Skip to main content

The Year in Photos: 2020

January 15, 2021

The sun’s coming up on a new year, but it doesn’t feel right to move into 2021 without once more acknowledging the flexibility, determination, and commitment shown by WPI’s students, faculty, and staff to make it through a year like no other—and to do so together.

After two months of normalcy, March 2020 had us—and the world—taking a hard turn into uncharted territory, and we responded by doing what we do best: coming together as a community of problem solvers, using our collective passions, empathy, and expertise to respond to this unprecedented global crisis. 

Hybrid courses, reinvented labs and projects, and a robust COVID-19 testing protocol combined with upheld traditions, sports and band practices, and continued groundbreaking research. While 2020 undoubtedly looked different, it was still very much WPI. The resiliency of our community has never been more evident, and while the pandemic continues on, so do we.

Get a glimpse of what 2020 at WPI was like through the lenses of our talented (and socially distanced) staff photographers and videographers.

A large group including Laurie Leshin and Greg Fischer hold up a red ribbon as Fischer cuts it with gold scissors, symbolizing the grand opening of PracticePoint.

2020 began with a ribbon cutting ceremony on January 14 celebrating the opening of PracticePoint at WPI, a collaborative, membership-based development and testing facility that will lead to advances in healthcare and patient wellness technologies.


A WPI student discusses the specifics of an outdoor project with a Ghanaian resident.

Keeping its momentum going, WPI announced the launch of The Global School on February 6. This new school is focused on building upon WPI’s pioneering leadership in global project-based learning as we continue to face increasingly urgent global grand challenges.


WPI students work with local Ghanaians on a project.

Sparked by the nearly 20-year friendship between department head of Social Science and Policy Studies Rob Krueger and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Kwabena Kyei-Aboagye Jr., the Ghana Project Center hosted its first group of students, who completed projects on topics ranging from building bridges and developing a health center assessment to establishing a STEM curriculum for rural Ghana.



After the university’s shift to remote status in March, the WPI community was faced with the Herculean task of transferring courses, projects, meetings, research, and other work to an online format. Innovative as ever, our students, faculty, and staff proved they were up for the challenge, completing the rest of C- and D-Terms remotely.


A laptop with a red block that reads "IT at home" is sitting on a desk next to a telephone and a workbook.

April saw the WPI community settling into a new routine. In doing so, students, faculty, and staff showed off their new at-home workspaces (and pets!) as part of an ongoing #HerdAtHome series designed to instill a continued sense of camaraderie and support.


Celebrating the WPI Class of 2020

Unable to have an in-person Commencement, the Class of 2020 was celebrated virtually in May with a downloadable class mosaic, a virtual send-off from faculty, commencement kits (complete with commencement regalia and, of course, their well-earned diplomas), and a special video from President Leshin.


A large rock is painted white with the Black power fist painted in black in the middle.

The WPI community stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement that took place across the country and around the world. As President Leshin wrote in her remarks on June 1, “Each of us, especially those of us who are privileged, must consider how we can contribute to bending the arc toward justice, and do our part to make the universe we want to see.”


A red banner listing steps students, faculty, and staff can take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

New normal, new signage: members of the facilities team spent much of the month of June installing new signage across campus, reminding students, faculty, and staff of new rules and requirements upon entering campus buildings.


A member of the facilities team enters a restroom to sanitize it.

Next up, sanitization. From desks to doorknobs, the facilities team worked hard to sanitize each and every part of campus in anticipation of the return of students, faculty, and staff to Boynton Hill (six feet apart, of course).


President Leshin directs a car to their respective residence hall during one of 2020's move-in days.

Over 1,000 students descend on campus during a typical move-in day at WPI. This year, to ensure as safe and efficient a process as possible, move-in day became move-in week, with the Residential Services team (as well as, in true WPI fashion, dozens of volunteers from across campus, including President Leshin) orchestrating a carefully crafted plan to welcome new and returning students.


An aerial view of the COVID-19 testing center in Harrington Auditorium.

After months of planning, WPI unveiled a comprehensive routine testing program that went into effect as students, faculty, and staff returned to campus in August, with results, definitions, and more information available on the WPI dashboard.


Students cross Earle Bridge during this year's bridge crossing tradition.

New students kicked off their WPI experience with the Earle Bridge crossing. While this revered tradition may have looked different this year, the Student Alumni Society ensured it still happened, with the Class of 2024 crossing Earle Bridge socially distanced within various groups on August 30.


A researcher holds up a transparent slide while wearing gloves and a face covering.

Following a strict set of guidelines, researchers returned to the labs in September, including associate professor of mechanical engineering Pratap Rao’s team in the Laboratory for Education & Application Prototypes.


Members of the WPI football team participate in a socially distanced conditioning practice on the rooftop field.

The difficult decision not to participate in athletics competitions this year didn’t stop our teams (like the football team, seen here holding socially distanced strength and conditioning practices on the rooftop field) from continuing their training, proving yet again that nothing will stop our goats from being, well, the GOAT.


Students gather for an outdoor class while keeping social distance.

All classrooms on campus were rearranged to meet social distancing guidelines, but some professors, like associate teaching professor of social science Lisa Stoddard, took advantage of open spaces in Institute Park to create outdoor classrooms as well.


A photo of a socially distanced band practice in Higgins House Gardens.

We soundtracked October with socially distant band practice on the Higgins House lawn, giving students the chance to channel their inner Mozart while staying safe.


Students relax in Adirondack chairs on campus.

Pandemic or no pandemic, relaxing outside is still a hangout spot of choice for many students, especially during the early fall weather (socially distanced selfies, anyone?).


Students from SAS don their face coverings and red-and-white striped shirts and pose together with Gompei.

Another WPI tradition … Founders Day. Held each November 11 on the anniversary of Boynton Hall’s dedication in 1868, it’s a day to honor all things WPI, past, present, and future. While this year’s celebration looked different from those in the past, it was still a fitting glimpse of what’s to come in the future.


Goat Out and Vote, WPI!

In anticipation of the 2020 election, several students shared their reasons for voting—why it’s important to make their voices heard.


A screenshot of a Zoom meeting with members of the WPI community and their pets.

Students, faculty, staff, lend us your pets! Calling this year stressful is an understatement, which is why the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team hosted “Zooming with Pets,” an event that, to no one’s surprise, was exactly as delightful and adorable as it sounds.


A photo of Bella in a pile of snow while wearing a red scarf and red and green elf hat.

There’s really no better way to close out the year than with K-9 Bella, who, although there may not have been enough snow for a full-fledged igloo this year, wasn’t deterred from making the most of it (while showing off her impeccable holiday fashion sense).