2020 was a year we will never forget: a pandemic that upended our lives, killings that sparked a nationwide movement to fight racism, a devastating wildfire season and a tumultuous election.
Even as we faced tragedy and sought to end inequities, we also shared moments of joy and curiosity, pride and hope. And we were sustained by the enduring power of education and the unwavering strength of the UW community.
Scroll on for glimpses of the diversity and depth of experiences across the UW in 2020 — the front-line workers caring for our health and safety, the students and faculty who inspired us every day, and the moments that brought us all together.
Photography by Mark Stone, Dennis Wise, Quinn Russell Brown and Ryan Moriarty. Each photograph was taken following the appropriate safety protocols at the time.
2020 was barely underway when the first snow of the decade arrived, snarling traffic and canceling classes — but rewarding locals with rare scenes of a wintry campus. Just months later, though the Quad was closed to the usual crowds of spring visitors, the UW’s famed cherry blossoms emerged with their annual splendor.
At the nation’s first epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts from across the UW and front-line workers throughout UW Medicine played a central role in our state and country — leading the way in testing; providing models and guidance to local, state and national government; researching and developing vaccines; and caring for patients and our communities.
At the same time, UW discoveries pointed the way to new therapies for COVID-19 and many other diseases, including research honored with the 2021 Breakthrough Prize.
While most students, faculty and staff worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, essential staff continued their vital roles on campus.
Anthony Cheng (’20), Jaimée Marsh (’09) and Valerie Schweigert (’17) found comfort and support at the Q Center, which provides community and services for UW students, faculty, staff and alumni of all sexual and gender orientations, identities and expressions. In response to the pandemic, the Q Center has created many ways to connect virtually.
Louis Maliyam, ’21, came to the U.S. to study computer science. Along the way, he discovered dance. In late spring, Maliyam took center stage on an otherwise empty Red Square.
A team of UW researchers — including Michele Buonaduci and Jenna Morris, graduate students in the lab of Assistant Professor of Environmental and Forest Sciences Brian Harvey — continue to collect data at the site of the 2017 Norse Peak fire. As wildfires grow more frequent and severe, UW researchers are helping our region create a path forward — for the health of our forests and all who live here.
Matt Tolentino, a UW Tacoma professor of computer engineering, founded a technology startup to help firefighters and other first responders track their personnel once they enter a scene. Tolentino has worked with the Tacoma Fire Department to test his technology at educational controlled burns like the one pictured here.
“We need an urgent shift in the climate and system. It must be steeped in anti-racism, anti-colonialism and any other form of acting against discrimination,” wrote Claire Gwayi-Chore, a global health Ph.D. student, in a special edition of the UW’s Viewpoints magazine highlighting Black voices. Gwayi-Chore was one of several UW community members calling for structural change to address systemic racism.
Renee Cantarini, an associate teaching professor in the School of Nursing, teaches a course in the Simulation Center. Reopened after implementing strict COVID-19 safety protocols, the Sim Center gives nursing students a safe and supportive way to learn and practice important hands-on skills.
Though the pandemic prevented us from honoring our veterans in person this year, the UW celebrated Veterans Day virtually. “In this incredibly challenging year, which has contained so much sadness and loss,” said President Cauce, “let us use this Veterans Day to renew our commitment to those who have put service to country first.”
Through “We Are First Generation," UW Tacoma celebrates its many students, staff and faculty who are the first in their families to go to college. More than half the UW Tacoma student population is first-generation.
Its construction completed in the fall, the Hans Rosling Center for Population Health is a collaborative hub for addressing critical issues including poverty, equity, health-care access and climate change.
Originally published December 2020