Thursday, October 22, 2020

Homecoming Committee members, attendee speak on online transition

September 30, 2020
<p>Sparty rides along during the MSU Homecoming Parade on Oct. 5, 2018 along Grand River Avenue.</p>

Sparty rides along during the MSU Homecoming Parade on Oct. 5, 2018 along Grand River Avenue.

Photo by CJ Weiss | The State News

This year, the Alumni Office traded in parades, football and tailgating for a completely online Homecoming

Last week the Michigan State community could participate in different events in a mixture of scheduled, live events and prerecorded material and activities. Homecoming Chair Regina Cross shared her thoughts about the online transition.

“Well, you know we were disappointed we had to cancel homecoming activities for this fall,” said Cross. “But it actually opened up a new way for us to look at homecoming by producing content or gathering content we could feature virtually.”

Some of these events included a Spartan Movie Night, a virtual 5K, and a behind-the-scenes look into the Sparty Mascot Program. The theme for this year was From East Lansing With Love, a theme that was meant to bring the campus and MSU traditions to participants. Cross said that they were lucky to have experience putting together online events, having done so with a program earlier this year.

“It’s just something new for us to have to learn how to best present it, we were able to do that; we have a good team of people on the communications team in the Alumni Office,” Cross said. “We were able to put it together. We had done something similar with our Alumni University Program that occurred in August.”

Cross said that the Homecoming Committee met several times over Zoom to go over content, and committee members were encouraged to find content that could be presented virtually. Overall, Cross said that she was excited about the new opportunity provided by the new format.

“We felt like we could reach out to more alumni,” Cross said. “We have quite a few alumni that come back to campus each year for homecoming, but there’s a lot that do not; they aren’t able to. So, this gave us an opportunity to reach out to more Spartans.”

Cindy Baswell is an alumnus who attended some of this year’s events. Prior to the event, she followed the MSU Alumni Association, or MSUAA, and was curious to see how they were going to engage with people when this event is normally held in person with thousands of people. 

“Actually, some of the online things are events or information no one would really see or get if it wasn’t online,” Baswell said. “So, although Homecoming should be as we’ve always experienced, there is an opportunity to enhance it with the virtual things they’ve done this year.”

She also talked about the different format, expressing that it was important to have the event despite it not being in person. 

“I think it is important to still have it in this, or some form so you stay connected to as many alumni, and current students, as you can, even if the risk is not reaching as many people,” Baswell said. “I think MSUAA did an outstanding job with the things they planned and their execution; there will be some pretty disappointed folks when they find out what they missed.”

Another person closely related to the events, Homecoming Committee Member Madison Packer, would describe Homecoming as fun, crazy, and a week to remember — if this were a normal year. But she would describe this year’s events with similar words. She commented on the event in relation to current students. 

“Homecoming creates the opportunity for students to not only feel at home at MSU even if they are not physically here, but students are given the opportunity to meet new people and experience what the university has to offer,” Packer said.

The event had needed to adapt as late as the recent two-week quarantine announcement. Packer explained that some of the events included having students pick up materials offered on various places on campus but changed the activities so that they could be done with household items, making it even more remote. Despite this, she thinks one strategy kept attendance high.

“We have actually had a great number of participants at our homecoming events due to the extra marketing we did,” Packer said. “I find that the marketing is key to getting the normal numbers back because people really are just unaware that events are occurring.”

The MSU football season will open at home Oct. 24 against Rutgers.

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