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Top 10 of 2023 written in bold text against a background of fireworks in the sky above West Campus

The Top Stories of 2023

Check out the top stories of 2023 that garnered the most interest through our social media channels, UNC's news site and with local and state media.

The past year has provided many opportunities to celebrate the wonder of UNC, from big changes on campus and highly acclaimed student achievements in and out of the classroom, to the celebration of a century. Read on to see the top 10 stories of 2023 that garnered the most interest through UNC's social media channels, news site and with local and state media.

Bears Feast on New Cuisine

students sitting at tables eating together in new food court

Students returning to campus in spring 2023 were treated to global dining options with the grand opening of the University Center’s (UC) newly remodeled food court. Students can experience four new restaurants — Bowlful, Empire State Pizza, Crisol Latin Kitchen and Burger & Co. — and an outdoor patio that opened in the summer.

Creating Community Through Art 

Brenda Vargas standing in front of her colorful mural.

Mexican Chicana alumna and mural artist Brenda Vargas, ’22 unveiled Centro de Educación Aztlán. The three-panel mural is intended to create a community space not only for those who identify themselves as Chicana/o/x, Latina/o/x and Hispanic, but for everyone who is looking for a space to build an academic identity. The project was the result of an alliance between the artist, the Chicana/o Latinx studies department, Michener Library and UNC’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as part of the university’s efforts to becomea Hispanic Serving Institution. People can view the mural at the west alcove on the main floor of Michener Library.

Greeley Native, National Champion, Olympic Hopeful

Andrew Alirez shouting in excitement after winning the NCAA championship in wrestling

UNC junior and Greeley, Colorado, native Andrew Alirez finished a perfect season (28-0) on the road to winning the NCAA 141-pound national championship in wrestling. His championship marks the program's first as a NCAA Division I program and the program's 10th overall (NCAA Division II & prior to divisional era). Ranked as the No. 1 wrestler in the United States and the No. 9 wrestler in the world in 2023 by FloWrestling, Alirez is taking an Olympic redshirt during the 2023-24 season to train for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

History Makers Smash Preseason Prediction 

Members of the softball team holding the Big Sky Championship trophy over their heads

Initially picked to finish last in the Big Sky preseason rankings, UNC’s softball team defeated No. 1 seed Idaho State to claim their first Big Sky Tournament Championship in school history.

Shining on the International Stage 

UNC performers playing saxophone and flute on stage

Performing and Visual Arts students, faculty and staff showcased their talents on the global stage  in May when they performed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. More than 40 university performers participated in the week-long trip where they led workshops, attended classes, taught lessons and performed at the national theatre, Teatro Nacional Eduardo Brito. The theatre was packed with 2,000 people, including the Vice Minister of Culture and the U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic.  

Bearfoot in the Park 

An overhead shot of new students walking around a grassy area on campus

UNC welcomed first-year students to campus in August during New Student Days. New Bears participated in student events, games and bonding times to make new friends, get to know neighbors and adjust to life at UNC.  

Flying High: Student Earns Prestigious NSF Research Fellowship   

Leah Crenshaw standing outside in a field holding a bird in her hands

Alumna Leah Crenshaw, M.S. ‘23, was awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The award recognizes and supports outstanding graduating students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.  Crenshaw came to UNC to pursue her master's degree in Ecology, and, specifically, to study ornithology under School of Biological Sciences Professor Lauryn Benedict, Ph.D., a bird behavioral and animal communication specialist. Crenshaw is planning to pursue her doctorate at Cornell University,  home of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, a world-renowned center for the study, appreciation and conservation of birds. 

Transformational Gift  

An artist's drawing of a building on a corner of two streets with the UNC logo on the front

UNC’s vision to meet the critical and growing demand for doctors across the state received a major endorsement in 2023. The Weld Trust committed $25 million earmarked for the university’s proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine. It is the largest single gift in the school’s history and a transformational investment that will support efforts to strengthen Colorado’s health care workforce and address the physician shortage. The photo above shows an artist’s rendering of the building that is tentatively planned to occupy the current site of Bishop-Lehr Hall on West Campus. 

Celebrating a Century of Homecomings 

Klawz and two members from UNC's marching band jumping in the air while the band marches down a street.

UNC commemorated a major milestone this year celebrating a century of traditions, competitions, community and laughter during its 100th Homecoming Celebration in October. The week of activities and events featured opportunities to engage students, families, alumni and friends, and served as the kickoff to the university’s Alumni Oral History Project, a compilation of treasured alumni stories that will be showcased at next year’s Homecoming celebration.  

A Class Act: Alumna Honored as Colorado’s Teacher of the Year 

Jessica May standing against a brick wall smiling

Alumna Jessica May, a 1996 graduate of the Elementary Education program, was honored as this year’s Colorado Teacher of the Year. The family and consumer sciences teacher at Turner Middle School in Berthoud, Colorado, is known for bringing experiential learning into the classroom and credits her success to forging strong connections within her school support system. About 30% of Colorado’s Teacher of the Year awardees have been UNC alums. May is the 18th UNC alum to receive the recognition since the Colorado Department of Education began recognizing exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled K-12 classroom teachers in 1963. 

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