Meet the U of T students who crushed it in 2020

December 22, 2020 by Geoffrey Vendeville

At the end of each year, U of T News looks back on students’ achievements over the past 12 months and recalls some of the more impressive or inspiring feats.

Previous lists of “students who crushed it” include those who organized the first powwow at the university in decades, or who made Black graduation a fixture of spring convocation.

But 2020 has been a year unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone at the university to rethink the way they do things, and U of T News is no exception. There was quite simply no way to boil this year’s list down to just a handful of exceptional student stories – an exercise that was next to impossible at the best of times, given the sheer number of impressive student accomplishments.

In the space of just a few weeks last spring, the university’s 93,000 students pivoted to online classes, labs and tutorials in a collective effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. And, as if that weren’t enough, many also found time to help their communities by sewing face masks, running errands for front-line workers, taking care of children, checking in on the vulnerable and, most importantly, supporting each other.

So, at the risk of sounding corny (and with apologies to Time magazine’s choice for Person of the Year in 2006), the list of students who crushed it this year begins with ...


Earning a university degree became orders of magnitude more challenging when the pandemic hit. Suddenly, it was no longer possible to attend classes in person, hang out with friends on campus or even do something as simple as study in a coffee shop.

Yet, despite the many, many challenges, U of T students made the best of the situation by adapting to virtual classes while figuring out how to re-order their living arrangements – and lives – on the fly. 

It goes without saying that the Class of 2020 didn’t plan to celebrate their convocation – a culmination of years of hard work, new experiences and lifelong friends – from kitchens and living rooms around the world.

But the virtual spring and fall convocation ceremonies were nevertheless a time for smiles and celebration – precisely because the Class of 2020 managed to complete their degrees in the middle of a global public health crisis.

At convocation, U of T President Meric Gertler commended the Class of 2020 on their courage for pursuing their studies despite extraordinary challenges and invited them back to the university to celebrate their achievement in person when it was safe to do so.

“We look forward to seeing you then and to acknowledging each of our graduating students at those celebrations,” he said.