Our most popular Instagram posts tell the story of a challenging year.

How do you measure a year like 2020? Not easily in words. Instead, we took a look back in photos, compiling 20 of our most popular Instagram posts of the year. What follows is by no means a comprehensive history, but rather a collection of snapshots that resonated with our audiences during some of the most memorable moments in a year unlike any other in the University's history. 


A person wearing a backpack walks toward the Washington Mews

New semester, day 1! 🎒📚🤓 Students: What's something you're looking forward to this term?

For our New York City campus, the Spring 2020 semester started out the way so many have—with the bustle of students on campus, the brief hush after a snowstorm, and numerous reasons to celebrate our accomplished students and faculty. 

Snowy street on NYU campus

Can't get enough of the rare hush that falls over our city after a fresh snow. The cold is worth it for this! ❄💜🧣

Tisch Plaza outside Stern School of Business

Oh hi, @NYUStern. 💼🎒💻

Outside view of an NYU Tisch building

Feeling major #VioletPride for our all our @nyutisch fam with films at #Sundance 2020 this week! 💜 Nine of this year's films in competition were written, directed, or produced by Tisch alumni, and more than 40% of the features—and nearly a third of projects overall—have a Tisch affiliation.


A March none of us will ever forget brought an abrupt shift to remote learning to curb the spread of COVID-19, while NYU's researchers and front-line workers stepped up in the fight against the pandemic. 

First responder holding boxes of PPE

So far 150,000 PPE items—including face masks, face shields, nitrile gloves, and isolation gowns—have been collected from @nyudentistry, @nyunursing, Faculty of Arts and Science, and @nyutandon to be delivered to @nyulangone, Bellevue, @javitscenter and Brookdale Hospitals. 💜


Graduation festivities were virtual, with the Class of 2020 and their families tuning in from all over the world, while in New York, the Empire State Building honored them with its glowing violet salute. 

View of the Manhattan skyline at night

In the midst of a graduation season unlike any other, we're proud and moved to see the @empirestatebldg lit violet and white tonight in honor of our resilient #NYU2020 grads. 💜

NYU 2020 flag and tassel

Congratulations, #NYU2020—you did it! 🎓🎉 Click the link in our bio to tune in to our all-university celebration at 11 a.m. 💜 We'll also archive it here on IGTV later in the day. And keep your cap and tassel selfies coming—tag us to be featured on our story. 🤩

Flowers in Washington Square Park

What a year it's been. While none of us could have anticipated this turn of events, the virus isn't all that defined 2019-20 for NYU. Our faculty, students, and alumni received prestigious honors, researchers made headlines with their discoveries, and prospective students applied to join next year's class in record numbers. NYU as an institution moved up in national and global rankings, commemorated cultural milestones through discussion and scholarship, and renewed our commitments to inclusion, diversity, belonging, and equity. Before we begin our next chapter together—and send our best wishes to the Class of 2020 as they start theirs—click the link in our bio for a look back at some highlights from the past academic year.


This was also the year that our University community, along with the nation, mourned the passing of two pivotal figures in American civil rights and legal history. Both John Lewis, who died in July, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September, had previously received honorary degrees from NYU. 

Rep. John Lewis receiving an honorary degree at NYU's commencement

“John Lewis—heroic and pivotal figure in America’s long march toward full equality and justice for all its citizens, exemplar of ethical and moral ideals—you have inspired us to embrace better, fuller, and nobler lives of service to humankind.” Those were President Andrew Hamilton's words when he presented the US Congressman and civil rights legend with an honorary degree at NYU's 184th Commencement at Yankee Stadium in 2016. Lewis also stopped by Bobst Library that week to speak with @nyusteinhardt professor Robert Cohen and other NYU faculty and students. We mourn Lewis today. May his extraordinary life be an inspiration to us all.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was awarded an NYU honorary degree in 1994, spoke with professor Kenji Yoshino at an event at @nyulaw in 2018. As part of that conversation on diversity, inclusion, and belonging, she said—as she often did: "People have asked me when will there be enough [women on the Court] and my answer is, 'When there are nine.'"


The summer was spent developing comprehensive testing, tracing, and quarantining plans and outfitting campus for the safe return of some students, faculty, and staff for in-person activities in the fall.

Two people install clear barriers in an NYU building

✅ 1,000 clear barriers have been installed throughout NYU dining halls, classrooms, and administrative spaces. That's just one of the ways we've been getting ready for a safe return to campus. #NYUReturns

View of buildings in NYC with a rainbow reflection

Trying to remember never to take our city for granted. 💜 It will be good to be back. 😭 Wear your mask. Keep your distance. We can do this.


A carefully orchestrated move-in process—with time built in for quarantining before the start of the semester—brought students back to campus for the first time since March. Classes began in September with some meeting exclusively on Zoom, while others offered an in-person option, with modifications for social distancing in place.

Three people pose for a photo on the street during move-in day

✅ 1,000 clear barriers have been installed throughout NYU dining halls, classrooms, and administrative spaces. That's just one of the ways we've been getting ready for a safe return to campus. #NYUReturns

Two people walking outside Bobst Library

Back in all the old familiar places. Thanks for a great first week, NYU. 💜😷

People practicing in a Tisch dance class

In-person dance courses are safely and gracefully underway at @NYUTisch again—with some significant modifications to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In all ballet and contemporary technique classes, students stand at spots that have been measured and marked off, classes are limited to eight students, heavily aerobic "across the floor" exercises are avoided, everybody wears masks, and instructors wear face shields too.


Understatement: We learned to do things differently during the fall semester. Socializing moved outdoors—with masks and plenty of distance. Long city walks became the go-to antidote to Zoom fatigue. Holidays and other occasions were celebrated online. None of it was perfect, but we were continually inspired by the ways our communtiy found to make it work. 

Person sits on a bench in Washington Square Park

✔ perfect weather ☀️ ✔️ mask 😷 ✔️ greatest city in the world 🗽 Click the link in our bio for some of our favorite ways to make the most of a three day weekend in NYC—safely, and outdoors. Remember to avoid crowds, keep your mask on, and stay six feet from others wherever you go. 💜

People walk down a street on NYU's WSP campus

Looooooooong Sunday strolls = our current favorite COVID-safe weekend activity. 😷 What are your go-to NYC walking routes? 🍂👟🌇

A busy NYC street

Fifth Avenue, late September. No place we'd rather be. 🚲😷🚕 🏙️💜 #AllInNYC

"The Last Airbender" themed pumpkin

CONGRATS to Shannon Louie (@NYUStern '22) who won our first Pumpkin Carving Contest! 🎃🏆 A special thanks to everyone who participated by sending in their photos and voting. 💜 The 34 entries received a total of more than 1,500 votes!


Whatever 2021 brings—including, happily, effective vaccines and other treatments!—we're grateful for the many ways our NYU community has risen to meet unprecedented challenges over this past year. And we continue to celebrate, as always, the contributions of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni (plus honorary degree recipients!) toward building a brighter future. 

Janet Yellen recieves an honorary degree at NYU's commencement

Janet Yellen, who has just been nominated by President-Elect Joe Biden for Secretary of the Treasury, received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree from President John Sexton during NYU's 2014 Commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium. In her address to that year's graduating class, she spoke about the importance of grit and having the courage to take a stand: "There is an unfortunate myth that success is mainly determined by something called 'ability.' But research indicates that our best measures of these qualities are unreliable predictors of performance in academics or employment. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth says that what really matters is a quality she calls 'grit'—an abiding commitment to work hard toward long-range goals and to persevere through the setbacks that come along the way. "One aspect of grit that I think is particularly important is the willingness to take a stand when circumstances demand it. Such circumstances may not be all that frequent, but in every life, there will be crucial moments when having the courage to stand up for what you believe will be immensely important." Photo credit: ©Gallo: Courtesy of NYU Photo Bureau.

The sun shines between two buildings.

magic 🌇