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Year in review: ASU's top stories

From poets to pups to peering into the past, Sun Devils have continued to create, discover and help others

A 2021 tassel hangs from a graduation cap
December 17, 2021

As the pandemic nears the end of its sophomore year, it's worth taking a moment to acknowledge the compassion, grit and creativity of the Arizona State University community. Despite the unpredictable challenges of COVID-19, Sun Devils continued to take care of one another and the wider community.

And as effective vaccines became widely available this past year, we were able to come together more often; there is undeniable joy and encouragement in a campus again abuzz with learners. And in spite of the shifting obstacles of the past year, that sense of discovery has never waned — as some of the top stories of the past 12 months can attest.


As we thankfully left 2020 behind, the pandemic and political upheaval of the previous year traveled with us into the new one. Through it all, the health and well-being of our communities stayed at the forefront, with Sun Devils continuing to pitch in to help others.


With COVID-19 vaccinations dominating headlines — including the Feb. 1 opening of the state's second COVID-19 drive-thru vaccination site at ASU’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium — people were finding creative ways to support and beautify their communities safely. 


Space news was big, along with continued top-10 rankings, workforce efforts to help address a critical skills shortage in the U.S., and the ribbon cutting on a biomedical facility in downtown Phoenix to expand medical education and research in the metro area.


The encroaching summer heat prompted the state vaccination site that was at Phoenix Municipal Stadium to move indoors at ASU's Desert Financial Arena, and Sun Devils continued to break ground in a number of ways.


Health care innovations and more than one snake story kept readers busy this month.


ASU leaders said hello and goodbye (and goodbye) to new roles this month, Poly got some new feathered friends and Sun Devils got news that Broadway shows were returning to the ASU Gammage stage. Oh, and ASU got its second ever home-grown Pulitzer Prize (find out more in the gallery below).


The long-awaited 2020 Summer Olympics kicked off this month, and the ASU community was able to cheer on 20 Sun Devils in competition.


As the Tillman Center turned 10, ASU welcomed a record first-year, on-campus class — including the largest, most diverse and highest credentialed class in ASU Law history.


The Downtown Phoenix campus marked 15 years of transforming a once-quiet area into a vibrant zone of learning and community connections, and Mirabella senior-living residents — who started moving in at the new year — found many ways to plug into campus life.


People were excited to return to familiar autumn events like Homecoming and Halloween — and to help keep everyone safe, the community kept up its use of ASU's saliva-based COVID-19 test, which passed 1 million tests processed.


At 10 years old, Project Humanities is a spry youngster compared with Sparky, who marked 75 years this month. Here are other notable headlines this month.


As ASU returned to an in-person commencement — still with pandemic adjustments — the university marks the end of a year of discoveries, service and generosity.

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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