All of the Rutgers campuses celebrated Homecoming 2010 this past weekend with a myriad of activities and events to celebrate the campuses. Rutgers-Camden hosted numerous events of its own, with a selection of events that encompassed the spirit of the tiny campus on the Camden Waterfront. These celebrations lead to questions. What is a “homecoming”? Where did the tradition start? And how does Rutgers-Camden celebrate its homecoming?
Traditionally, homecoming is considered the act of returning to a place formerly considered home, usually on a special occasion. The traditional college Homecoming event can be traced all the way back to the early 1900s.
In 1911, the University of Missouri had its annual rival football game versus the Kansas Jayhawks. The Missouri Tigers’ Athletic Director, Chester Brewer, decided to invite back alumni of the university to cheer on the team. He planned a pep rally and bonfire, as well as a parade. Little did he know at the time, many universities would follow suit and host their own Homecomings using Missouri’s model.
Just like many other schools, Rutgers hosts a Homecoming to bring alumni and current students together to celebrate their Rutgers pride. The event is free and open to faculty, staff, students, alumni, and their families. While there might not be a parade or football game, the 2010 Rutgers-Camden Homecoming celebration, Roctoberfest, includes soccer games, family activities, giveaways, food, and fun for everyone!
Homecoming at Rutgers is assembled by three parties: the Athletics Department, the Office of Campus Involvement, and the Rutgers Alumni Association. From tents and tables to hot dogs and hamburgers, staff from these three organizations come together to plan the entire event. Chuck Mannella, Director of Alumni Relations, stressed that all groups work in “collaboration”.
The Alumni office at 411 Cooper Street was littered with remnants of homecoming meetings, prizes for games, and advertisement flyers; it was obvious that Mannella was very excited for Homecoming, as well as the other staff in his office. He explained that the events on October 8 and 9 were the joint efforts of the three offices, but also how each office had their own specific responsibilities. With so many little details necessary to organize such an elaborate function, it would seem difficult to have all the planners on the same page, especially with no ringleader-of-sorts. “There is no leader,” Mannella explained, just “a lot of teamwork.”
Many things seemed to work out rather nicely. For example, the Athletics Department was already required to hire security for the soccer games, so hiring security for Homecoming would just be an expansion on an existing task. In the same fashion, the Alumni Association became responsible for the tents being set up over the various locations, which they frequently use in other Alumni events.
In terms of the big picture, the participants in the Homecoming planning process from every office gave their own ideas and suggestions to be used in any way by any other person in the group. “Cupcake” the pony was an idea generated by an individual in the group; however the Office of Campus Involvement arranged to have the pony at Rutgers offering rides to children.
Patrick Wallace, the Coordinator in the Office of Campus Involvement, was very passionate about Homecoming. His perspective was that the event would help people “celebrate Rutgers-Camden” and to network with one another. He saw this as a great opportunity for current students to connect with alumni in an enjoyable atmosphere, so they can become familiar with life outside of graduation. Wallace himself is a graduate of Rutgers-Camden, holding a degree in English, which he received in 2002. When attending the university, he participated in the radio station, helped plan activities, and became involved in the campus life. “My experience here,” he reminisced, “helps me relate.”
So it seems simple enough: organize a big celebration for current students and alumni alike to come together and celebrate their school. How much really goes into this plan?
Financially, thousands of dollars get poured into Homecoming. Each of the three offices plan for part of their budget to go towards Homecoming. For example, the Office of Campus Involvement receives their funding from students’ fees that are paid each semester. It is the job of the office to allocate where the money goes and to reserve part of it to fund Homecoming.
In terms of advertisements, both the Office of Campus Involvement and Alumni Association take on their respective audiences. The Alumni office sends out thousands of promotional postcards, informing alumni of Homecoming and asking them to register. The Office of Campus Involvement sticks signs along the sidewalks of campus detailing the events to come, though Wallace did explain that it is difficult to appeal to current students. With maybe only 10% of Rutgers’ students living on campus, the majority of promotion is targeted towards commuter students. Most events that occur on a weeknight or weekend are not visited by many commuters as they have to make a “special trip” to come out to campus from their home, as opposed to walking over from a dormitory.
Overall, Wallace commented that Homecoming helps “foster a sense of greater community” in current students. Mannella commented that Homecoming brings back alumni’s senses of pride. In general, Roctoberfest was manifested over a five-month period and culminated in a tremendous turnout to support the Office of Campus Involvement, the Athletics Department, the Alumni Association, and most importantly Rutgers-Camden.