Last weekend, the College of William and Mary held its annual Homecoming, welcoming back the broader Tribe community for a weekend of nostalgia and excitement. Tribe families, alumni, former faculty and the Williamsburg community had the chance to attend the Homecoming parade, a block party, tailgates, the College football game, lectures by guest speakers and events held by student organizations. Judging from the turnout and level of enthusiasm among visitors, especially in comparison to previous years, Homecoming was a tremendous success. Without the tireless work of the Alumni Association and the College as a whole, this would not have been possible.
One feature that contributed to the success of Homecoming was www.wmhomecoming.com. This well-constructed site was easy to use, beautifully designed and informative. It proved to be an effective resource for visitors searching for events and situating themselves on campus. The site also supplied links for accommodations, transportation and directions for parking. Even for those without access to a computer, the mobile site was up to the task of helping guests on the go. The College also utilized social media websites like Facebook and Twitter (#wmhc) to promote Homecoming participation and amassed an impressive photo collection on its website.
Engaging our alumni during Homecoming is important not only for encouraging donations, but also for maintaining relationships and gaining alumni input on how to improve the College. Alumni may have graduated and moved on with their lives, but it is the College’s prerogative to show them a fun time for Homecoming — to remind them of the good old days, whether they graduated in 2009 or 1962. It was great to see student-organized events where graduates were able to speak with students, share their experiences at the College and see recent improvements to buildings in which they worked and lived. Student-alumni interaction also provides us with links to the outside world: Hearing what alumni are doing with their lives may help students become aware of opportunities and paths to success.
Equally, the College should attract the broader Tribe community, including families of alumni and current students, as well as Williamsburg residents. Swarms of parents and children decked in College attire, rallying outside Zable Stadium despite the cold for Friday’s block party and Saturday’s football game was proof enough that the College showed people a good time (not to mention, the football team won). Homecoming also gave non-students and non-alumni the chance to sit in on classes, to interact with student organizations, and to get the College experience, minus the tuition.
For next year, the College should grant alumni more access to revamped buildings. Perhaps access could be granted by major; for example, an alumnus with an English degree could be given special permission to tour St. George Tucker Hall. Exposing alumni to the improved academic buildings might encourage them to donate to the College. The same goes for student housing: Allowing former residents to visit their old halls may spark nostalgia and give current residents a sense of perspective.
We commend the Alumni Association and the College for their efforts, which made Homecoming a blast. Hopefully, they will learn from this year’s successes and make next year’s Homecoming even better.