Amy Dedes has been involved with Stetson Homecoming since 2009. Back then, it was held during the spring semester. Dedes, associate director for the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement, also was instrumental in moving the big alumni event to the fall, when the Hatters announced their return to football almost a decade ago.
As the popular saying goes, Dedes has “been there and done that.”
Of course, this year’s Homecoming, set for Nov. 6-8, is different — because of the pandemic, there will be no one coming home in a return to campus.
“This one has been a challenge, but also I’m optimistic. Hopefully, we’ve created a good program that everyone can enjoy,” Dedes said before adding “crazy” and “interesting” to her description.
In all, there are 40 events scheduled for alumni over the weekend, along with events for current students throughout the week, beginning Monday, Nov. 2. All of the alumni events will be virtual, housed in a “guest hub” on the Cvent online platform. Student events are both in-person and virtual.
Meanwhile, the alumni response has been “amazing,” with registration on Cvent hitting high numbers, according to Dedes. As of Oct. 29, 746 alumni had registered for events. “It definitely surpassed our expectations and our goal for the first time doing something like this,” she said. (The first 500 people who registered will be sent a “Homecoming-in-a-box” gift.)
To participate, after registering, alumni will receive an email with Homecoming login information that provides access to what Dedes called the guest hub. Once alumni log into the guest hub, they will be given all needed information for their selected events in a personalized itinerary. Then, at the start of each session, per their schedule, alumni can simply click on an online button to join their session, which will either be a livestreamed webinar or an event on Zoom.
Notably, after seeking the best online platform and safest way for alumni to log on, Dedes and the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement chose Cvent, an industry leader that specializes in meetings, events and hospitality management technology.
Planning for the virtual experience began in earnest last spring, when the pandemic put the traditional Homecoming in jeopardy. By early July, an official decision was made to move Homecoming online. And, after consulting with other colleges and universities, plus exploring possible new academic topics and fun experiences with Stetson deans, faculty and staff, the schedule was finalized.
“This year we’re bringing our alumni a new schedule,” Dedes said. “There are more educational events where they can reconnect with faculty or staff members they were close with during their time here, but also social events to reconnect with classmates, teammates or members of their Greek organization.”
So, want to reflect back on campus beer-brewing escapades? This year marks the 20th anniversary of the inaugural chemistry of brewing course, offered by Tandy Grubbs, PhD, a chemistry professor. While the official course title has changed over the years, alumni who enrolled are likely to remember it fondly as The Brew Course. On the Homecoming schedule, it’s titled Happy Hour Reflections of the Chemistry Brewing Course at Stetson University with Tandy Grubbs, Friday, Nov. 6, 5 p.m.
On Friday at 4 p.m., sports fans can learn the latest about the Hatters from Director of Athletics Jeff Altier ’82, MEd ’87, who will be joined by women’s basketball coach Lynn Bria and men’s basketball coach Donnie Jones. Their seasons are slated to begin in late November.
Among other events, Saturday features Coffee with the President and Alumni Awards, where Stetson President Christopher F. Roellke, PhD, will host his first Homecoming Awards program. The event, an annual tradition, includes an update on the university and the presentation of Alumni and University Awards.
What about reunions? Eleven classes will be celebrated online (1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015). Plus, each class will be invited back to campus next year to participate in person.
Further, to add more fun to the online experience, virtual backgrounds are available for people using Zoom, including for class reunions and Greek organizations.
Like many alumni, Dedes can’t wait for Homecoming to happen.
“I’m just looking for an outcome where people feel like they were engaged and feel like they were still a part of Stetson, even though they couldn’t physically be here,” she concluded.
Homecoming 2020 for Current Students
Beginning on Monday, Nov. 2, Stetson students will get the chance to participate in a blend of in-person and virtual Homecoming activities — in keeping with the university’s COVID-19 protocols, of course, according to Zachary Beaver, assistant director of Student Organizations & Engagement.
“This way, we can accommodate people who are interested in getting together in person and people who are not learning on campus. So, there will be an opportunity for everybody to be involved. That’s really our goal throughout the week,” Beaver commented. “We have come up with a variety of events. And we’ll have giveaways that we think people will enjoy.” (Giveaways include T-shirts, tote bags and Stetson-branded socks, among other goodies.)
Also, the events represent a great opportunity to safely experience more typical campus life at Stetson, which the pandemic has halted, he noted, adding, “This will be the biggest week of the semester!”