponed. We are committed to acknowledging and celebrating this milestone accomplishment on campus as soon as possible, and will discuss options with the graduating students. Scheduled events on campus by external groups will be cancelled through the end of May.

Communication—During the past several weeks, we have heard inspirational stories from faculty, staff and students reflecting strength, persistence and creativity that should be shared with our campus community. Accordingly, the Offices of Marketing and Communication and Institutional Research are developing a webpage where students, staff, and faculty can share your thoughts and experiences. It would be a place where you could write about what you are doing and how you are coping. We believe that reading what others are going through will be supportive and facilitate a sense of community during this period of social distancing. The website wouldn’t address specific questions but would include a list of people and offices to contact for those seeking assistance. I’ll let you know when the site goes live.

Transition to an Online learning Environment—Spring break was extended by one week to provide faculty members additional time to receive training to transition to an online learning environment. One of the biggest challenges for an institution specializing in the fine arts is to deliver instruction online. Using Canvas, IAIA’s online learning management system, IAIA faculty have proven themselves to be flexible and creative in providing resources for you. For example, our advanced painting class professor, Char Teters, distributed to each of her students painting kits with canvases and a revised syllabus with lesson plans. Other studio arts classes are more challenging, e.g. sculpture and metal works. They, too, have identified resources and are collaborating virtually with colleagues from other universities and colleges who are confronted with similar challenges. Please remember that online classes begin Monday, March 30. I encourage each one of you to maintain communication and engagement with your professors. Given the uncertainty regarding the spread of the virus, I urge you to complete the semester rather than withdrawing or requesting incompletes.

Wi-Fi Connectivity—Wi-Fi connectivity may be a major challenge for a number of you returning to your home communities. Even though Comcast and other internet providers have announced they are making Wi-Fi and hot spots available for little or no cost, the question is whether their services are accessible to those of you who may live in rural and remote areas. Gaining access to the proper technology and equipment in your home areas is a potential obstacle to successfully completing online work. The Academic Division has surveyed students to determine the numbers without access to Wi-Fi connectivity and we are researching options for addressing this issue. If you haven’t responded to the survey, please do so as soon as possible.

Residence Center Closing—With the closure of the Residence Center, 11 students relocated to the Family Housing Casitas—a total of 31 students remain housed on campus. Student Life staff maintain contact with the students should they need transportation, food, etc. In the past week, the Student Success Center awarded 11 students with gas cards ($1,200), food gift cards ($800) and housing payments directly to their landlords ($600), for a total of $28,600.

IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA)—MoCNA, also closed, is sharing its most recent exhibition, Indigenous Futurisms: Transcending Past/Present/Future, through a virtual environment designed by Senior Manager of Museum Education Winoka Yepa (Diné). This Virtual Reality (VR) space allows online visitors to tour the exhibition on their computer or phone.

Staying Healthy—As we practice sheltering-in-place and social distancing to curb the spread of the COVID-19, many of us are experiencing stress and social isolation. If you need assistance, please reach out to Interim Student Life Dean Paul Moore (Chickasaw) or the counseling staff.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, please call your healthcare provider or the NMDOH COVID-19 hotline immediately at (855) 600-3453. If you have non-health-related questions or concerns, you can also call (833) 551-0518 or visit www.newmexico.gov, which is being updated and finalized as a one-stop source for information.

Thank you and take care,

Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation)
IAIA President

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear IAIA Community,

The world is now confronted by a pandemic crisis that requires evolving strategies to curb its rapid spread. It was only one week ago today that we made the decision to cancel both the AIHEC Student Conference in Albuquerque and the Basketball Tournament hosted by the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). That was quickly followed by last Wednesday’s determination to effectively close the campus after the one-week spring break and offer only online courses for the remainder of the semester. We encouraged students to travel home and not return to campus until the fall semester. These decisions were sad and disappointing for us all—but were necessary given the spread of COVID-19.

Last week, health officials were hoping for only a mild spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, but the best-case scenario will be at least a moderate increase. According to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, “We are where Italy was two weeks ago in terms of our numbers. When you look at the projections, there’s every chance that we could be Italy. Two weeks ago, there were 1,700 cases of coronavirus in Italy and the country had reported 34 deaths. Now, Italy is reporting an estimated 25,000 cases and more than 1,800 people have died.” There are about 3,800 cases reported in the United States and, so far, more than 65 people have died from coronavirus. Dr. Adams believes the trajectory of infections and deaths in the United States seem to be on par with Italy’s, but he says we are hoping to avoid Italy’s situation by “flattening the curve” of the pandemic. In other words, we should try to prevent and delay the spread of the virus so that large portions of the population aren’t sick at the same time and overtaxing our emergency rooms, hospitals, and intensive care units. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), says the United States still has a chance to reverse course if society heeds the public health warnings to practice social distancing for the next six to eight weeks and avoid gatherings of more than 50 people. The White House issued guidelines yesterday recommending we avoiding social gatherings in groups of more than ten people, avoiding eating in bars, restaurants, and food courts, and self-isolating at home.

Accordingly, we took additional social distancing measures yesterday by extending spring break for a second week to provide for an additional period of inactivity and give our faculty members more time to convert their courses to online formats. We also closed the studios, classrooms and computer labs, etc. for the remainder of spring semester and are requiring our employees to work from home until Monday, April 6. We also made the difficult decision to close the Residence Center in order for students to either return to or remain at home. It is expected that as the situation with the virus worsens, travel will become more restrictive and problematic for students to return home.

We also are encouraging students currently off campus to not return to campus. Regarding personal property left on campus, IAIA will seal the Residential Center rooms and students can return for their possessions when the current health crisis has passed. If an off campus student needs to return to pick up their property, they may do so until the end of spring break. Students may not return to stay in the dorms for any period other than to collect their possessions during spring break. IAIA Security or staff will provide access to dorm rooms upon request in order for students to retrieve their items. Students who have no home to go to will be relocated to the IAIA Family Housing casitas until the end of the semester. Students requiring funding for transportation or food should apply online for Emergency Assistance at iaia.dreamkeepers.org.

As we live through these unprecedented times and experience extraordinary change, please remember that your health and safety must be our highest priority. All of us must work together as a community to ensure our success in responding to this health emergency.

Thank you and take care,

Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation)
IAIA President

Monday, March 16, 2020

Dear IAIA Community,

I am announcing further actions that the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) needs to take to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff:

  • Spring break is extended another week. Online instruction will start on Monday, March 30. All instruction will be online through the end of the semester. Studios, classrooms, and the computer labs will remain closed for the entire semester.
  • Effective Wednesday, March 18 until Monday, April 6, the IAIA campus and IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) will be closed. IAIA employees who do not need to be present on campus or at MoCNA to provide continuity of services and operations are to telework from home until then. The appropriate cabinet members must approve requests for employees eligible to telework but who desire to work on campus or at MoCNA. Employees are not encouraged to work on campus or MoCNA unless there is a strong compelling reason.
  • The Café, Library, Student Success Center, Fitness Center, offices, computer labs, studios, classrooms, learning lab etc. will all be closed.
  • Students have until Friday, March 20, at 5 pm to vacate the residence center by returning home or relocating off campus. Students who are unable to immediately move off campus will be relocated to the IAIA Family Housing casitas until the end of the semester. Emergency Aid is available for students, including assistance with transportation and food.
  • Employees will continue to be paid—the HR and Finance offices are able to process payroll remotely, and I thank them for developing this capability.
  • Here are further guidelines for IAIA Staff and Faculty who will be working from home:
    • Get in touch with your direct supervisor to plan what tasks you will work on during this time period.
    • Share your contact information with your supervisor and co-workers.
    • Stay in regular contact with your supervisor.
    • Stay in regular contact with other staff and faculty to continue to do your work and help others to do theirs.
    • Be on call and available during your normal working hours.
    • Respond regularly to emails and phone calls.
    • Discuss with your work group whether you should use online collaboration software such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, or Skype.
    • Take this opportunity to participate in online training or reading about your job duties.
    • Specific details of your work-from-home situation will be worked out between you and your supervisor over the coming days.
    • When we are practicing social distancing, it’s possible to feel a little cut off from everyone. Reach out if you need assistance.
  • The decision to bring employees back to the campus and Museum on April 6 will be based on the existing public health situation in New Mexico at that time.
  • Except for the one-on-one online curriculum development training, faculty should now work from home.
  • Decisions regarding Powwow, Commencement, and other events scheduled for after April 6 has not been made.

Given the fluidity with the situation with the coronavirus, this office will provide regular updates. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. Take care of yourselves!

Stay safe and healthy,

Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation)
IAIA President

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As you are well aware, the COVID-19 outbreak has now been declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization. Closer to home, three coronavirus cases have now been confirmed in New Mexico and the Governor has declared a public health emergency for the state of New Mexico. Unfortunately, the situation may worsen before it improves.

I have devoted a considerable amount of time over the past several weeks working to develop the Institute of American Indian Art’s next steps forward. I express gratitude to those who have provided input, including our Emergency Management Planning committee who is responsible for managing our response to this serious public health emergency.

Our primary focus is to continue to provide IAIA students and employees with a safe place to learn, live, and work. To that end, we think it is best to be as safe as possible and also as flexible as possible. Moving forward the following actions will be implemented:

  • Spring break will take place as planned. However, we recommend that students and employees take great care in planning their personal travel, and consider not traveling out-of-state for the time being. As usual, the residence hall will remain open and there will be student activities.
  • After spring break, all instruction will be online for the remainder of the semester.
  • Following spring break, the residence hall, the casitas, and the Café will remain open.
  • IAIA will remain open, with one exception—classrooms and studios will be closed, except for graduating seniors who receive approval from their advisors.
  • Students can choose to finish out the semester either living at home or living on campus.
  • Until further notice, we will cancel visits to the campus, e.g. Facilities rentals, Admissions office tours and visits, Continuing Education classes, and other guests.
  • Small group meetings of students, faculty, and staff can take place during and after spring break, but large gatherings will be cancelled. We do not yet know if the Powwow and Commencement will take place—we will try to make that decision as soon as possible.
  • Staff will come to work normally.
  • School-sponsored out-of-state travel is immediately suspended for students, faculty, and staff. If you have mission-critical reasons for travel, presidential approval will be required.

As we all know, this is a fluid situation. While no one on campus is currently infected with coronavirus, that could change and the next phase of the plan would be implemented with additional actions. Online instruction will continue through the end of the semester. If you have any questions, please contact this office—we will be sending updates on a regular basis to the campus community. Another good resource is the New Mexico Department of Health’s website at cv.nmhealth.org as well as the coronavirus hotline at (855) 600-3453.

In conclusion, I encourage you to be respectful and kind to each other as we respond to this public health emergency together as a community. And, most importantly, we need to do our very best to help each other stay healthy—wash your hands frequently, capture those sneezes, maintain social distance, and if you are sick, please isolate yourself or remain home.

Thank you,

Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation)
IAIA President

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