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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.