Year in Review: GCU kept thriving despite pandemic

GCU Magazine

It wasn't hard to figure out the most significant news item of the 2020-21 Grand Canyon University academic year. Like the rest of the world. GCU had to deal with a historic health crisis.

The way the University handled it, both on campus in the community, made it even more significant -- so much so that it occupies the top two spots in our top 10 stories of the year. But it had plenty of company in events that moved the meter. Here's what stood out to the GCU Magazine staff, described with words and photos:

When COVID-19 protocols forced University officials to avoid large crowds in tight spaces indoors, The Gathering on Tuesday nights inside Antelope Gym became the Worship Night outdoors on the Quad. (Photo by Garrett Ohrenberg)

1. COVID response on campus

If you had told University officials last summer that they would be able to keep students on campus the entire academic year, they probably would have been thrilled. But it turned out a lot better than that. The blended learning setup was a success thanks to GCU’s advanced use of technology, Winter Commencement was in person rather than online, COVID-adjusted social activities still thrived, enrollment continued to go up and tuition continued to remain frozen.

GCU's vaccine Point of Dispensing site delivered 116,789 doses in three months. (Photo by Garrett Ohrenberg)

2. COVID response for community

Every step of the way, GCU did what it could to help the community fight the virus – and then kept going one step further. First, employees came together to make personal protective equipment. Then came COVID tests. Finally, and most importantly, a vaccine Point of Dispensing site was put together in 10 days and enabled 50,000 doses to be administered in the first 38 days.

Members of the men's basketball team celebrate their first WAC championship.. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

3. Long wait, but then WAC title is great

The key numbers for Athletics in 2020-21 were 2, 3, 19 and 259. Two signified the number of new head basketball coaches, Bryce Drew and Molly Miller. Three is for the men’s team, which beat conference nemesis New Mexico State three times this year, including the WAC title game, to earn an NCAA tournament spot. The women’s team made its first appearance in the conference final before losing. GCU athletes were forced to go 259 days between games because of the pandemic, with fall semester postponements resulting in 19 teams competing in the spring semester.

Donald Glenn, Director of the Multicultural, Diversity and Inclusion Office, instituted a number of events designed to promote campus unity. (Photo by Mathew McGraw)

4. A wide world of Multicultural Office offerings

After Donald Glenn was promoted to director, the Multicultural, Diversity and Inclusion Office was moved to the high profil northeast corner of the Student Life Building, right on the Promenade. Glenn oversaw a series of unifying campus events, most notably the One Love Awareness Walk and the Culture Fest.

Student volunteers were a key part of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program distribution. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

5. Forming a united front with CityServe

The partnership with CityServe International began as a way to distribute food boxes to families in need through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Soon it will grow even bigger: GCU has plans to create a 35,000-square foot warehouse to store even more goods and serve as a hub to distribute goods throughout Arizona.

Thanks to the ABET accreditation, computer science graduate Edward Lon was hired by Raytheon Missiles & Defense as a software engineer. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

6. Computer science, engineering programs confirmed as all-stars

The meteoric rise of GCU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology shot across the sky at the start of the academic year when ABET, a major accrediting organization, gave the official OK to the bachelor’s programs in Computer Science and Biomedical, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering in their firs year of eligibility.

Work is being completed on a complex of three new apartment buildings called The Rivers. (Photo by Garrett Ohrenberg)

7. The Rivers will flow into Residence Life

Construction is always a key building block for the annual review of top GCU stories, and this fall will feature the opening of what should be a foundational piece of Residence Life. The Rivers, a grouping of three apartment buildings and a parking garage at the intersection of 29th and Missouri avenues, figures to be a high-demand destination.

Noah Wolfe, GCU's new Director of Alumni Relations & Engagement, is focused on building relationships with current students, online graduates and alumni chapters far beyond Phoenix. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

8. Advancement moves forward

The new Advancement team facilitated a $500,000 grant from the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation for GCU’s groundbreaking Students Inspiring Students program. Another spoke in the Advancement wheel, the Office of Alumni Relations, named a new director, GCU alumnus Noah Wolfe.

The first group of Canyon L.E.A.P. to Teach students met in a virtual session.

9. L.E.A.P.-ing up to fill the teacher breach

With Phoenix-area schools desperate for quality teachers, GCU’s College of Education and Canyon Professional Development, a branch of K-12 Educational Development, worked together to find a faster path to teacher certification with the Canyon L.E.A.P. to Teach initiative.

GCU contributes the most NCLEX test-takers in Arizona.

10. NCLEX pass rate addresses nursing shortage

Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is tough enough for nursing graduates without a pandemic eliminating face-to-face tutoring. But the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions saw to it that the students got the help they needed, and the result was a 96.17% first-time pass rate in 2020 at a time when the world needs more qualified nurses.


Related content:

GCU Magazine: How GCU scored points with pandemic innovations

GCU Today: GCU vaccination site has helped the underserved Coro: WAC title ride worth reliving

GCU Magazine: GCU's Multicultural Office opens window to diversity

GCU Today: GCU, CityServe continue to connect with community

GCU Today: GCU programs earn prestigious ABET accreditation

GCU Today: New housing complex to offer fresh (air) amenities

GCU Magazine: Sky-high alumni plans include online students

GCU Today: GCU initiative facilitates the L.E.A.P. into teaching

GCU Today: GCU nursing students excel at exam, despite COVID


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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

(Moses addressed Israel, reminding them of God's deliverance of them from Egypt, and His commands given to them:) "You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out (from bondage and delivered you.). The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear." (Deuteronomy 7:19)

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