One year ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Shortly thereafter, Washington University in St. Louis made the painful but necessary decision to move students out of on-campus housing, extend Spring Break a week, and shift to remote learning.

In the months that followed, the university community—administrators, faculty, students and staff—has risen to the Herculean, nearly unthinkable challenge of this unprecedented public health emergency, innovating every step of the way. Faculty at the School of Medicine worked to better understand the virus, investigated the best ways to detect and fight it, and treated scores of COVID-19 patients from across the St. Louis area.

Scientists at the McKelvey School of Engineering used new modeling techniques to study how the virus travels in the air, from person to person, and just how much social distance is necessary to prevent its spread.

Faculty from all of WashU’s schools prepared for an academic year unlike any other, quickly pivoting to an online format. They also incorporated new ways of learning, creating community, and fostering camaraderie, while keeping everyone as safe as possible.

A female college student wearing a face mask and gloves in the lab
Sept. 14, 2020: First day of fall semester classes on the Danforth Campus during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Our operations and facilities staff—in consultation with our medical experts—reimagined the in-person campus experience, so students could return as safely as possible. And students, alums and faculty all found new ways to help the greater St. Louis community in a dire time of need.

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the onset of a pandemic that upended nearly every facet of the Washington University experience, we look back on what was achieved as WashU innovated through the COVID-19 crisis, and how we continue to move forward, together.