By Emily Rosenberg
As the sun set on the McCarthy Center, smooth jazz tunes echoed from the patio as students enjoyed Latin soul food courtesy of a bright yellow-and-orange Butter UR Biscuit food truck.
Staff and administrators, dressed in casual hoodies and T-shirts rather than their more typical suits and dresses, shared in the camaraderie, lounged in lawn chairs, and played giant lawn games across State Street. Alumni, some returning just a few months after graduating and others after several years, were decked out in their vintage FSU merch as they cheered on their favorite college football team in the rain.
On a chilly start to fall, students, their families, and alumni celebrated Framingham State’s annual Homecoming and Family Weekend on Sept. 22 and 23.
The weekend was packed with 19 activities including the annual Football game on Saturday and the 22-year-old tradition, Moonlight Breakfast, at which administrators serve breakfast in the Dining Commons at 9 p.m.
Other festivities included lawn games, a performance by the Bruce Mattson Band, Casino Night, a University Welcome with President Nancy Niemi, a Family Reception, and a performance by the Suit Jacket Posse.
Members of the community were also welcome to participate in an Honors Program reception, two classroom experiences, a fRAMily Network Meeting, an Alumni End Zone, a fRAMily Fall Festival, and Words of Wisdom for Families.
An adult field day was planned for the Alumni of Color Network, but was postponed to a to-be-announced date out of respect to the family and friends of Djeila Barbosa.
President Niemi said, “Homecoming and Family Weekend contribute to building a sense of community because they are shared experiences designed to involve everyone in some way, connecting these experiences to our beloved campus traditions.”
She added these campus events are a way to “enhance school spirit and carry on the traditions for new students and families. Food and music, games and arts of all kinds—these are ways in which we celebrate who we are joyfully.”
She said it was hard to pick just one favorite event of the weekend but one of her favorites was the Moonlight Breakfast “where those of us behind the line were dancing and serving happy, hungry students and families.”
Gina Pacitto, program coordinator for the Center for Student Experience, said the best part of Homecoming is “the excitement.
“It brings everyone together. … Relax, have a good time. Have a good conversation. Catch up with old friends and eat some good food.”
She said the planning for Homecoming and Family Weekend involves “a lot of moving parts,” including contracting with the City of Framingham to close part of State Street.
As Homecoming kicked off, a food truck arrived and offered Latin soul food.
Joseph Mark, a sophomore, showed up an hour ahead of time to be at the front of the line. He said he loved Butter Ur Biscuit “so much.”
While waiting in line for food, Monet Turner, a sophomore, said she loved Homecoming because it brought about a sense of “togetherness” and “community.”
Ben Trapanick, executive director of family engagement, hosted the Family Reception and the fRAMily Network Meeting and helped plan the fRAMily Fall Festival.
Trapanick said a part of Homecoming is being able to invite families here so they can experience what student life is like on campus - what it is like to go to classes and eat in the dining hall.
“First-year families and transfer [students’] families really only came in the summertime when there weren't any other new students and families here. So, now they get to see it in full force, what it's like to be here, really getting a context of what the students are experiencing during the school year as opposed to just orientation-related activities.”
The Family Reception was hosted in Hemenway Labs on Friday night and offered a space for families to meet and interact with staff and administrators and enjoy hors d'oeuvres.
At the family reception, Oliver Swanson said his family came from Kingston to visit him. Ellie Swanson, his mother, said it was “a beautiful day,” and that prior, they had the chance to stroll around the campus and play lawn games.
Also at the Family Reception, twin sisters Aubrianna and Audrey Oullette were visited by their mother, Sharon. Both are juniors and Audrey just transferred from another school. Audrey said she has liked the campus so far as it is not too far from where she lives, and that it is a lot better than her previous school.
Bruce Mattson, the pianist and singer for the Bruce Mattson Band, which performed on the McCarthy patio on Friday evening said it was a homecoming for him, too.
Mattson worked as the Assistant Director for the Christa McAuliffe Center for 25 years, retiring only two-and-a-half years ago.
Mattson said it was “a pleasure to participate” in FSU’s Homecoming and share his band’s music with students.
The Bruce Mattson Band is a Blues and Jazz Band. Rather than having an assigned set list that is practiced intensely ahead of time, they are more of a jam group.
On Friday night, the Moonlight Breakfast occurred in the Dining Commons, where Administrators and Staff passed out paper plates and served breakfast to students and their families as WDJM provided some tunes. There was also a casino at which students could gamble with fake coins and dollars with Elvis’ face on them.
Emily Crossin, a first-year student, said her family came to visit her, and they enjoyed the family reception in Hemenway Labs. Clenching some of her Elvis dollars, she said she particularly enjoyed learning how to play roulette during the casino.
During the meal, Zachary Morrison, a first-year student, said his experience at Framingham State has been wonderful so far as he has met so many new friends. He sarcastically said a highlight of Friday night was when he “mainly got broke at the casino.”
Tyrese Herring, a first-year student and member of the football team, said attending Framingham State has been an adjustment as his hometown is in Florida. Attending the Moonlight Breakfast with his friend, Andrew Louis, he emphasized how great the food was as he smiled broadly for The Gatepost’s photographer.
On Saturday, there were opportunities for alumni to engage in festivities at the fRAMily Fall Festival in the Dining Annex and the Alumni End Zone during the football game at Bowditch Field.
Eric Gustafson, vice president of development and alumni relations, said an estimated 250 alumni turned out for the various alumni-centered events, but people were likely more hesitant to come out for outdoor-focused activities due to the weather.
He said Homecoming Weekend truly reflects “the fRAMily” because the students, family, and alumni are all together.
“I just love seeing the joy and the happiness that comes from people being here and celebrating together,” he added.
Gustafson said Homecoming Weekend is an opportunity for alumni to deepen their connection to Framingham State.
He said the fall festival was co-sponsored by his office and the office of family engagement to bring both families and alumni together. It was originally planned to be ouzztside but was moved to the Dining Annex and featured a DJ, food, cake, prizes, and a balloon artist.
Although the Alumni of Color Network event was postponed, the annual inclusive excellence award was presented to Jean Connally ‘02.
According to the nomination, at Framingham State, Connally majored in Communication Arts, was a member of the Black Student Union and the Hilltop Players, and was a resident assistant. Connally is a founding member of the Alumni of Color Network.
In his professional career as an entrepreneur, Connally’s focus has been to “prepare the next generation of business leaders of color,” providing internship opportunities to FSU students, particularly in marketing, communications, and leadership skills. He is also a town meeting member in Dedham and was the first person of color in his precinct to be elected to this role.
Gustafson said alumni coming back to campus “strengthens their bond and connection to FSU, and hopefully, they had a great time when they were back and they want to continue to come back and be part of this community.”