HOMECOMING 2013: It's a team effort
By Michael Onesi, Alumni Communications Officer
What does it take to host two Homecoming reunion weekends with more than 100 events and a few thousand returning alumni? You need several hundred volunteers and about one year of planning. Behind the scenes, Homecoming involves countless hours of work by Queen’s staff, faculty, students and alumni to ensure everyone returning has a positive experience over the Oct. 4 and Oct. 18 weekends.
“It takes a lot of work, but it’s exciting work and we are happy to do it because we know Homecoming weekend is loved so much by our alumni,” says Sarah Indewey, Manager Volunteer Relations & Reunions.
More than 200 Queen’s students and 50 staff volunteers have filled the volunteer shifts needed to host the two Homecoming weekends.
Homecoming Volunteer Coordinator Maryanne Wainman had people contacting her as early as early as February about getting involved. Most people are volunteering for multiple roles and one student was so keen he registered online for his volunteer shift while travelling in Vienna because he didn’t want to miss the opportunity.
Maryanne and her Queen’s Alumni Relations colleagues began working with the Queen’s Student Alumni Association in January to develop recruitment and training strategies. The QSAA has led the charge to recruit student volunteers for activities such as this Saturday’s joint crest painting by the Classes of 1988 and 2017.
“It’s been amazing to see how excited everyone is about getting involved with Homecoming,” Maryanne says.
Organizers wanted to involve the Kingston community this year in Homecoming, so they collaborated with community partners. Some of the off-campus community events include free movies in Market Square (Monsters University on Oct. 4 and Ferris Bueller’s Day off on Oct. 18), hosted by Downtown Kingston! BIA, and a networking event for local employers, alumni, and grad students hosted by KEDCO (at the Grad Club at 4 pm on Oct. 4 and Oct. 18).
Kathryn Vilela, the Alumni Officer in charge of reunions, has been working with about 150 volunteer class reunion coordinators to help them organize their own Homecoming activities. Many got in touch with her immediately after it was announced in December 2012 that Homecoming was reinstated. Kathryn has also heard from about 15 reunion coordinators who are already planning for Homecoming in 2014.
This year’s class reunion plans range from casual dinners at local restaurants to fundraising events. Some groups have created their own branded merchandise to mark the occasion. The reunion coordinator for Sc’48 spent months working putting together a special DVD set to music, featuring photos from their student days.
“It’s really incredible to me that there are so many alumni who put their heart and soul and time into organizing these reunions. The amount of work that goes into planning comes out of their love for their classmates and their connection to Queen’s,” says Kathryn.
Before the return of Homecoming was announced last December, alumni thinking about their milestone years in 2013 were anxious to know if they could return for a reunion. Asking about the future of Homecoming on Twitter and Facebook led to two of those alumni appearing in the marketing campaign to launch the event’s return.
“When Principal Woolf announced the return of Homecoming in December, the first people I reached out to were the alumni who had contacted us last summer on social media to ask about 2013 plans,” says Alumni Marketing and Communications Manager Andrea Gunn, who oversees the Queen’s alumni Facebook and Twitter accounts. She had been chatting for months on Twitter with Moira Browne, Meds’88, and on Facebook with Kathleen Ross, Artsci’83. “I was so happy to let them know that we were going to celebrate their reunions at Homecoming this October.”
She also recruited the alumnae as two of the faces of the Homecoming 2013 marketing campaign. Moira’s class returns October 4-6 for its 25th reunion, and Kathleen’s on October 18-20, for its 30th.
A full list of Homecoming activities is available on the Alumni Relations website.