As Homecoming week approaches, students, faculty, parents and alumni will experience a new form of connection and fellowship this year. On Oct. 16 and 17, there will be many virtual opportunities for alumni to connect, and some in-person events for on-campus students only.
The theme for this year coincides with the new ways of coming together despite the pandemic.
“The theme this year is StillAU,” said Director of Alumni Relations Trent Palmer. “We are also making sure to note that it’s a virtual Homecoming and are occasionally using the terms ‘stay-at-HOME-coming.’ Though there will be virtual opportunities for the student body, there will still be some on campus events, but alumni and friends will only be engaging virtually for everything.”
Despite the virtual transition, Palmer said that they are still finding ways for old Homecoming traditions and events to still take place.
“There will still be luminaries in the valley, albeit a smaller production, Cheap Thrills and Encore are combining forces to create an on-campus event called ‘Cheap Encore’ for the campus community to enjoy and to potentially be livestreamed for alumni to watch as well,” he said. “Lastly, people love to reunite at Homecoming and we’re still offering ways to do that through decade virtual reunions and academic department reunions that we’re calling ‘Collegians on a Computer Drinking Coffee.’”
Some other virtual events on the schedule for everyone to attend are an alumni trivia night, a virtual 5k, an eSports exhibition, Fall sports spotlight video and an Alumni showcase concert.
In person, there will be some small ensemble performances by the School of Music, Theatre and Dance in the Valley with the luminaries on Friday night.
Various campus ministries on campus including chapel bands, Vision Revision and prayer ministry will be coming together for a special worship night in the valley for students on Friday at 9:30 p.m. following the ensemble performances.
Palmer said that because of the changes he has seen in events this year, he foresees every Homecoming in the future being a hybrid event.
“We’re creating a Homecoming experience that we’ve never done before, so it feels like every element, even those elements that still give a nod to the past, are being planned for and executed in an entirely different way,” he said. “Basically, I think we’ll always offer a virtual program in addition to what we hope to be a robust on-campus experience for those alumni and friends that simply can’t make the journey to our campus in future years. I find this to be really exciting as we’re already hearing from alumni about excitement for engaging in things they never had the opportunity to do so in the past because of where they are located geographically.”
Palmer still has high hopes for the Homecoming experience students on campus will have this year.
“The fact that we are still committed to a Homecoming court, luminaries to walk through and campus events to engage in, I’m hopeful that this is still a ‘circle the date’ weekend for students to stay on campus to enjoy the spirit of an AU homecoming,” he said “It’s going to look different, but as I live and breath, we are #StillAU.”
Photo by Connor Carr