By any measure, 2020—the start of a new decade—was an eventful year around the world: an historic pandemic, renewed calls for racial justice and a presidential election in the United States. Here at Case Western Reserve University, the year was full of big headlines as it relates to all of those topics and more, including changes in our own leadership. 

This year saw our students, faculty, staff and alumni rally around one another, despite myriad challenges, to help one another and the community. As we compiled the list of top stories from 2020, that common thread carried throughout the year. While many anticipate what a new year will hold, we invite you to take a look back at some of the highlights of 2020 at CWRU.

Below, our 20 most-read news and research stories from 2020* are listed in ascending order.

20. U.S. News ranks Case Western Reserve’s graduate/professional programs

The 2020 graduate and professional rankings by U.S. News & World Report showed the strength of CWRU’s health professions, with medical and nursing programs having particularly strong results.

19. From Our Campus to Space: E-Week 2020

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we welcomed astronaut and alumnus Don Thomas to campus to celebrate Engineers Week in February. As a Shuttle mission specialist, Thomas went to space in the 1990s following a career defined by perseverance.

18. CWRU faculty prep for fall semester with simulated spaces

As questions about what fall semester would look like swirled, the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education and its COVID-19 planning subcommittees toured rooms that simulated classroom spaces with safety protections.

17. Joy Ward named new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

In January, the College of Arts and Sciences learned who its new leader would be: Joy K. Ward, then an associate dean for research and dean’s professor at the University of Kansas. Ward assumed her new role at the start of July, when she took time to answer our five questions.

16. HoloAnatomy goes remote, learning goes on during pandemic

Despite the physical distancing required by the COVID-19 pandemic, first-year medical students at CWRU still were able to get an in-depth look at the body, all with the help of the Microsoft HoloLens and HoloAnatomy® software. Led by anatomy professor Susanne Wish-Baratz, 185 students used the mixed-reality software from their homes across the U.S. and Canada.

15. Case Western Reserve University teams with Nottingham Spirk, Penn State Behrend to create COVID-19 face shields

When the pandemic started and there was a shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers, a team from CWRU, Nottingham Spirk and Penn State Behrend stepped up to help fill the gap by partnering with manufacturers to produce face shields. 

14. Nurse-scientist warns against reliance on gloves against virus

Shanina Knighton, a nurse-scientist/researcher at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, gave insight on the potential for viruses to spread on surfaces and the need for proper training on glove use for grocery store employees.

13. CWRU School of Medicine generates new remote course on epidemiology of pandemics in response to global outbreak

When Elisabeth Wynia, then a fourth-year School of Medicine student, was looking for options after her final hospital rotation was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she came up with an idea to help her classmates earn a topical elective: Epidemiology of Pandemics and Global Response.

12. Understanding the COVID-19 pandemic: History alumnus and medical student shares lessons from our past

As an undergraduate student at CWRU, Tarun Jella (CWR ’17) wrote his senior capstone on the Spanish flu of 1918. Now a medical student at the university, his work gave him a unique vantage point to understand the COVID-19 pandemic and the parallels between the crises.

11. Former University of Minnesota president to lead CWRU

In his leadership of the University of Minnesota, Eric W. Kaler grew the institution’s research, fundraising and graduation rates. In October, Case Western Reserve Board Chair Fred DiSanto announced that Kaler will become CWRU’s next president on July 1, 2021.

10. Meet eight of CWRU’s outstanding 2020 graduates

While the Class of 2020 didn’t have the chance to celebrate with the usual pomp and circumstance of commencement, we recognized a few of our accomplished graduates in short profiles.

9. Robert Solomon named university’s new vice president for Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity

Earlier this year, Case Western Reserve welcomed Robert Solomon to campus as the university’s vice president for the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity. Solomon previously served as the assistant provost for diversity and inclusion at The Ohio State University.

8. CWRU officers respond to flooding near campus, rescue driver

In March, campus saw heavy rains that resulted in near-record high waters and the need for CWRU officers to help a driver escape their car as flooding increased rapidly. The officers also closed flood doors on buildings on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and helped residents of nearby apartments who were trapped due to flooding.

7. Scott Cowen to serve as interim president

Scott Cowen, president emeritus of Tulane University and former dean of the Weatherhead School of Management, was named the interim president of Case Western Reserve in June. He assumed the role Oct. 1. While he was president of Tulane, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and Cowen led the university through the recovery process.

6. CWRU leaders authorize “test-optional” admissions for students entering in fall 2021

When ACT and SAT examinations were canceled earlier this year, CWRU responded by implementing a test-optional policy for students applying for Fall 2021. Advocating for the change, Richard Bischoff, the university’s vice president for enrollment management, noted that uncertainty surrounding testing caused anxiety among applicants and their families and the change would allow for them to focus on their studies.

5. Day of Dialogue offers opportunities to listen, learn, and inspire action

This summer, when George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, it renewed calls for racial justice in all aspects of life. Case Western Reserve hosted an opportunity for members of the community to come together through dialogue to spark change.

4. Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder to lead Association of American Universities

In February, now-President Emerita Barbara R. Snyder announced she would be stepping down to pursue leadership of the Association of American Universities. President Emerita Snyder came to CWRU in 2007, a tenure that included notable partnerships with local institutions, the successful Forward Thinking capital campaign, and the increased academic strength and diversity of incoming classes of undergraduate students.

3. CES 2020: Case Western Reserve set for seventh year in Vegas

CWRU’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit was on display once again this year at CES, an annual international convention that attracts a large audience. CWRU’s presence at the show included students, alumni, representatives from the university’s innovation ecosystem and presenters who were part of the Northeast Ohio entrepreneur ecosystem.

2. Mapping the COVID-19 risk

Case Western Reserve University researchers developed an online tool to help individuals assess their relative risk of being exposed to COVID-19 based on the virus’ spread. Yanfang (Fanny) Ye, the Theodore L. and Dana J. Schroeder Associate Professor in the Department of Computer and Data Sciences and the Institute for Smart, Secure and Connected Systems (ISSACS) at the Case School of Engineering, and Kenneth Loparo, the Arthur L. Parker Professor and Faculty Director of ISSACS, led the research.

1. Case Western Reserve and Cleveland Clinic to Host First Presidential Debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, in Health Education Campus’ Samson Pavilion

The Samson Pavilion at the Health Education Campus was the site of the first presidential debate of 2020 between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, now president-elect.

*This list does not include obituaries of the faculty, staff and students who passed away during 2020.