It’s that special time of the year. Leaves are falling, the air is chilled and UAA’s Homecoming festivities are well underway. Amidst all of the shopping cart parades and dodgeball tournaments, though, it’s easy to wonder: why do we need a big week of events like this? After all, it’s a huge draw on resources.
“It’s a significant portion of our budget, but we serve a large portion of our students,” said Sophie Leshan, USUAA’s chief financial officer. “I think that this is one of the best ways that we can reach out to students and let them know that we are a presence on campus, and that we have all these other resources and services to offer. I think that it’s certainly worth it in that regard.”
Leshan said that in addition to traditional events, student input has been a significant factor in deciding the themes of Homecoming. The dance, themed after the “007” movies, was shaped in large part this way.
“One thing that we tried to do with this dance specifically is we did a lot of surveying to get student feedback on our events, so we can continue to better them, and especially have that student input,” said Leshan.
Of course, getting USUAA’s presence out there isn’t the only reason for Homecoming to exist. Eva Ulukivaiola, a senator at USUAA, offered another reason.
“It’s to get students more involved,” said Ulukivaiola. “It gives them a sense of home here at UAA. People come to school because they want to learn, of course, but they also want to experience what college is like, and they can’t get that if they’re at home sitting by themselves. These oddball events are a good way to meet new people and get new connections.”
It is true that the oddball events Ulukivaiola mentioned do a good job of turning heads and grabbing attention. The Shopping Cart Parade, one of the more iconic events during Homecoming, was born, according to Charlee Ruhl at Student Life and Leadership, out of practicality. It was conceived about five years ago as an alternative to a traditional collegiate float parade, with smaller and more mobile shopping carts being used instead of larger and clunkier floats. Due to the quirkiness and popularity of the parade, it became a smash success.
“UAA has a pretty closely-knit community feel,” said Ruhl. “Especially around Homecoming time, everybody joins together in some friendly competition and just has a good time bonding.”
So the answer to the question of why we need a big event like Homecoming is just that: to share a sense of community, to get the names of important collegiate organizations out there, and perhaps, most importantly, to get students out of the dorms (or other living spaces) and out into the fray.