Putting the Home in Homecoming--Annual festivities aim to engage first-year students

Paint the Town Black and Gold

The 2011 Homecoming parade will begin at 5:45 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21, at the corner of Linn and Washington streets. For a map of the route, see http://Homecoming.uiowa.edu/#parade. Immediately following the parade, on the Pentacrest lawn, will be the coronation of the Homecoming king and queen and the 2011 Homecoming concert.

Kickoff for the Iowa-Indiana football game is 11 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, at Kinnick Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

A full list of Homecoming events is available at homecoming.uiowa.edu, or visit www.iowalum.com/reunions/hrw for a list of activities sponsored by the UI Alumni Association.

With traditions ranging from football games to parades, Homecoming is one event on campus that truly has something for everyone.

And, now more than ever, the University of Iowa’s Homecoming Council is making sure even the newest Hawkeyes know that, with activities designed especially for students living in the residence halls.

In the ResLife Sweepstakes, students living on campus square off to prove that their residence hall houses the most school spirit by earning points through a series of events during Homecoming week.

Sweepstakes competitions have been a popular part of Homecoming for fraternities and sororities for decades. Student organizations have gotten involved, too. But it wasn’t until last year that students living on campus got their own events.

“In most high schools, Homecoming is a really big deal,” says Brittany Bierle, a junior from Eldora, Iowa, and the ResLife Sweepstakes director. “There are activities all week long, and that’s what new students are used to. So, for me, coming to college and not having anything to do with Homecoming was just a really weird experience. As a freshman, I just didn’t really understand what Homecoming was about in college.”

It’s not that there weren’t events first-year students could participate in, it was just, well, Iowa’s a big school, and Homecoming happens in the first few weeks on campus, so getting involved could be a little bit daunting.

Now? There is a Sweepstakes division just for the residence halls, not to mention three students on Homecoming Council devoted solely to planning, coordinating, and getting the word out about those events. Plus, there’s a trophy at stake.

“As resident assistants, we can say all we want that there are these events you can go to, but then when you add that there’s this points competition and a trophy and bragging rights … I think that gets students more energized and gives them an incentive to get involved,” says Megan Dial, a senior from Shenandoah, Iowa, and a second-year RA.

Getting more students involved in Homecoming not only helps make the celebration more festive and representative of the university as a whole, it’s a great way for first-year students to get to know each other better, build memories, and really feel like they’re a part of the UI community.

“Last year’s Homecoming was the first time in a long time that students decorated spaces in the residence halls,” says Ryan McFadden, student leadership coordinator in the Office of Residence Life. “Students wanted to do it, so they proposed it, met with assistant director of facilities, formulated guidelines, and did it. The students loved it. I heard from so many of them, ‘This is the first time we feel like it’s our home.’”

The decorating competition — “Deck the Halls” — continues this year with students using the 2011 Homecoming theme, “Paint the Town Black and Gold,” to jazz up their residence hall lobbies. Other events include:

  • Theme days, where students dress according to a different theme each day of the week (this year’s selections: pajama day, “I’m on a boat”, celebrity day, “jock jams,” ’70s day, and Hawkeye spirit).
  • Bulletin board decorating competitions within each residence hall.
  • Herky’s Homecoming Hunt, in which groups of four or five students complete challenges at different locations around campus.
  • A service project, where halls try to get a certain percentage of residents donating items to the Johnson County Crisis Center during Homecoming week.
  • Recyclable boat races, where students build boats out of recycled materials, then race against each other in the Field House pool.
  • Game day tailgate parties with food and music at Burge and Hillcrest Marketplaces.

What was your favorite Homecoming tradition? Share your memories on the University of Iowa Facebook page.

Anne Kapler
photo by Tim Schoon

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© The University of Iowa 2009