College hosts virtual Homecoming

by Amar Scherzer | 10/6/20 2:05am

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The College kicked off its first-ever virtual Homecoming on Friday.

Source: Dartmouth College

This year’s Homecoming celebration marked a stark departure from a traditional Homecoming weekend, which usually sees Dartmouth’s signature bonfire and an influx of alumni dressed in green. Over the weekend, the College put together its first-ever virtual Homecoming celebration, which featured a mix of pre-recorded and live events.

The lineup of weekend festivities, which ran from Friday to Sunday, included a virtual adaptation of the traditional Dartmouth Night — the Homecoming kickoff event that usually culminates in a parade and bonfire — and an alumni “tailgate.” The College also introduced new events, including a college admissions talk from vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid Lee Coffin, a Q&A panel with student- athletes, several virtual lectures from professors and discussions about inclusivity at the College. 

Most events garnered hundreds of attendees. Dartmouth Night, in particular, attracted over 500 live viewers, and the recording has since reached 1,200 views.

Friday’s Dartmouth Night event featured athletic season highlights, remarks from College President Phil Hanlon, musical and theatrical performances and clips of Dartmouth athletes responding to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Vice president of alumni relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82, who spearheaded the effort to shift Homecoming to a remote format, said that one of the benefits of virtual Homecoming was that it could be accessed by alumni who normally could not travel to campus.

“There are people who wouldn't consider coming to Hanover for a weekend either because they're too busy or too far away,” she said. “Maybe they haven't connected to Dartmouth in years. … We hope to draw them closer to the College and our traditions again.”

However, Bascomb said that the greatest challenge she faced in planning the event was not having the usual “captive audience” of dedicated students, staff and alumni that traditionally attend Homecoming. 

Bascomb added that her office “tried to get the message out to students” about the virtual events but acknowledged that the online Homecoming experience was very different from what students would normally expect. Although the event was advertised on the alumni website, no campus-wide emails were sent out advertising the event to undergraduate students. 

Much of the programming consisted of pre-recorded videos, and there were few interactive components. 

Alumni Council president Rachel Drew ’98 said that it was a different experience for her personally, noting that as president of the council, she would usually speak at Dartmouth Night. Drew was able to pre-record a video that was featured in Dartmouth Night programming.

“Given the circumstances, I was very happy with how it turned out,” Drew said, noting that several alumni said to her that they were happy to be able to continue the Homecoming tradition even during the pandemic.

Separate from the College’s programming, some alumni took it upon themselves to plan additional events.

Dona Heller ’69, for instance, created informal programming for her class. Events included a cooking event, a wine tasting and presentations from class  members, including Sandy Alderson ’69, former manager of the New York Mets.

Heller spoke on the importance of preserving the  “old rituals” that she usually partakes in during in-person Homecoming.

“For a lot of us, our October ritual is Friday night, going to an early dinner at Molly's. … We all pile in there and they get us out of there in time to go to the parade. And we're not supposed to, but we throw out candy for the kids along the route,” Heller said. “We're all hoping that we can get back to some of our old rituals next year. There is that nostalgia, but you do the best you can.”

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