2020: A Year to Remember

Main page content

From beekeeping to salmon saving, 2020 showed the determination and perseverance of the UW Tacoma community.

2020 is a year to remember. We will remember the pandemic of COVID-19 and the tragic violence that has ignited new efforts to eliminate racism. We will remember the chaotic election. We will remember social distancing and mask-wearing.

Let us also remember the many ways we continued in our lives. The progress we made in our education or our work or our relationships. The things we did that emerged as just the right things to be doing in the moment.

Scroll down to view a collection of photos that capture a year in the life of this campus. These photos and their accompanying stories underline the boundless strength of UW Tacoma and our community.

Photography by Ryan Moriarty or as indicated. Each photograph was taken following the appropriate safety protocols at the time.

Tacoma Public School student building hive box for mason bees.
A Blossoming Partnership -- Local high-school students teamed up with UW Tacoma’s Giving Garden to create habitats for bees and other pollinators. Students from Tacoma’s Science and Math Institute (SAMI), School of the Arts (SOTA) and the school of Industrial Design, Engineering and Art (IDEA) spent three-and-a-half weeks in a program called “Bee UWT,” a class designed to promote student leadership, educate citizens in the community about beekeeping, and promote pollinators in the city.

2019-20 UW Tacoma University Rover Challenge team.
Mars in their Eyes – A group of science and technology students designed a Mars rover vehicle for the University Rover Challenge, sponsored by the Mars Society. Unfortunately the final rounds of the competition were cancelled due to COVID-19, but the team built a "skeleton" rover and produced a video documenting their efforts.

Sampling crew about to board NOAA research vessel Robert L. Emmett.
Predicting Harmful Algal Blooms using Molecular Detection – Researchers from UW Tacoma, including Caitlyn McFarland, ’20, Gibson French, environmental sciences senior, Associate Teaching Professor Julie Masura and Associate Professor Cheryl Greengrove are developing innovative techniques that will reduce the time and cost needed to monitor blooms of a toxic phytoplankton species.

Aerial view of Tacoma, Wash., including UW Tacoma campus
Carnegie Foundation Recognizes UW Tacoma Community Engagement – Collaborations with hundreds of regional partners garner all three UW campuses the coveted Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, which indicates institutional commitment to community engagement.

Images of South Sound Proud mural, Gerard Tsutakawa artwork Yantra and renderings of proposed Center for Equity & Inclusion
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most classes in 2020 operated remotely; thus the daily population of students, faculty and staff on campus was reduced to a minimum. When we are able to return, we will find our favorite buildings and places have been well cared for. And we will find new things and progress on new spaces.

At left above, in collaboration with South Sound Together and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, a “South Sound Proud” wall mural featuring the Lushootseed name for Mt. Rainier has been installed on the side of Walsh Gardner.

At center above, Yantra is an eight-foot-tall bronze sculpture created as a representation of yin and yang by renowned artist Gerard Tsutakawa. The artwork, installed in a stairway atrium in the Mattress Factory, is a generous gift of Dan and Pat Nelson of Gig Harbor, Wash.

At right above is a concept sketch for the Center for Equity & Inclusion in the UW Tacoma Learning Commons, part of a reconfiguration of Snoqualmie Library and the Tioga Library Building. Designers Shona Bose and Seong Shin at McGranahan Architects shared the concepts guiding their design for the space, construction of which is expected to begin during winter quarter in 2021.

Fire on a house roof
The dramatic scene above is taking place at a controlled burn of a house being removed to make way for a new high school in Graham, Wash. Assistant Professor Matt Tolentino arranged to demonstrate the technology behind his Firefly system, which for the first time will provide real-time tracking of first responders as they move through fire-engulfed areas.

Computer lab at UW Tacoma
A seemingly empty computer lab in March 2020 is deceptive. Campus IT personnel reconfigured most labs across campus and their computers for remote access, a necessary COVID-19 accommodation. Among many other pandemic innovations, the IT staff also made campus WiFi available to students safely ensconced in their parked cars, circulated loaner laptops to students and staff, and designed an application that allows students to attest to being symptom-free before coming to campus.

Portrait of Rosa Franklin against background of Tacoma skyline with inset of book cover.
Lift as You Climb – Tacoma icon Rosa Franklin has spent a lifetime helping others both as a nurse and as a state legislator. Franklin and local historian Tamiko Nimura collaborated on an oral history that is a memoir of sorts, and discussed it on an episode of Paw’d Defiance, the UW Tacoma podcast. Their conversation spanned her coming of age in South Carolina, her 40-year nursing career and her 20 years in the Washington House of Representatives and the Senate. She was the first Black woman elected to the Senate.

Collage of images: mask sewing, 3D printing; HopeLivesHere window display
One response provoked by the events of 2020: an unquenchable desire to help others. The UW Tacoma community was no exception.

At left above, a collage of images depicts the process of making masks in the households of faculty member Duong (Rita) Than, faculty member Bonnie Becker, staff member BrieAnna Bales and student Jessy Wolff.

At center above, the headband for a face shield emerges from a UW Tacoma 3D printer. Matt Tolentino and Bob Landowski of the School of Engineering and Technology turned a lab into a manufacturing hub to help meet the demand by local healthcare workers for personal protective equipment.

At right above, retailers who lease space on campus used their windows to communicate messages of hope and solidarity.

Stacey Fernandez, '20
Work in Progress -- Just like a collage, social welfare alumna Stacey Fernandez, ’20, is adding new pieces to her self-portrait: UW Tacoma graduate and Seattle University master’s student. A first-generation student, she decided she wants to help students like her succeed in higher education. Fernandez is the recipient of the Student Dream Award at the 2020 MLK Jr. Unity Breakfast and a UW Latino Center for Health Student Scholars Fellowship.

Imaginary theater marquee: Now Playing in Tacoma, Maria-Tania Bandes B. Weingarden
The Show Will Go On … Somehow – How do you do theater in a pandemic? Assistant Teaching Professor Maria-Tania Bandes-Becerra Weingarden is the first full-time theater faculty on the UW Tacoma campus. She is developing courses that will perhaps, over time, lead to a theater studies minor. She is also directing campus productions, although COVID-19 has put a strange spin on that aspect of her job.

Member of Class of 2020 in graduation gown taking imaginary flight in front of steel W on UW Tacoma campus
A Giant Leap – Every student’s journey toward a degree is unique, and the Class of 2020 is no exception. They faced some pretty stiff headwinds: a global pandemic, a sudden economic shock, widening political divisions, the struggle to have a voice and be heard, and sobering rise in state-sanctioned violence. Read about 14 students who, like all the others in the Class of 2020, persisted. They overcame challenges, personal and communal, and they learned along the way.

Portraits of First Generation members of the UW Tacoma community: Michelle Ley Earthwright, Vincent Da, Angel Torres, Dr. Robin Zape-tah-hol-ah Minthorn
We Are First Gen -- UW Tacoma takes pride in serving students who are the first in the family to attend college. Many UW Tacoma staff and faculty are also first generation. Each year we invite First Gen students, faculty and staff to tell us in their own words about their experiences and where they find their strength. Above, from left: Michelle Ley Earthwright, Vincent Da, Angel Torres, Dr. Robin Zape-tah-hol-ah Minthorn.

Contrasting views of urban areas with differences in tree canopy.
New Science Paper: Racism Affects All Life in Cities – Two faculty members in the School of Interdisicplinary Arts & Sciences — Christopher Schell and Danica Miller — were lead author and co-author, respectively, on a review paper in Science that analyzes the influence of systemic inequalities on ecology and evolution.

Portraits of Dr. Robin Starr Zape-tah-hol-ah Minthorn; Dr. Denise Bill; Amy Maharaj; Dr. Michelle Montgomery; Ashley Walker.
Indigenizing Higher Education -- UW Tacoma's School of Education and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe have signed a memorandum of agreement that brings a doctoral program to the tribal college. Educational Leadership Director Dr. Robin Starr Zape-tah-hol-ah Minthorn (above left) and Academic Advisor Ashley Walker (right) worked with Muckleshoot Tribal College Executive Director Dr. Denise Bill (second from left) and Muckleshoot Academic Affairs Specialist Amy Maharaj (center). Minthorn and Associate Professor Michelle Montgomery (second from right) started teaching classes in late June.

UW Tacoma custodial team
Custodial Superheroes – The stalwart UW Tacoma custodial team is keeping campus shiny even while most of us are working and learning remotely. During 2020, the campus transitioned from contracting with an outside company for custodial services to a university-employed team. In the photo above are (from left to right) Shirley Dority, Laura Martinez, Maria Sandoval, Sandra Garcia, Dennis Bitz, Svetlana Tetlov, Helen Baker-Gates, Janet Salazar, Mike Jones, Ryan Kinsella-Harmon.

New greenhouse in UW Tacoma Giving Garden
A House in the Garden – A new greenhouse in UW Tacoma’s Giving Garden will yield more fruits, vegetables and learning opportunities. In 2019, the garden produced about 400 pounds of produce for students and members of the campus community. Ryan Moriarty, the garden’s staff sponsor, hopes to double that number in the next couple years, in part through the addition of the greenhouse. In the image above, the new greenhouse is at left. The striped building at right is the garden’s SHED, the Sustainable Hub for Education and Demonstration.

Ocean sunset. Still image from a video by Nick Roden.
Sarah Smith Plumbs the Depths – Sarah Smith, senior in communications, recently completed a documentary about an underwater ocean observatory, learning more about “one of the most underexplored places known to humans.” The subject of her film is the Regional Cabled Array of the Ocean Observatories Initiative, a tectonic-plate-spanning collection of cables, cameras and sensors that has been built by a multi-agency, multi-university team led by University of Washington researchers. Smith wrote about her experience producing the documentary. The image above is a still from Sarah’s documentary, from footage made by oceanographer Nick Roden.

Collage of portraits of formerly-incarcerated members of the UW Tacoma community
After Prison – UW Tacoma alumnus Omari Amili spent time in prison before earning three degrees from UW Tacoma. For the December 2020 cover story in University of Washington Magazine, he interviewed 10 other people who graduated after they got out, seven of whom are in the UW Tacoma community. In the image above, from left to right: Theron Taylor, ’20, Psychology; Christopher Beasley, Assistant Professor; Christopher Johnston, ’17, Law & Policy; LeShawn Gamble, ’19, Psychology; Amanda Henritze, current student, Urban Design; Omari Amili, ’14 Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences/Psychology, ’16 MA Community & Social Change; Kurt Myers, ’18 Business Administration; Cynthia Brady, ’15, Ethnic, Gender & Labor Studies.

Coho salmon returning to Suquamish Tribe's Govers Creek Hatchery. Photo by K. King, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
CUW Research Identifies Salmon Killer – Scientists have discovered what is killing more than half the coho salmon that return to Puget Sound’s urban streams every fall. A team led by researchers at UW Tacoma, the UW in Seattle and Washington State University Puyallup has discovered that a substance called 6PPD in tires reacts with ground-level ozone to form 6PPD-quinone, the toxic chemical that is responsible for killing the salmon. The substance is carried into freshwater streams by stormwater runoff.

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / December 23, 2020
Photos by: 
Ryan Moriarty