Homecoming, 2020-Style

By Sean Callahan

Homecoming at Saint Vincent was a muted affair this year—but that did not make the planning any less strenuous. According to Ben Becze, senior director of development and alumni relations, the Office of Alumni Relations was one of six on-campus departments that worked together to make Virtual Homecoming a reality. Time-honored events such as the alumni memorial mass—alongside new events, such as the ‘Ask a Benedictine’ session—were livestreamed and garnered nearly 300 virtual attendees, many of which were alumni, according to Becze. He recalled previous homecomings, and the uncertainty this new endeavor had caused.

“We have thousands of alumni and parents come back to campus because there’s something about being right here,” Becze said, noting that activities such as the football game, Fall Fest Carnival and class reunions are a draw. “Our expectations [for] turnout was sort of unknown because we’d never done something like this.”

Deanna Wicks, director of campus life, agreed with Becze. And she stressed the importance of not only maintaining social events such as the Carnival and class reunions, but putting the people involved with the campus first.

“We wanted to find a way for families of students to participate with their students and do so in a way that would keep [them] safe,” Wicks said.

Caitlin Machuta, a junior physics and mathematics major, current president of Reading Club and a member of Anime Club, had enjoyed the active atmosphere of past homecomings. Machuta considered homecoming and its thousands of off-campus visitors important assets to club advertisements.

“We definitely got a lot more people and more families got involved as well, even the little kids,” Machuta recalled.

But without student gatherings for homecoming, that image struggled to reach reality. Instead, Machuta and the other club presidents were instructed by campus life staff to make personalized cardboard floats to advertise their clubs for Virtual Homecoming. According to Machuta, clubs spent many hours on the floats, yet some struggled to even upload their videos once their floats were completed.

In response to Machuta’s comments, Wicks said that she understood the clubs’ struggle for visibility this year, which was why SGA had sponsored a budget—if needed—for creating each club’s float. Each one would then be showcased in a parade video, which is available for viewing on the Saint Vincent YouTube channel. But she also stressed the need to technologically adapt since the start of the pandemic.

“We’ve been doing virtual programs since March, trying to learn and grow with all other student programming efforts worldwide,” Wicks said. “This pandemic has forced us to think creatively and find ways to bring people together without physically bringing them together.”

And despite a small technological struggle in the club fair, Becze said he felt the online component of homecoming was something to consider for alumni who couldn’t join future campus-wide events in person.

“We did everything we could to take Saint Vincent to them,” Becze explained. “This is how we’re adapting and this is how we’re blazing a new path forward for alumni and for Saint Vincent."

#SeanCallahan #Homecoming #Coronavirus #COVID19 #StudentLife

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