Homecoming week connects students and alumni

Courtesy / Mohamed Azuz
2013 Homecoming Regents

Courtesy / Mohamed Azuz 2013 Homecoming Regents

Mary Mattingly

This past week Grand Valley State University followed the yellow brick road into Homecoming Week. Transforming GVSU into a place that can usually only be accessed by cyclone, both students and alumni got into the spirit.

“Homecoming is our favorite time of year,” Alexis Rangel of Alumni Relations said. “We’re welcoming back everybody, I’m excited for it.”

GVSU was spirited away to Oz through a schedule of events planned by Student Life and by Alumni Relations, which all led up to the Homecoming game on Oct. 19. Plenty of people came out to show their school pride, with hundreds of alumni returning to GVSU to check out how the school has changed. The week also utilized social media contests and collaborations with other organizations to make the week as inclusive as possible.

“The whole week (went) really smoothly,” said Chelsea Pulice, the organizer of activities planned by Student Life. “I couldn’t have asked for better volunteers. I’m thankful of them taking the time to help.”

The week kicked off with the Homecoming Oz-lympics. Teams competed throughout the week in events to rack up the most points. Contests such as the Great Ruby Slipper Hunt challenged students to find nine slippers hidden on both Allendale and Pew campuses by following clues laid out on the website. All slippers were found within the first 24 hours.

“It was a lot of fun to see students scurrying around campus to find them,” said Pulice.

The week wrapped up with a canned food drive contest, where teams competed to build the most creative sculpture out of all the canned goods. All canned goods went to the Student Food Pantry.

“Our goal this year was to do more with collaborations, such as donating to the (Student) food pantry,” said Pulice.

The week also utilized several social media contests. Students could pose with cardboard cutouts were provided by Celebration Cinema, Instagramming pictures of themselves for the chance to win a gift card. Alumni Relations also held an Instagram contest, challenging alumni across the nation to decorate their porches with GVSU accessories, then Instagram a picure of it.

“We’ve gotten a lot of responses,” Alexis Rangel said. “There was a lot of good feedback, it really shows how you can celebrate from anywhere your Laker pride.”

While Homecoming Week provided activities for current students to enjoy, alumni also got involved. Alexis Rangel of Alumni Relations is a 2010 GVSU alumnus and is charge of organizing all Homecoming activities for alumni. Library tours, a pancake breakfast and the annual 5K were all on the agenda. On Friday, the Alumni House was open for business, inviting alumni back in to take a peek at how GVSU has changed over the years.

“So many of our alumni are spread out and they haven’t been back to Grand Valley since the 70s, 80s, 90s, even the 00s,” said Rangel . “The Alumni House will guide them around and show them how much campus has changed since they were at school.”

The biggest event planned was the alumni tailgate, which took place next to the Kelly Family Sports Center.

“We’re expecting 800 alumni to come back,” Rangel said before the tailgate.

The event spanned throughout Michigan.

“There is a bus coming from Novi to the game,” said Rangel before the tailgate. “About 56 folks will be coming. Some are parents but most are alumni.”

Rangel found alumni eager to return to GVSU.

“A lot goes back to being a Laker for a Lifetime,” Rangel said. “Grand Valley is one big family and alumni are always welcome back here. The theme of Homecoming, there’s no place like the valley, really showcased that. When you go to school here, you live here for four years and it becomes your home. Alumni can come back and see what’s new: it’s always home for you.”

Kathleen Loveland is an alumnus who graduated in 1983. After getting involved with the Alumni relations board, she has been volunteering at Homecoming Week for the past 13 years, helping out with both the alumni golf outing and tailgating party.

“The number one reason that I do it is it’s fun,” Loveland said. “The number two reason is that I get to see a lot of people I don’t see in Muskegon, where I live and work. I always have a great time.”

Homecoming Week gives current students and former students an opportunity to built connections.

“I’m more involved now than I was as a student,” said Loveland. “I like to talk to students and tell them about my experiences, they tell me about theirs- their (experiences) are usually more fun than mine.”