INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
Homecoming ’04 events see larger alumni turnout
By : Siusan Orlovsky
Homecoming 2004 will go down in Binghamton’s alumni history books as the most successful to date. With more than 620 alumni, representing 20 states and all but two graduating classes represented, the efforts of staff and alumni volunteers paid off. In addition, a variety of events brought students and alumni together, with several thousand students participating. More than 33 events were planned, offering alumni, students and friends a diversity of options.
On the surface, Homecoming may seem to be about free smoothies, Mardi Gras beads and tents on the Peace Quad, but a closer look emphasizes the value to alumni, students, faculty and departments around campus.
Events like Homecoming allow the University to showcase new buildings and the talents of students, faculty and staff, as well as educate alumni about new University initiatives, said Rose Frierman, senior associate director of alumni and parent relations.
“In life it is important to celebrate and reunite,” she said. “Homecoming provides those kinds of opportunities for alumni to participate in celebrations.”
The key to a successful Homecoming event is to provide numerous entry points for alumni involvement.
“This year, we were able to do that through creative and flexible programming,” Frierman said. “These opportunities were based on affinities to school, residential communities, athletic affiliation and various departments, and provided real opportunities to build lifelong relationships among alumni back to the institution.”
For James Pogue, director of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Homecoming provided an opportunity for alumni to celebrate the program’s 35th anniversary and mark the 10th anniversary of the death of alumnus and former EOP director Michael V. Boyd.
“Homecoming is an opportunity to return to a place that holds memories of challenges, successes, youthful exuberance and for many, the first opportunities to live, learn and love in a higher educational setting,” he said.
There were four components to this year’s EOP event — EOP Today and Tomorrow, the Alumni/Student Networking Luncheon cosponsored with the Career Development Center, the Memorial Display and the dinner, which was followed by a tribute to Boyd. At each, alumni took advantage of multiple opportunities to connect with students.
“During this time of reflection, alumni reconnected with one another, current and past staff and just as importantly, the students,” Pogue said. “The beginnings of many mentoring relationships and potential internships and careers took place during these interactions.
“In EOP we see this as the beginning of an opportunity to engage a group of alumni who have provided significant value to the University community and continue to do so in their everyday lives,” he said. “Current students, alumni, the EOP program and Binghamton University as a whole will benefit from their continued and increasing interactions.”
For Upinder Dhillon, dean of the School of Management, Homecoming weekend was synonymous with the school’s third annual Mentoring Weekend. Alumni were welcomed back to campus to learn about the program and meet their mentees.
“The success of this event is directly attributable to the crucial role of alumni mentors,” Dhillon said.
The mentoring program provides alumni with an opportunity to significantly impact the lives and success of School of Management graduates, both on- and off-campus.
Feedback from students has been extremely positive. They have consistently ranked the quality of mentoring as high and reported that the program was a “very good opportunity” or “definitely something inspirational for the future.” In fact, some student reactions confirm the program goals.
“The event was very valuable because it gave me access to a mentor with experience directly applicable to my future plans,” one student wrote. Alumni should derive significant satisfaction from knowing they are helping shape future graduates into successful business leaders.
At the Decker School of Nursing, Homecoming offered the perfect setting to celebrate the school’s 35th anniversary.
From the anniversary cake cutting to building tours to the Nursing Student Float in the Brain Train Parade, alumni mingled with peers and students, and reconnected to their school. Joyce Ferrario, Decker’s associate dean, was thrilled to see members from the first graduating class return to campus. Not only is the on-campus connection important, “it is the special connection that alumni take home with them,” she said. “Alumni collaborate with us in their communities and serve as preceptors for students with clinical practice.” Alumni connections remain strong because of these opportunities to return to campus and become a part of the University family again, even if just for a day.
“Events are offered throughout the year to engage alumni, but there is a synergy and a buzz that happens around campus when they all occur at the same time,” said Frierman. “The same diversity and richness of the campus that attracts our freshmen is the same diversity that is required in our Homecoming programming to attract alumni back to campus.”
Homecoming’s return-on-investment also affects the bottom line of the University community.
“We want students and alumni to have a life-long relationship with the University,” said Mary Woolson, assistant vice president for development. “When people come back to campus for Homecoming or participate in alumni activities where they live, University leaders have an chance to keep alumni engaged and informed. Alumni who understand the University’s vision for the future are more likely to give back to it in terms of time, talent and financial resources.”