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Founders day

2020: Moving Forward in a New Reality

A photographic retrospective of WPI's response to COVID-19 

December 18, 2020

As COVID-19 sent the world into quarantine and uncertainty this year, the WPI community and its leaders drew strength from the university’s roots and put theory and practice into play to make 2020 a year to remember.

Editor’s Note: This is the last installment of a five-part series reflecting on how the WPI community remained strong, stayed the course, and turned up its innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Part 5: The University’s Response: The Year in Photos.

Facing a complex set of challenges to keep the campus open during the pandemic, the university relied on academic flexibility and personal responsibility to resume campus life. With limited options for socialization, fitness and other activities, the university got creative, devising programs for keeping classrooms, the Sports and Recreation Center and other facilities disinfected; testing students, faculty and staff for COVID; and organizing classes and activities according to social distancing protocols. WPI was able to observe many of its traditions while continuing research, and even showcasing faculty research that has applications in COVID diagnosis and treatment.

Assembling graduation boxes
A group in the Registrar’s office assembling graduation boxes containing Class of 2020 diplomas and some freebies.
End of summer soccer practice.
End of summer soccer practice on rooftop field.
Move in day 2020.
Move-in day!
Health kits.
Health kits were given to incoming freshmen during New Student Orientation.
Hampton Inn & Suites
WPI has been housing 185 first-year students at the nearby Hampton Inn during the 2020-2021 academic year as part of the university’s efforts to reduce density in residence halls.
Crossing Earle Bridge
Crossing Earle Bridge is a time-honored tradition for freshmen. This year it took six hours for 1,120 freshmen—single file and appropriately spaced—to cross the bridge.
Spikeball on the Quad
A spirited game of Spikeball on the Quad.
Disinfecting gym equipment
Disinfecting gym equipment at Sports & Recreation Center. Under the updated 2020 guidelines, the center was open by reservation to students only.
Alden Voices sponsors paint night
The Alden Voices Choir hosted paint night social activity on Sept. 29, with students guided by a video from the late Bob Ross.
Professor Alex Smith presides over socially distanced class
Alex Smith, associate professor Social Science and Policy Studies presides over a socially distanced classroom. A total of 889 in-person and online courses were taught by 389 faculty in the fall semester.
Taking swab test for COVID
Taking a swab test in Harrington. During the fall semester, 110,000 tests were conducted, with a positive rate of .01 percent.
Pumpkin painting
Pumpkin painting, spin art, music, and more—students who stayed on campus during the term break had no shortage of things to do.
Professor Lisa Stoddard teaching a class at Institute Park pavilion
Professor Lisa Stoddard obtained a permit from the city to teach Heal the World Great Problems Seminar classes at the Institute Park pavilion. Some 260 students presented a total of 62 GPS projects in the first semester.
Message on a window, "Don't Be That Goat!"
“Don’t Be That Goat” message displayed on a large dorm window. Please keep those noses and mouths covered while on campus!
 Facilities worker uses disinfecting mist in a bathroom
A Facilities worker misting a bathroom. The university modified its cleaning and disinfection protocols to address COVID-19 in the interest of minimizing its spread.
President Laurie Leshin with Mayor Joe Petty and City Manager Edward Augustus Jr.
President Leshin gave a tour of the Harrington testing facility to Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty and City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. shortly after she was selected by Gov. Baker as a member of the state’s Reopening Advisory Board to provide advice on the state’s reopening efforts.
A Facilities worker disinfects a desk top.
A Facilities worker uses a disinfecting solution on a classroom desktop. The WPI Facilities staff cleans and disinfects all campus buildings frequently, sanitizing high-touch surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectants.
Professors Amity Manning and Sarah Olson
Professors Amity Manning (right) and Sarah Olson, have been awarded $917,999 by the National Institutes of Health to develop computational models for human cell division. WPI has seen $31 million awarded in research funding since March.
Funday Friday on the Quad.
The Nov. 6 Funday Friday hosted by the Dean of Students Office featured a hot dog giveaway. Can you guess who’s wearing the hot dog suit?
Fiona Doyle'21 starred in a one-woman play, Every Brilliant Thing.
Fiona Doyle ’21 (center) starred in Every Brilliant Thing, a one-woman play directed by Arts & Sciences department head Kate Moncrief and Emily Baker ’22, as part of Arts & Sciences Week.
Founders Day 2020
Founders Day activities on Nov. 11 featured readings of quotes by WPI founders, a T-shirt giveaway, and a contest to see who could identify founders’ quotes place on windows across campus.
Building snowmen on the Quad
An early December nor’easter dropped several inches of heavy, sticky snow on the Quad, perfect for building snowmen.
Critical Conversations panel COVID Response
The Dec. 2 Critical Conversations panel, WPI’s COVID Response: Science and Innovation, featured faculty research that has applications in COVID diagnosis and treatment. Panelist Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Mass. General Hospital and a member of WPI's Medical Advisory Board, was later named by President-Elect Joe Biden to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Students sit in Adirondack chairs
Relaxing in Adirondack chairs outside Washburn Shops. The Facilities staff put out tents and numerous chairs around campus as a safer alternative to indoor gatherings.
Cashier at Chartwells
A Chartwells employee at the Rubin Campus Center Food Court. In addition to taking care of daily dining needs, Chartwells served 400 Thanksgiving meals on campus.