The University is currently operating under normal conditions
To say the 2020-2021 academic year was different from years past is an understatement. The ongoing pandemic changed the Carolina experience for all our students.
Traditions from Convocation to Commencement took new forms, many classes were conducted online and regular campus hangouts were transformed into testing sites and vaccine clinics in an effort to keep our community safe.
Despite the challenges and obstacles, this year also gave us plenty to celebrate.
Students excelled in their academics, even in a remote setting. Researchers made remarkable discoveries — many that advanced our response to the pandemic. Tar Heels won national championships. And Carolina officially installed its 12th chancellor.
Most importantly, we saw the Carolina community come together and support each other.
The Carolina community grew by more than 7,600 in August, with a new wave of Tar Heels beginning their academic careers at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Back-to-school celebrations were held the night before FDOC as Tar Heels kicked off the year with storied Carolina traditions that took on new looks, including a virtual Convocation and a livestreamed Sunset Serenade.
Meet members of the Class of 2024
Though Carolina shifted gears at the start of the semester to return to predominantly remote learning, the University continued to make history, conduct research and celebrate its students throughout the fall semester.
In October, Kevin M. Guskiewicz was installed as chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The installation of a chancellor is a significant moment in the University’s history because it allows us to recognize our past and look toward our future.
The historic event was livestreamed and featured brief remarks from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, UNC System President Peter Hans and faculty and staff leaders.
Carolina continued to hold its place as one of the best-ranked universities for value and academic programs this year.
In the fall, Carolina was named the best value among public universities by the U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best College rankings for the 16th time. The same ranking listed UNC-Chapel Hill as the fifth-best public university in the nation for the 20th consecutive year.
We were also named the third best public university in the country by the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education’s ranking, and the 30th ranked university in the world in the 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Winter Commencement was postponed this year, but the end of the fall semester was still a time to celebrate the achievements and dedication of the graduating students. More than 1,200 Tar Heels, including graduate students, finished their academic careers in December.
With historic buildings and picturesque landscaping, Carolina's campus is iconic, and some of the University's most beautiful spots are worth a closer look. Photographer Johnny Andrews shared close-ups of some of the objects, designs and textures that might be easy to miss at Carolina.
The Carolina Tree Heritage program is giving second life to downed campus trees by transforming the trunks and branches into furniture, sculptures and other wooden creations, with the proceeds going toward student scholarships.
In September, Carolina officially opened its Asian American Center to cultivate a critical understanding of Asian American peoples, cultures and histories.
Alumni Peter Andringa and Sarah Mackenzie became Carolina’s 50th and 51st Rhodes Scholars in November. The world’s oldest international fellowship award, the Rhodes Scholarship funds study at the University of Oxford in England.
More Tar Heels returned to campus for the spring semester and found some new programs in place — a COVID-19 testing program and, later, a vaccination clinic at the former Wendy's in the Carolina Union. Spring break was converted into several long weekends to allow for more breaks throughout the semester.
By mid-May, nearly 6,300 students graduated, becoming Carolina alumni.
When you walked across campus in the spring, you were sure to see students in yellow vests ready to help community members navigate campus buildings. When students walked into a Carolina Together Testing Center site, they saw even more students ready to assist their peers.
Student volunteers were all over campus, helping to keep Tar Heels safe and healthy. More than 1,400 students volunteered with Carolina Together Ambassadors and the Carolina COVID-19 Student Services Corps throughout the semester.
Roy Williams, who led the University of North Carolina to three NCAA championships, retired in April after 33 seasons and 903 wins as a college basketball head coach. In addition to NCAA titles in 2005, 2009 and 2017, he led the Tar Heels to a 485-163 record, two other Final Fours, nine ACC regular-season championships and three ACC Tournament crowns.
Hubert Davis, who helped lead the Tar Heels to the 1991 Final Four as a sharpshooting guard and to two Final Fours and a national title during nine years as an assistant coach, was named the new head coach.
Pandemic protocols shifted the landscape of college athletics this year, but Tar Heels continued to bring home ACC titles and national championships.
Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams captured ITA National Team Indoor championship titles in February. A month later, Austin O’Connor became Carolina wrestling’s sixth national champion when he won the 149-pound NCAA Championship. Most recently, the field hockey team won its ninth national championship. It was the team’s third-straight title.
Several teams are still competing in their NCAA tournaments, so more trophies may be on their way to Chapel Hill soon.
Graduating Tar Heels experienced a Spring Commencement like no other when nearly 6,300 graduates were celebrated throughout five ceremonies. Thousands of friends and family members joined the University, virtually and in Kenan Stadium, for the celebrations.
Drs. Anthony Fauci and Kizzmekia Corbett ’14 (Ph.D.), two of the nation’s leading experts on COVID-19 pandemic research and national response strategies, also virtually joined the ceremonies to congratulate the students and share advice as they enter a new chapter in their lives.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received 31,940 applications for its early action deadline for first-year admission in 2021, representing an increase of 10% compared to last year.
On the ground level of Craige Residence Hall, down a small set of stairs just off the volleyball court, sits the new Carolina Gaming Arena, a space designed for everybody from casual gamers to competitive players. The arena was outfitted with state-of-the-art gaming PCs and monitors provided by Lenovo.
UNC-Chapel Hill also ranked second on the list of public universities for financial aid and fifth among best value public colleges for students with no demonstrated financial need. In addition, Carolina is listed as eighth among public universities for making an impact.
The pandemic year was anything but easy for all of us. Hardships and frustrations collectively created a lingering weariness on our entire community. As UNC-Chapel Hill hit the one-year mark of the beginning of remote learning this March, the Carolina community reflected on one of the past year.