The year 2020 was unlike any other in Eastern Washington University’s history. But amid the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eastern community remained Eagle Strong. Professors and students alike made the transition to online learning, staff worked to support student success in whole new ways, and so many of you stepped up to not only help the campus community, but also others in need throughout the region.
To celebrate the success of Eagle Nation this past year, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular stories published on InsideEWU in 2020. These stories exemplify the drive and fighting spirit Eagles have shown throughout the past year.
It didn’t take long for members of the Eagle family to jump into action to help those in need during the coronavirus crisis. A group of five friends, each with a connection to EWU, quickly organized the West Plains Emergency Response Volunteers (WPEV) group on Facebook. The group developed a method to provide immediate and confidential assistance, such as grocery delivery, to individuals and families who need help due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a typical year, dozens of Eastern Washington University students chose to spend their spring breaks working in service projects around the globe. But during this year’s anything-but typical spring break, many of these students found themselves serving much closer to home.
Count EWU’s Bethany Laird among them. Laird, a 24-year-old master of public health student, was among the first group of volunteers to serve with the Spokane Regional Health District’s “drive through” COVID-19 testing facility at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
Some friendships simply cannot be cut short—even when a pandemic forces thousands of miles of separation.
Such was the case for Aylin Contreras, a then junior studying Spanish and computer science at Eastern. As a volunteer with Eastern’s Asia University America Program (AUAP), she met several Japanese study-abroad students from Asia University. However, only a month after their arrival, the pandemic forced the students to return to their homes in Tokyo, Japan.
Saddened by their early departure, Contreras created a TikTok video highlighting her favorite memories with the group. The emotional tribute got a lot of attention—more than 1.2 million likes at last count.
As spring sprung and the temperature warmed, we were asked to stay home to help slow the spread of the virus. Schools were also closed, leaving families scrambling for ideas to not only continue learning outside the classroom, but also keep kids entertained. Nigel Davies, a scientific instructional technician in the EWU Geology Department, had an idea: #ExploreOutoor.
As COVID-19 forced Eastern Washington University to shift to virtual learning, many students were left without the technology they required to continue their education. Fortunately, the EWU Foundation and the university’s Student Care Team recognized the need and quickly utilized the Student Emergency Fund to purchase Chromebooks. Two hundred were distributed at the beginning of spring quarter.
While the move to online classes was not something anyone expected, Eastern students showed they are quick learners who are always willing help one another out. At the start of the quarter, EWU asked its followers on Instagram to share their tips for being successful in the world of online learning. We received so many great responses!
As the coronavirus pandemic upended business as usual for millions of Washington residents, Nichole Speaks, a then senior studying psychology at EWU, went all in on a new enterprise: working to ensure that some of our region’s most vulnerable persons—and the people that care for them—got the facemasks they needed to stay safe.
Reanna Guerrero, a then freshman at Eastern, and her music teacher mom, Rosi, were featured in an official, Earth Day-inspired music video released on April 22. Major Lazer and Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford recruited more than 200 artists from nearly 30 countries for their collaborative single “Lay Your Head on Me.”
Long before COVID-19, Jeff Corkill, a professor of biochemistry, knew spring 2020 was going to be his final time in the lab. After 39 years of service to Eastern Washington University, he was set to retire over the summer. Even so, Corkill never imagined his final lab project would involve making an alcohol-based sanitizer to help the community stay safe during a pandemic.
How does a group of “Eagle Strong” students and faculty accommodate an after-school program for middle school kids during a pandemic? Well, they certainly don’t cancel it—they innovate!
Students work hard to earn degrees from Eastern Washington University. Every spring each graduate’s diligence and dedication is rewarded when they walk across the commencement stage and hear their name called in front of classmates, family and friends. So, you can imagine the heartbreak for the EWU class of 2020 when they learned that, due to coronavirus, they would not have their moment on the graduation stage.
To ensure that each 2020 graduate got the recognition they deserved, EWU changed commencement to include a variety of public and virtual shows of support, as well as a personalized celebration for each graduating Eagle.
Kira Lewis was so busy saving lives that she barely registered the fact that Eastern’s semester graduation ceremony had been postponed due to COVID-19.
As a newly minted Master of Public Health program graduate from EWU, under more ordinary circumstances Lewis almost certainly would have been among those donning a cap and gown. Instead, Lewis was among a handful of public health nurses working directly with some of Spokane County’s most vulnerable people.
EWU choir students, missing their usual rehearsals and performances during spring quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, recorded songs for their fellow Eagles to enjoy. The three-video project included the Star-Spangled Banner, the EWU Alma Mater and the EWU Fight Song.
Summer is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the Inland Northwest. But as some of us were scratching our heads trying to find ways to stay active during the pandemic, the EWU Recreation and Leisure Services Department had some fun suggestions for getting “out there.”
Chris Cindric, a senior lecturer in Recreation and Leisure Services at Eastern, along with some of his fellow recreation and leisure professors, put together a summer-long video series for Out There Outdoors magazine. Spinning off the name of the novel coronavirus—COVID-19—they came up with the title: The SPOvid-19 Local Adventure Series. Each week for 19 weeks a member of the group produced a video highlighting outdoor recreation ideas and opportunities during the pandemic.
For so many of us, the world seemed to come to a sudden stop in March. When COVID-19 spread around the globe, almost everything changed. The impact was particularly difficult for EWU’s theatre program. Amidst their winter production—the world they knew stopped.
But theater folks are nothing if not creative. Even though they were forced to cancel their spring production as well, it didn’t take long for the department to adapt an in-person discipline to an online format.
Eastern Washington University’s electrical engineering club is proving that even a worldwide pandemic can’t keep an eager engineer from making advancements. Even though club members are now spread out and meeting only in a virtual space, they’re collaborating like never before, developing with top-of-the-line technologies and learning new skills aimed at impressing potential employers.
InsideEWU won’t stop telling your #EagleStrong stories in 2021! If you have a story to share about yourself or another member of the Eastern community who has proven that Eagles are resilient in the face of challenges, please submit your recommendation here.