Nov. 8, 2017—Homecoming weekend, hundreds of Oregon State University alumni flocked from across the country to visit campus, meet with current students and return to their alma mater. The festivities began Oct. 12 with the Homecoming Carnival and culminated Oct. 14 with the football game against University of Colorado.
But before the Beavers faced off against the Buffalos, alumni and current students gathered at the Memorial Union for the annual Homecoming Brunch, hosted by the Associated Students of Oregon State University (ASOSU) and the Beaver Caucus, to celebrate OSU’s ongoing legacy. “Oregon State was created nearly 150 years ago to provide access to an excellent higher education opportunity for all Oregonians and to serve the economy,” OSU President Ed Ray said in his opening remarks. “The state of your university is very strong. Our students, faculty and alumni are out there in the world doing amazing things. And here, on campus, our student leaders dedicate themselves to our community. I want to express my gratitude for all that our student leaders do to represent other students and to make the OSU community a better place.”
Other speakers included former ASOSU President Ryan Mann, Assistant Dean of Student Life Leslie Schacht Drey and current ASOSU President Simon Brundage. The event provided an opportunity for current and former students to connect and network over coffee and a meal. “Every year it’s a great way for current and former ASOSU members to bond over shared experiences and about serving in student government,” ASOSU Faculty Advisor Drew Desilet said. “Not to mention the career development opportunities. We have alumni working in various fields that have helped connect current students to excellent jobs and internships.” And with over 60 distinguished alumni in attendance, including seven past ASOSU presidents, there were plenty of connections to make.
While alumni, faculty and staff all attended the brunch, it was truly a student-led event. ASOSU members did everything from scheduling to logistics to marketing, allowing them valuable leadership experience in the process. “That’s what ASOSU is about,” Desilet says. “Allowing students to take charge and lead, allowing them to really make the event their own and to learn from each project, either in success or failure.”
“[ASOSU Vice President] Radhika Shah got the process started over the summer, doing the booking and reaching out to alumni,” President Simon Brundage says. “And the Beaver Caucus was a great help reaching out with their members and contacts; they even got some legislators to come out.” The rest of the ASOSU cabinet contributed as well. Brundage took care of catering, the speakers and the agenda; he also emceed the event. Natalie Long, ASOSU director of promotion and outreach, led a team to get the word out and make strategic connections. “We sent hand-addressed invites this year,” she says. “This was in addition to social media promotion and word of mouth.”
ASOSU and other campus organizations worked alongside the OSU Alumni Association to plan Homecoming events and connect with alumni in new and exciting ways. Events like the Homecoming Carnival, OSU150 Academic Showcase, the Multicultural Alumni and Friends Tailgater, and others allowed returning alumni to connect with specific groups on campus. At these events, current students had valuable time to make meaningful connections and relationships.
It’s all part of a larger goal to develop a strong OSU community that stretches beyond campus. “It’s definitely a win-win relationship,” says Halli Barrios, president of the Student Alumni Ambassadors. “Current students want to have a sneak peek of post-graduation life, or advice about our majors, or networking and career opportunities, and that’s what alumni are here for. On the flip side, it’s not always easy to stay in touch with your alma mater, but current students can help our alumni bridge that gap.”
“There’s a constant cycle of alumni involvement,” Early Engagement Director Matt Fenstermaker said. “Alumni have valuable knowledge and experience that they can pass onto our current students, and that’s going to better prepare them to enter the world, and in return, they’re going to become stronger alumni.” This year, Fenstermaker and his colleagues in the Alumni Association revived old Homecoming traditions like the Tug O’ War and the Homecoming Court in addition to starting new ones like the “Build a Beaver” booth, where current and former students could build a stuffed beaver for a donation toward the Alumni Association’s scholarship fund. Along with the ASOSU Brunch, these events and many more helped Beavers young and old to appreciate OSU together. “It’s all about building a consistent, common experience among students and alumni,” Fenstermaker says.
Beyond Homecoming, both ASOSU and the Alumni Association look forward to seeing alumni connect with campus during the year, whether through events or on an individual basis. They hope to see current and future alumni reach out to students, attend campus events, and keep up with their former organizations. “In the future, we’d love to provide additional opportunities for alumni and current students to meet and mingle, whether it’s helping out at the carnival or a small networking event,” says Kelsey Milholland, former vice president of outreach and engagement for the Student Alumni Ambassadors.