While most on campus events have been canceled or moved online due to COVID-19 safety precautions, The University of Tulsa’s Student Association (SA) still hosted Homecoming 2020 in-person this year, though it was in a reduced fashion from past years.
The main planner behind all of this was Caroline Williams, Student Association’s Executive Director of Traditions and a member of the Social and Community Engagement Department in SA. Along with 11 other people, Williams planned all the Homecoming activities for students this year, starting their planning process in May.
The most challenging part of this was trying to plan during constantly changing COVID-19 guidelines. Speaking about the planning process this year, Williams said it “has been extremely difficult. At the beginning of our planning, we had three plans for the week: completely virtual, completely in person and hybrid.” As the semester went on, it became clear that any in-person events would need to have limited attendance. “While we had the option to plan in-person events, we would need to limit these to 50 or 100 students. We chose to try and reach more students through virtual programming.”
While most of the events this week were virtual, there were still a few in person events. On Sunday evening, about 50 people were on Chapman Commons celebrating their beginning of Homecoming by putting TU blue lights on the trees around the entrance to the university. On Tuesday evening, about 100 people were able to participate in street painting. While everyone was required to wear a face mask and physical distancing between groups was required, everyone seemed to have a good time celebrating this Homecoming tradition. Finally, on Saturday evening due to the canceled football game, SA instead hosted a watch party with the 2017 Homecoming game against Houston playing on the scoreboard in the football stadium.
The online events throughout the week included a virtual movie night on Monday night, a virtual painting night with Bill Harris on Wednesday night, a virtual karaoke night on Thursday night, and a virtual celebration of this year’s academic award winners on Friday night.
When asked about what her favorite event of the week was, Williams responded, “My favorite experience this week was street painting. Even though the city revoked our permit the week before the event and we had to move the location, it was a night that felt somewhat normal. Even though team size was limited, we took temperatures, and students wore masks. It was a great chance for us to all come together and celebrate TU Traditions.”
Despite all the changes that were required to happen this year, things still went very well for Homecoming. Each day about 300 students collected a bag with supplies and snacks for the evening virtual event. Overall, SA was very happy with attendance.
With Homecoming now complete, looking back on the week, Williams had this to say, “I think that people were happy with the events we put on, even though they were virtual. I was a little worried that people would be disappointed by having virtual events, but I think students appreciated the supply bags and any chance they could have to connect.” She went on to say that social media had a big role in connecting the students during this week. “Our social media driven week was successful. Social media can facilitate connection as well.” Finally, she wanted to thank everyone who participated, “I would like to thank all of the students who participated in our events this past week! I hope it was a good opportunity to connect with each other and celebrate TU’s greatest tradition.”
To keep up with future events sponsored by Student Association, be sure to follow @UTulsaSA on Facebook and @utulsa_sa on Instagram.