Organizations from across campus have united to plan a Homecoming week focused on being engaging and inclusive.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve been talking about ways to make a more unified Homecoming,” said Liz McKee, assistant program director of Student Involvement and Leadership Development.
In the spirit of unity and inclusivity, the ballot for the Homecoming court was changed to remove candidates’ gender as a consideration. In the past, a committee selected four men and four women for the court, and students chose the top man and top woman to be crowned king and queen. This year’s court could be made up of any combination of men and women.
“The top eight to 10 candidates are the Homecoming court, and the two winners of the student vote will be Homecoming royalty,” said Miriam Meza, a graduate assistant in Student Involvement and Leadership Development. “It’s the same process but different language, and instead of four men and four women, we’ll present the top eight candidates and students will vote for two, regardless of gender.”
Royalty will still be crowned at the Coronation Cookout and presented at the football game on Saturday, Meza said. In addition to reflecting a cultural shift toward gender neutrality, the new process allows both the committee and students to recognize the most outstanding candidates.
“There’s been a positive response,” Meza said. “A lot of the feedback I’ve gotten is that it’s great and, if anything, people are surprised it’s taken so long.”
Another major change for 2016 is the format of the Kickoff Rally. In the past, the week of events would begin with a lunchtime barbecue in the MLK Commons, but that event netted minimal student engagement, McKee said. Students would walk by on their way to class, grab a burger and a Homecoming T-shirt, and continue on their way.
This year’s rally will be held later in the day and feature a more festive atmosphere. The event was moved to Central Park and will include music, food donated by Buffalo Wild Wings and a car smash, Senior Associate Director of Student Involvement and Leadership Dain Gotto said.
“I think it will be a lot of fun for the students,” he said. “It will be a much more celebratory spirit than in the past.”
Gotto and McKee are also looking forward to the second year of the Northern Lights Homecoming parade. Last year’s nighttime parade was well received, Gotto said, and he expects this year to be even better as organizations become more creative with ways to light their floats.
“This year there will also be a performance area where groups in the parade will have the opportunity to stop and perform,” Gotto said. “Some organizations have dances or other kinds of performances they want to incorporate, and this year there is an opportunity for them to stop and showcase their talents.”
Meza said the changes came out of feedback from previous years on how to make events appeal to a wider audience.
For the full schedule of Homecoming events, visit go.niu.edu/homecoming.