Chancellor Terisa Riley announced Thursday afternoon that as of March 30, 2020, all academic instruction at UAFS will be delivered remotely for the remainder of the semester. Additionally, the University of Arkansas System board of trustees voted unanimously to postpone commencement for all system institutions until at least June 1. Riley's full message to campus is below.


"Dear Lions,

In my message this morning regarding COVID-19, I wrote that senior leaders at UA-Fort Smith must make multiple, quick decisions daily.  This email is written to communicate new information received and critical decisions made since this morning:


  • Governor Hutchinson communicated that the State of Arkansas had 46 positive cases of COVID-19 as of 2:30 p.m. At 5:55 p.m. we have 62 positive cases, none of which have been identified in Sebastian County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.  Based on new information and guidance, he announced that all public, K-12 schools in Arkansas will be taught online until at least April 17, 2020. 
  • The Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas System unanimously voted to postpone all May commencement ceremonies for our System institutions until at least June 1, 2020.  Their motion also granted university chancellors the option to cancel the ceremonies scheduled in May.  


  • Beginning March 30, 2020all courses will be taught online or via alternative educational experiences only for the remainder of this semester.  We will continue to keep our 24-hour computer labs open for currently registered students.  I will work with the provost to identify very limited hours of operation for our computer labs in the Windgate Art and Design Building and Baldor Technology Center which will be posted on our COVID-19 UAFS website no later than March 27, 2020.  Students, please complete this simple survey to give us better information about your technology access and needs:
  • Beginning March 20, 2020, non-essential staff will work remotely until April 17, 2020.  We will use the next three weeks to monitor the spread of the virus and effectiveness of the remote work to determine when employees may return to the physical campus.  Supervisors will work directly with staff to assign work which can be accomplished remotely.  If you have not received specific instructions regarding work to accomplish remotely, please ensure that you are available by email to respond during your normally scheduled work hours. 
  • As your chancellor I am committed to providing our May graduates with an opportunity to celebrate this major accomplishment.  The Office of the Registrar will be in contact with each graduate via UAFS email to provide details about future plans as soon as decisions are made, and May graduates will be invited to participate in a future commencement ceremony.
    To be clear:  Students who have met all of the requirements of their degrees by May will still have a May 2020 graduation date on their diplomas and transcripts.  The ceremony is a celebration of hardwork and accomplishments, but it is not required in order to confer your degree.  Postponing commencement ceremonies will not keep students from job searching or accepting admission to graduate or professional schools.
  • Students who live on campus currently will be allowed to live on campus for the rest of the semester; however, services and activities will be extremely limited. 

Other important notes:

  • Festivities typically planned and associated with commencement such as academic achievement awards, leadership awards, pinning ceremonies, etc. will be cancelled.  If possible, individuals planning these events will make every effort to host online recognition and/or mail items to our graduates.
  • The Research Symposium which was scheduled to be held in April has been cancelled.
  • My investiture as your chancellor originally scheduled for May 2 has been postponed to fall 2020.

  • If you have questions about whether events are happening on campus, please contact the event host directly.  That individual will be able to tell you if the event is cancelled, postponed, or will occur virtually.

Please continue to monitor our university website for updates and answers to frequently asked questions:

Graduating Students:  You are in my thoughts constantly because I know this is not the way you envisoned the completion of this stage of your educational journey.  My heart aches as a result of postponing your ceremonies and the celebrations which usually accompany them.  I cannot imagine what you must be feeling, but I can promise you that I will celebrate you virtually in May and in real life at a future commencement ceremony.  You deserve only good things, Lions!

Stay healthy and safe,

Terisa C. Riley


University of Arkansas - Fort Smith


Date Posted: 
Thursday, March 19, 2020
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