Homecoming to Showcase Today's UA for Returning Alums
How do you host 50,000 to 60,000 people coming to campus this week for The University of Arizona's 94th Homecoming?
"Don't think people just show up, and poof â€“ there's a party, because a lot goes into planning this," said Cheryl Plummer, who, as the UA Alumni Association's assistant director for homecoming and special events, coordinates one of the biggest, oldest and best-organized homecoming events in the country.
"Everybody on this staff is huge in helping," she said.
Last week, Plummer was already checking off tasks in a book-thick, hour-by-hour timeline that lists who, on the Alumni Association's 30-plus staff, is doing what assigned job and when it needs to be done.
The timeline covers details that implement plans thatÂ Plummer and her co-workers began making just after the 2007 Homecoming celebration. Timeline details include, for example, setting up registration, planning campus lectures, hanging scores of banners, placing signs, readying for the 50-year alumni reunion and other luncheons and receptions, staffing the association's food tent, handling shirt/bead/button sales, and answering nonstop phone calls and e-mails from campus organizations that are this year sponsoring 105 tents on the Mall.
Organizers communicate on four radio channels to ensure all runs smoothly during Homecoming weekend.
Major plans were set months ago; last spring, the theme was chosen."There's No Place Like Home," suggested by the 13 members of the senior honorary Bobcats, is incorporated in student-built parade floats, student Mall events and memorabilia.
The Bobcats deserve a lot of credit for organizing the Friday night pep rally and bonfire, Plummer added, and the Homecoming Parade of more than 100 entries, including floats, bands, pep groups and Homecoming royalty that will circle the Mall from Campbell Avenue to Old Main and back on Saturday afternoon.
The other major planning effort launched last spring is "Tents on the Mall," a UA tradition started in UA's Centennial Year, 1985. Sponsors include fraternities and sororities and student, alumni and other campus organizations. But this year, in response to an alumni desire for more than just time to reminisce about the UA of their past, Homecoming will feature "College Village" at the heart of Tents on the Mall so they can get to know the UA of today.
"We want as many colleges as possible to show returning alumni what they're doing now," Plummer said. Colleges represented in UA's first College Village are Education, Engineering, Humanities, Medicine, Pharmacy, Science, the Eller College of Management and the UA Libraries.
While some will come just for the football game â€“ theÂ Wildcats take on the USC Trojans at 7:15 p.m. Saturday â€“ returning alumni also will be offered, for the first time this year, special lectures by prominent UA professors, Plummer said.
Friday's "Expand Your Mind" lectures are "Energy and Environment in the Next Administration and Beyond," by UA Eller College of Management Dean and economics professor Paul R. Portney, "Diggin' Mars: The Inside Scoop," by Peter Smith of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair of Integrated Science and leader of the UA's Phoenix Mars Mission, and "What Should I Eat? An Anti-Inflammatory Approach" by Dr. Victoria Maizes, executive director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
Other new offerings this Homecoming also include a Saturday morning hike in the Sonoran Desert and one-day passes to the UA Recreation Center.
The sheer number of alumni who return to the UA for Homecoming is proof that what Plummer and others have tried to organize works. The UA hosts one of the largest homecoming events in the nation, and certainly the largest in the Pac-10.
The UA held its first Homecoming in 1914. Only four other universities, all in the Midwest, held such events at the time.
This year, returning alumni include 98 graduates of the Class of 1958. For some of them, it will be their first time on campus since graduation, Plummer said.
"I want alums to enjoy their homecoming, and to come away from it feeling proud that they chose to come to this university," she said. "They spend their time and their money to get here, and I want that experience to be worthwhile. I don't want them to have any problems, or any worries. I just want them to come here and enjoy their day. That is huge to me."