The sounds, scenes and scents of a Homecoming celebration at Ferris State University will be possible in 2020. Still, with COVID-19 limiting the opportunity for large social events, organizers from across campus have taken clever approaches to promote community, enjoyment and achievement.
Director of Alumni Relations Brandi Behrenwald said Homecoming being virtual has not diminished alumni and Ferris supporter interest. She noted that more than 150 people have registered for the Virtual 5K in the first days available.
“It was a great feeling to receive that kind of response,” Behrenwald said. “Our hope is to find just as many participants in our ‘Ferris at HOME’ photo activity. If you submit a photo where you demonstrate Ferris pride by dressing in crimson and gold, show off your Ferris-themed room or get creative with a Bulldog or university flag, we will be happy to send you a special FSU gift.”
Participants should complete their virtual 5K beginning Saturday, Sept. 26. Homecoming photos can be submitted as of Monday, Sept. 28 for responses by Saturday, Oct. 3. Behrenwald said that another celebration-themed activity is the Favorite Tailgate Recipe Contest, which welcomes entries beginning Monday, Sept. 28.
“Whether you are an alumni, friend of the university or current student, we welcome your favorite recipe, whether it goes in a crockpot, on a plate or into a glass or mug,” Behrenwald said. “The recipe requirements are that you give us a list of ingredients, all preparation instructions and a photo of the finished product. There are five categories, where our Alumni Office is looking forward to judging those unique, tasty and Bulldog-inspired creations. We will award prizes for each category and will post photos that are emailed to us, along with all entries offered to our Instagram and Facebook pages. Remember to use the #FerrisHomecoming in your post and tag us.”
Behrenwald added that Ferris plans to offer its first Alumni Learning Consortium event on “Personal Branding: Embrace Your Authentic Self to Stand Out and Thrive,” on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 12 p.m. The virtual contractor who has provided the office’s successful Book Club is overseeing this presentation.
“We believe this will be a valuable and enjoyable addition to our offerings,” Behrenwald said. “Our Bulldog alumni have a great deal of experience and skill, and making those attributes better known can only improve on the opportunities they might enjoy.”
The Alumni Office welcomes the collaborative efforts of the Hispanic/Latino Cultural Center, who arranged for a virtual tour of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 10 a.m. and the Latinx Alumni Loteria, where a virtual play of the traditional Mexican card game begins at 6 p.m. that evening.
“We have been supported by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for the virtual Jim Crow Museum tours, which focus on the interconnectedness of Latinx, Afro Latinx, and African American communities,” CLS Director Kaylee Moreno-Burke said. “Those tours began earlier in September, as Homecoming week comes in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations for the center, and we are happy to share our learning and experience.”
Another collaborative partner is the Office of International Education. The office will put tips and clues on their Facebook page before hosting a World Trivia Night on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. Prizes will be given to those who show their skills in addressing geography, culture and global affairs.
Behrenwald said the Alumni Relations Office is thankful for the campus groups who have joined them to create virtual social opportunities in a year requiring focus with the COVID-19 pandemic front and center in many considerations.
“We chose to be in a virtual mode with our presentations because Ferris Pride is something that can be celebrated communally, though we are not ‘together,’” Behrenwald said. “We are looking at a number of the unique virtual events as items that will continue in our annual Homecoming Week calendar.”
Flexibility in schedule and presentation is also a hallmark for the Center for Leadership, Activities and Career Services (CLACS) office, who will extend the Homecoming Week events through Thursday, Oct. 8. Coordinator of Activities and the Student Organization Center Nick Smith said though their Homecoming comedian’s program with John Mulaney will take place on the evening of Oct. 8, the CLACS schedule begins with a Homecoming swag giveaway from 12 to 3 p.m. on Monday, Sept 28.
“We have Monday and Wednesday afternoon giveaways planned in the University Center, for both weeks,” Smith said. “There are a variety of items to offer students so that they can take them for their own socially distanced, safe celebrations for Homecoming 2020.”
Campaigning by the three candidates for Homecoming Ambassador begins on Sept. 28 and continues through Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 11:55 p.m. Smith said the choice for Homecoming Ambassador will be honored as part of the Thursday, Oct. 8 John Mulaney event.
“The candidates are aware that we require their production of a video, providing us a portfolio that explains their efforts as campus leaders, along with offering their resume and consenting to interviews before our committee,” Smith said. “We were able to combine these requirements with the student vote last year, because we believe our ambassadors are worthy recipients of their honor, through the sum of their efforts and accomplishments at Ferris.”
On Thursday, Oct. 1, CLACS and the Student Homecoming Committee will arrange a Netflix Watch Party to acquaint those students and supporters who may not know about John Mulaney, the comedian whose event is set for Oct. 8.
“There is a chat feature we will make use of that evening, so that people can discuss what they are seeing, with hopes that excitement builds toward our event with John, the next week,” Smith said. “He is a very entertaining comedian. We feel lucky to have a top talent taking part in this year’s Homecoming.”
A bit of substitution was necessary, as “Hocus Pocus” will be the Drive-In Movie event in Lot 1, east of the University Center at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2. Smith said the traditional Pep Rally seemed out of step with the virtual offerings required this year.
“We believe it is not too early to bring Halloween into the picture, with a seasonal classic like this movie,” Smith said. “We also invite students to prepare a contribution for the virtual Homecoming Parade on Saturday, Oct. 3.”
Committee members will oversee University Center giveaways in the week beginning Monday, Oct. 5, which wraps up with the John Mulaney event and naming of the Homecoming Ambassador on Thursday, Oct. 8.
“Circumstances have required our Homecoming Student Committee to be flexible this year,” Smith said. “I believe it illustrates how Homecoming is more than the athletic event that is the typical centerpiece, and there can be other enjoyable experiences and opportunities for students and the entire campus community.”
Behrenwald said the cross-campus effort has created a great deal of hope that the Homecoming 2020 schedule can offer enjoyable experiences for those on campus and all who look to the university for a sense of community at this time of year.
“I invite everyone to review the complete Homecoming calendar online, because the CLS has other thought-provoking events planned, and there’s a LGBTQ+ Homocoming event Friday, Oct. 3,” Behrenwald said. “There are a variety of activities to check out as well, which we hope our supporters will consider and participate in. The Alumni Relations office is grateful that alumni who are not often involved in our schedule of events have already taken the opportunity to join us by registering this year. It is an exciting outgrowth of our decision to promote health and safety by offering a virtual Homecoming Week lineup.”