Looking back at 2023-24

By Jon Gardiner, University Photographer

Carolina photographers play a special role in documenting life as a Tar Heel and what makes UNC-Chapel Hill so special. They’re at the big ceremonies and celebrations, but also capture candid moments from across campus.

With the 2023-24 academic year in the books, University Photographer Jon Gardiner looked back at some memorable photographs from key moments of this year at Carolina and shares the story behind them.


Students carry belongings in elevator

Move-In Day

Students move into Hinton James Residence Hall on Aug. 18, 2023.

This is one of those events that happens every year, which makes move-in a tradition that ties past and present students together. I enjoy trying to find a scene that both new students and alumni can relate to. Deciding how to furnish a room is always a tough decision.

Students sip from Old Well

First sip

Students take a sip from The Old Well on the first day of classes, Aug. 21, 2023.

A tradition for students has become a tradition for me. Trying to capture an image with the right mood can be both challenging and unexpected. Sometimes all the elements come together just right.

Community members stand with candles at Smith Center

Candlelight vigil

UNC-Chapel Hill campus and community members gather for a candlelight vigil in memory of Dr. Zijie Yan at the Dean E. Smith Center the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023.

Yan was killed Aug. 28, 2023, at Caudill Labs. Two days after immense tragedy, the campus community came together in solidarity and support for Yan’s family.

Two students ride bicycles next to person walking at night

Students helping students feel safe

SafeWalk program director Nick Chappell and SafeWalk staffer Ian Bracken walk with junior Sarah Peralta from Davis Library to her residence hall on Dec. 12, 2023.

The student-run organization helps Tar Heels get where they need to go safely during late hours. I joined them one night before finals during the fall semester.

Cormac Ryan points up as fans cheer behind him

Get up and jump around

Carolina basketball player Cormac Ryan gets a rousing show of approval after nailing a 3-pointer during the team’s game against Duke on Feb. 3 at the Dean E. Smith Center.

The annual matchup between these two teams is always filled with excitement and a sense of gravitas.

The Old Well in front of South Building

Spring scene

The trees on McCorkle Place start to fill with the bright green hue of new leaves on April 4.

We try to capture scenes around campus during every season to get a full representation of Carolina through the year.


People wearing eclipse glasses look upward

Safety first

People gather near the sundial at Morehead Planetarium on April 8 to view the solar eclipse using solar viewing shades.

Chapel Hill wasn’t in the path of totality, but those on campus were still able to see a partial eclipse. The event coincided with Morehead’s 75th anniversary celebration and annual UNC Science Expo.

Professor dunked in dunk tank


Carolina Cancer Association holds a “Dunk-A-Professor” fundraiser in support of the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation, which benefits adolescent and young adult cancer patients at UNC Hospitals. The event was held in the Pit on April 25.

In this image, Lillian Zwemer, teaching assistant professor in the biology department, is dunked.

Student holds cap in air as fireworks go off

From Zoom to boom

The class of 2024 started their Carolina journey during COVID lockdowns and remote classes. On May 11, they celebrated together with a ceremony that included a keynote address by NASA astronaut and double Tar Heel Zena Cardman and a fireworks display coordinated with the playing of “Hark the Sound.”

In this photo, Rebecca Rand, a first generation graduate and Carolina Covenant Scholar, celebrates with her fellow graduates.