The Top 12 Stories That Captured Your Attention on 'Columbia News' in 2021

What stories grabbed the attention of our readers in 2021? The results may surprise you.

Kelly Moffitt
December 15, 2021

It is hard to imagine a year with higher highs and lower lows than 2021. Amid the joy of returning to in-person activities and incredible community achievements, there also remained challenges like ever-evolving COVID-19 conditions and loss in our community. To be honest, we didn’t think it was possible to have “a year like no other” again, but 2021 certainly met that challenge. Columbia News was here through it all. 

Below, find the top stories that Columbia News readers gravitated towards over the course of the year, a looking glass that reflects the spectrum of emotions we all faced. Thank you for keeping up with all things Columbia alongside us this year.

January 2021: Making Climate Moves

Alma Mater looks out on Columbia's campus

TOP STORY: University Announcement on Fossil Fuel Investments

Right from the start of 2021, Columbia was making big climate moves by adjusting its investment policies to include an update related to investments in oil and gas companies. But that wasn’t all. Columbia News readers also gravitated toward a study that indicates energy can be extracted from black holes, recipes that helped people cope through the pandemic, and President Bollinger’s condemnation of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. Bonus: COVID-19 vaccines began to be distributed

February 2021: Snow Blowers and Change-Makers

A snow blower blows snow in front of Alma Mater

TOP STORY: 6 Photos That Show There Is 'Snow' Place Like Columbia During a Nor'easter

When 16 inches of snow blanket Columbia’s campus, it is something to write home about. Also worthy of writing home? The news that groundbreaking physicist and late Columbia professor Chien-Shiung Wu was recognized on a postage stamp for altering the way scientists view the structure of the universe. February also marked Columbia’s love stories to love and the recognition of Black history in a special reading list and a list of 8 trailblazing Black activists with Columbia ties

March 2021: Outcry Against Bigotry

A protestor against anti-Asian bias at the Washington Square Arch

TOP STORY: 'Resist Reducing Them to Statistics:' Anti-Asian Violence in the Face of COVID-19

2020 and 2021 saw an uptick in anti-Asian violence in the United States, and Columbia News readers were compelled by professor Jennifer Lee’s op-ed about the deep roots of such bigotry in America. They also delved deep into statements made across the board by university leadership decrying Asian hate, were curious about how to honor Trans Day of Visibility, and wanted to learn about what intersectionality means in the context of 2021.

April 2021: Style, Sass, and the Graduating Class of 2021

A student in Columbia graduation gown strides happily at a virtual commencement ceremony.

TOP STORY: When and Where to Capture the Empire State Building Lit Up Blue for Columbia Grads

One thing is for sure: Columbians across the city wanted to see the Empire State Building lit up for the Class of 2021. Even celebrating Commencement a month earlier than usual, Columbia News readers gobbled up our profiles of 12 Columbia grads tackling the climate crisis, a photo essay featuring Columbian glamour surrounding Commencement, and our list of class day speakers.

MAY 2021: Savoring the Outdoors

A collage of Asian American Coumbians.

TOP STORY: 12 Groundbreaking Asian Columbians You Should Know

Our Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month list was far and away the most popular story on Columbia News for the month of May, but readers also couldn’t get enough stories about how to get outdoors. Readers gobbled up the nine spots Columbians love to visit outside in New York and across the country and what in the world the floating cloud above Avery Pavilion was. Also top of mind? This explainer which delves deep into how ranked-choice voting works

JUNE 2021: Summer Celebrations

A still from a YouTube video about Juneteenth.

TOP STORY: What Is Juneteenth, and How Do You Celebrate and Observe the Day?

For the second year in a row, Columbia marked Juneteenth with a day off for students, faculty, and staff and Columbia News gathered experts to explain the history of Juneteenth. There was a lot more to celebrate in June, though: the 2021 Pulitzer Prizes, a Columbia team entered the NBC College Bowl competition, and...UFOs? Yes, really. 

JULY 2021: Critical Race Theory Enters the National Stage

Kimberle Crenshaw, Kendall Thomas, and Williams.

TOP STORY: What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

There’s no doubt about it: Critical Race Theory (CRT) was on the minds of Americans this year, influencing everything from conversations at family dinners to entire elections. Columbia Law is home to three pioneers of the academic discipline who shared the facts on what CRT is. This story was not only the top story of July, but remained in our top-clicked stories for the remaining months of the year. It is the most-read story of 2021. 

In addition to our explainer on CRT, Columbia News readers also learned about the top 10 ideas in statistics that powered the AI revolution, the full list of Columbia athletes who competed in the 2021 summer Olympics, a celebrity-filled dissertation defense, and guidance on returning to the office after a year of remote work.  

AUGUST 2021: Back to Campus

Back to Campus Collage

TOP STORY: Your Back-to-Campus at Columbia Toolkit

As August rolled around, the vast majority of Columbia students started to make their way back to campus for the first time in a year and a half. Columbia News compiled a slate of stories to help welcome Columbians back to campus, including a list of 35 places to visit in Morningside Heights, student-submitted life hacks, a quiz about the secret spots of Columbia University, and a walking tour to get reacquainted. Readers also learned about the Columbia community’s continuing conversation about anti-racism, through our series Voices for Change.

SEPTEMBER 2021: Success Stories

Columbia's College Bowl team poses with the trophy and Peyton Manning.

TOP STORY: Congratulations to Columbia's College Bowl-Winning CHAMPIONS!

Columbia University's College Bowl team beat USC 790-775 to become the champions of the newly revived quiz show on NBC. But that wasn’t the only “win” of the fall semester. Columbia News readers loved reading this deep dive into how and why the university's vaccine mandate worked, 13 Hispanic Columbians who made waves in the world, and the announcement of the launch of a $25 million AI-based climate modeling center at Columbia. Columbians also shared their reflections on the impact of September 11, 20 years later

OCTOBER 2021: Columbia Women Making Waves

Kellie Jones

TOP STORY: Meet the New Chair of the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies

As the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies entered its fourth year, a new chair took the helm: Kellie Jones, the Hans Hofmann Professor of Modern Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology and a MacArthur fellow. Columbia News readers also loved this profile of Jeannette Wing, the computer scientist overseeing Columbia’s $1 billion research portfolio. Other news that sparked readers’ interest? This letter from Columbia researchers in support of the Build Back Better Bill and this list of the six spookiest things at the university.

NOVEMBER 2021: Falling Into Fall

Fall foliage on College Walk

TOP STORY: 11 Stunning Fall Foliage Photos That Show How Beautiful Columbia Is in the Autumn

It’s no surprise that the top story on Columbia News this November was one that shared autumnally perfect photos by University Photographer Eileen Barroso. But politics and COVID-19 were still top-of-mind for readers, who gravitated to this advice on how to deal with family politics at Thanksgiving dinners, explorations into the efficacy of HEPA filters, and this analysis of the Virginia and New Jersey elections

DECEMBER 2021: A Community to Celebrate

Columbia's Rhodes Scholars Students.

TOP STORY: Columbia Students Shine as 2022 Rhodes Scholars

This fall, Columbia News launched a new vertical recognizing the Awards & Milestones of our students, faculty, and staff. In December, readers gravitated to our monthly roundup, which led with the news that four Columbians had been selected as Rhodes Scholars. This month, readers also turned to this remembrance of PhD student Davide Giri, information about the emerging Omicron variant from faculty experts, and ideas on where to get your next cup of coffee

What did we miss? What are you looking forward to in 2021? Share interesting stories from your corner of Columbia using our pitch form or by emailing [email protected].