We've learned a lot in the past year, and each of us has gained a unique perspective.
It also allowed the employees and students of Western Carolina University to do what they do best - persevere.
Working harder than ever amid the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, our employees and students continued to achieve their goals, making a lasting impact in their communities and the world.
The images here represent a small slice of the hundreds of faculty and staff who played a critical role in continuing operations throughout the year and fostering our campus's resilience during the global pandemic.
"You can think about it in many different ways. It was obviously a human tragedy. That's something that's really deep and will stick with us for the rest of our lives, even if it doesn't affect us. So many people have died and lives have been affected. At the same time, it shows the incredible human resilience and adaptation. It's amazing how quickly humans can adapt. We can adapt to everything, quickly."
"The pandemic has been a glitch in the life cycle of our ecosystem on Western's campus."
"I will remember this experience by not taking the time I have with my loved ones for granted."
"In the end, I think we've gained new skills and learned new ways of keeping our teaching dynamic throughout the pandemic."
"I'm grateful to all the people out there working to distribute vaccines quickly."
"I am privileged to work alongside police and other first responders who continue to serve under difficult conditions. Initially, while some of the agencies, especially at the national level, had a brief pause, the important task of recovering children/victims could not delay. I know so many professionals and their families that have 'stepped up,' even at the risk of their own lives. I am grateful to my own family for understanding and supporting what I feel deeply called to do. The feeling constantly echoes, 'what would I do if I had a loved one missing?' That is a motivational driving force behind the work."
"Not all of the changes have been bad. Caring for our own, and others, well-being has been intensified. I think that's a good thing."
"As an alumnus of Western Carolina University, I understand the importance of in-class learning. To help provide a way to do this safely for our students is such a great honor."
"Death is always at the forefront of what I and my colleagues do. We embrace it in all of its beauty, tragedy, finality and opportunity."
"It's been a difficult year that has shown us how important accurate and timely communication is for our community."
"It has been a time for us all to reflect on who we are and how we operate within society. It brought out the best and worst in us."
"If COVID-19 disappeared tomorrow, I would take a page from the feminist movement of the 1960s playbook and burn the masks."
"Whatever normal might look like in the future, I can't wait to get there."
"You're not guaranteed tomorrow, and you don't know how much you appreciate the simple things in life like music, travel and friends until it's gone."
"I want to remember the good, the people helping other people. I have learned you can't change the past, so there is no reason to dwell on the bad. You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving."
"This is an experience I hope that I will never have to go through again."