Students, families, and alumni celebrate Homecoming
By Emily Rosenberg
By Emma Lyons Editorial Staff
As the sun set on the McCarthy Center on a chilly October evening, student leaders dressed head to toe in FSU merch rolled out stacks of raffle tickets and candy.
Touring a leafy State Street, parents and friends hugged their students for the first time in months and conversed over a cup of apple cider.
People returned to their alma mater to share memories with old friends over paint palettes and macaroons.
Students, alumni, and family celebrated Homecoming Oct. 28 and 29, sponsored by Student Engagement and Career Development, Development of Alumni Relations, the Dean of Students Office, and the Office of Family Engagement.
Events included the Ram Pride Spirit Station, Family & Guests Reception, FSU Student Org Fundraising Frenzy, Alumni of Color Network Paint Night and presentation of the Alumni Achievement Award for Inclusive Excellence, The McCarthy Takeover, Moonlight Breakfast, the FRAMily Network meeting, Alumni End Zone, the FRAMily Fall Festival, and sports games that occurred throughout the weekend.
An estimated 400 alumni returned for the weekend, according to Eric Gustafson, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations.
According to Rachel Lucking, assistant dean of engagement, the highest attended event advertised for families was the Moonlight Breakfast, which was attended by 488 students who checked in using Digital ID.
Gustafson said he was “pleased” with the turnout for Homecoming. He said all the alumni events were successful, especially because Development Alumni Relations “tried new things this year.”
Lucking said the planning for Homecoming Weekend began in the Spring 2022 semester. The Athletics Department, Development and Alumni Relations, the Office of Family Engagement, and Student Engagement and Career Development collaborated in planning the events, meeting monthly to map out the marketing and the programs offered.
Lucking said there were fewer challenges with planning Homecoming because of the lack of COVID-19 restrictions.
“It seems a lot easier that we don’t have to think about that. It’s good to be back to pre-pandemic events,” she said.
She said as assistant dean of engagement, Homecoming means reconnection. “I’ve been working here for quite a while. So, I do get to see a lot of former students who come back who now have families of their own. So, I get to meet all their little babies.”
Ben Trapanick, director of Family Engagement, said the planning was focused more on families this year because of the shift in his office’s roles. He said they were also focused on being able to get back to pre-pandemic events.
Trapanick said Homecoming is a great way “for people to come back and stay involved with the community and see what's happening and just build on their sense of pride about being graduates of Framingham State.”
It was also President Nancy Niemi’s first time celebrating Homecoming at FSU. She said she loved the events of the weekend and she was excited to see people having fun on campus and expressing school spirit.
She added she thought the events were “well planned” and she was happy to see a variety of events.
“We have such a tight-knit community,” Niemi said. “I love the community celebration. It’s so much fun.”
Rams Spirit Table and FSU Student Organizations Fundraiser Frenzy
Student Engagement and Career Development held a spirit table on the McCarthy Center Patio for students to make signs showing “Ram Pride” using poster boards and craft supplies.
Leah Mudd, assistant director of orientation and student experience, said all the events for Homecoming were a lot of fun. “This is my first year actually working at Framingham State for Homecoming. I think it’s great! The McCarthy Takeover has a lot of really fun things that are going on all at once - which I think is fantastic.
“It’s always a great time to celebrate and love on Framingham State a little bit more than maybe we normally would,” she said.
Trapanick said he hoped Homecoming Weekend helped students to feel a sense of pride in the University and that FSU is the place for them to be.
Rams Engagement Ambassador Kat Washburn said Homecoming is the one weekend where people celebrate FSU with no reason.
“That’s what makes it so special - we don’t have a holiday we’re celebrating or a beginning of the year celebration - we’re just celebrating us and being at Framingham.”
Aisha Quarles, a first year student, said this was the first Homecoming she had experienced because it wasn’t something that happened at any of her other schools. “It’s very nice. It’s very inviting, and I enjoy it a lot.”
Starting at 5:30 p.m., various student organizations set up tables on the McCarthy Center Patio and in the McCarthy Center Lobby for the FSU Student Orgs Fundraising Frenzy.
All of the involved student organizations set up tables advertising their groups and the fundraisers they were hosting.
Meeghan Bresnahan, Hilltop Players president and a senior history major, said the event helped the Hilltop Players because it gave them the opportunity to hold a raffle and fundraise. “We decided to participate because we want to put on great shows for all of campus and all of the surrounding community. We want to be able to bring good theater and good merchandise.”
Emily Monaco, Hilltop Players fundraising chair and a junior studio art major, said she had spoken with Bresnahan and they thought being a part of the event would help them gain more opportunities when putting on shows in Spring 2023.
Sam Bombara, Math Club treasurer and a sophomore math major, said the event helped them promote the Math Club and bring people into the club in an interesting way. “I want to break the stigma that math is a bad subject or a hard subject because I think it can be fun.”
Junior Bridget Conceison, Education Club president, said the club was hoping to gain publicity by being involved in the fundraising event.
Laura Abreu, Education Club secretary and a junior elementary education major, said that the Education Club was closed down after COVID-19 and has just been reinstated. “This was a perfect way to get our name out there and get people to sign up.”
Kenzler Joseph, Black Student Union treasurer and a junior business management major, said BSU decided to get involved with the event in order to get extra money to host events in the future and to spread awareness about their organization.
“It’s important we make sure we have all the awareness we can spread. Get all the people on campus knowing about Black Student Union and what a great club we are. There’s a lot to offer for anybody on campus - not just students of color,” he said.
Neirmen Eldan, FSAB treasurer and a sophomore biology major, said, “It’s a nice way to give back to the community and a nice way to not only have a fun activity for the students at Framingham State, but their families as well.”
Odilia Mendez, Fashion Club president and a senior fashion and merchandising major, said the Fashion Club decided to participate in the event to have the opportunity to talk to students about Fashion Club and recruit new members.
“I think [Homecoming is] a great weekend filled with events for students and families to come along and see what FSU is about,” she said. Family & Guests Reception
Family Engagement sponsored the Family & Guests Reception, held in the Hemenway Labs Atrium Oct. 28.
Trapanick said the family reception was planned to create a space for families to connect and mingle between Homecoming events.
Lorretta Holloway, vice president of Academic Enhancement, said the family reception was a new addition to the Homecoming events. It allowed for families to sign up for the Family Experience Portal and the FRAMily Network to receive newsletters providing updates about what is going on around campus.
“It’s nice to get the families on campus with their students. It’s nice to meet other parents that I didn’t get to meet at family orientation over the summer,” said Holloway.
She said students frequently call their families when they have issues at school, so it is helpful for families and support networks to have information about what on-campus resources would be helpful.
“I know that students will frequently call their families before they call us - even if it’s a question about here,” Holloway said.
Michael and Melanie Gendreau, parents of a first year student, said they planned to attend their daughter’s cross-country meet the following day and were planning on attending the Moonlight Breakfast later in the night. “[The Homecoming events] were a great idea - we looked forward to coming to them.” Presentation of Alumni Achievement Award in Inclusive Excellence and Alumni of Color Network Paint Night
The Alumni of Color Network Paint Night and Presentation of the Alumni Achievement Award for Inclusive Excellence took place in the Center for Inclusive Excellence at 7 p.m on Friday.
The purpose of the Alumni of Color Network is to create opportunities for BIPOC alumni to connect.
The Alumni Achievement Award for Inclusive Excellence was presented to Jose Moreno ’05.
The award is presented to an alum who has “championed issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and has supported the University community,” according to the Framingham State website.
Moreno graduated from Framingham State with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, and also has a master’s of arts in college student development and administration.
As a student at FSU, Moreno was the president of the LatinX affinity group “Amigos.” In his professional career, he served for five years as the director of diversity and inclusion for McDaniel College and is now working as a transition specialist for Frederick Community College for first-generation students.
Moreno was unable to attend the event because he lives far from the University, but thanked the Board of Alumni directors with a video message.
He recognized Pátricia Sanchez-Connally, a sociology professor, for nominating him. He said he met her during his first year in 1999.
“For some reason, she saw something in me and she's always been supportive of me and always been a good friend and colleague,” Moreno said. He added David Baldwin, director of Human Resources and former assistant dean of students, whom he also met in his first year, is another incredibly supportive colleague and “best friend.”
“The work I do is greatly influenced by what he has taught me and all he has shown me as a colleague, as a friend, and as a professional.”
Gustafson said alumni achievement award nominations are open to the public, which are then sent to the alumni board of directors.
The Alumni of Color Network Paint Night followed the presentation of the award. Alumni painted a silhouette of a city.
Zae Valera ’18 said she was excited to return to FSU and see the changes made to the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE).
She said when she was a student, the space currently being used for the CIE was in a residence hall. Therefore, she is happy to see the University investing more space for students to participate in the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Steven Lamisere ’18 said it is fun coming back for Homecoming and seeing what has changed since he was a student. “I didn’t believe those robots were a real thing.”
He agreed with Valera that seeing the renovated CIE, which was updated in 2021, was exciting.
Lamiser said the paint night was a time to reconnect and have a good time. He said it was nice to see the events such as the paint night because in the past, Homecoming was typically centered around football.
McCarthy Takeover and Moonlight Breakfast
The McCarthy Takeover took place on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the McCarthy Center. Activities included airbrush tattoos, personal mug making, sign making, video games on big screens provided by Next Level Gaming, and tarot card readings. There was also a magician.
Washburn said she was really excited about the inclusion of Next Level Gaming, which was a “unique idea.”
Tom Rubyck, a father visiting his first year student, said his favorite part was watching the magician. He added it was his first time meeting Framingham State community members, and “people here are so friendly.”
Beyonce Santos, a first-year student, said she had a lot of fun participating in FSU Pride Week, where students wore FSU spirit-themed clothing leading up to Homecoming, and her favorite part of the McCarthy Center Takeover was getting an airbrush tattoo.
Jacob Sargent, a senior, said although the events at the McCarthy Takeover and during Homecoming overall were fun, he would have preferred if there was more to do. He said at last year’s Homecoming, there was a carnival and a food truck which he would have preferred over the activities offered at the Takeover.
Ben Hurney, a sophomore SGA senator, helped sign students into the event. He said he was most excited about the airbrush tattoos, and thought the Takeover was a great way to generate excitement on campus and for students to take away “memories.”
The Moonlight Breakfast took place at 9 p.m. on Friday.
Members of the community were invited to eat breakfast foods, including french toast sticks and sausage, served by members of the administration, faculty, and staff.
According to Lucking, it is a Homecoming tradition also held at other schools that started at FSU in 2001. She said it is usually the most highly attended Homecoming event and she was pleased with the number of faculty, administrators, and staff who volunteered.
Lucking said Moonlight Breakfast is an “anchor event” that students can always count on to be a part of the Homecoming lineup.
Shayna Eddy, associate dean of admissions, said the tradition is a wonderful way to build community because students are able to interact and bond with administrators they don’t “typically see” on campus during their day-to-day schedules.
Amy Bickford, a first-year student, said the Homecoming events leading up to Moonlight Breakfast were crucial to “strengthen community.” FSU is a very “close-knit community,” in which administrators, faculty, staff, and students frequently bond, and Homecoming reinforces that, she said.
Em Cohen, a first-year student, said the Moonlight Breakfast was nice for bonding with her friends’ families. She added she “loved how the Kiwibots were dressed up.”
Chrissie Cohen, Em Cohen’s mother, said coming to Moonlight Breakfast and being able to bond with her daughter’s friends truly “solidified” why her daughter picked FSU. She said she and her husband traveled from Pennsylvania to attend the Homecoming events and this was their first time spending time on campus with her daughter's friends. “It’s a beautiful campus,” she said.
Mike Akitas, a father who attended Moonlight Breakfast with his daughter, said, “It’s awesome! Everyone is smiling!”
FRAMily Network Meeting and Classroom Experiences
The FRAMily Network Meeting was led by Trapanick on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
The FRAMily Network is a service members of the community can sign up for during students’ admittance to the University that meets twice a month.
During the meeting, Trapanick provided updates about information on campus such as advising and registration dates and final exams and facilitated discussions about how parents can support their students.
Trapanick told attendees he wanted to have a meeting during Homecoming because it is a chance for everyone to connect in person.
He said it is especially important for families to connect after people were isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Approximately 20 people attended, who were mainly parents of first-year students.
Trapanick said a goal of the fRAMily Network is to help parents give their students independence without telling them what to do. He said the Office of Family Engagement “does not subscribe” to the idea that students must do everything on their own when they begin college.
Renee McEvoy, a parent visiting her first-year student, said she enjoyed the meeting because it gave her and other parents updates about what is going on around campus.
She added it was helpful to learn how to “draw the line” between giving her student independence and where to give support.
The Classroom Experience invited community members to participate in classroom environments as if it were a normal school day.
Larry McKenna, chair of the department of Environment, Society, and Sustainability, Jon Huibregtse, history professor, and Zahra Tohidinia, marketing professor, taught classes in the McCarthy Center.
McKenna taught the class, “Not Your Grandmother’s Solar System.”
He said people from “multiple generations” attended his class, including several alumni, parents of students, and students with their siblings. He added he taught about 10 people. McKenna said he was recruited by Trapanick.
“He called me and said, ‘Would you do this?’ and I immediately said, ‘Yes,’” McKenna said.
He said events such as the classroom experience are a “great way to show the excellence of the University,” because community members are able to watch what the University does “in real time.”
McKenna added many students on campus are first-generation students, so most parents are unfamiliar with collegiate classroom settings. Therefore, events such as The Classroom Experience help parents of first-generation students learn about college life.
Stephanie Progin, a parent visiting her first-year student, said it’s important for parents to have the opportunity to see what the campus is like “not on a tour.”
Evan Anderson, a first-year student and Progin’s son, said it was great to be able to reconnect with his parents and show them what he has been doing for the past few weeks.
FRAMily Fall Festival
Development and Alumni Relations held a FRAMily Fall Festival on Oct. 29 at Maple Field before the 2:00 p.m. men's soccer game.
At the event, tables were set up to give alumni FSU merch, promote the Kiwibots, and provide hot chocolate, apple cider, and refreshments. There were also various lawn games set up around the field.
Jennifer DeFronzo, executive director of Development and Alumni Relations, said, “A lot of our alumni feel very strongly about Framingham State as their family and so we love having all of them here and giving them the opportunity to come back home.”
Ali Walter, a junior health and wellness major, said she had a lot of fun at the Homecoming events. “I’ve really enjoyed having my family involved. It’s really nice to get to show them around campus and get to show them my professors and faculty that I see daily. It brings my parents into my world.”
Leah Graves ’99 said she had never attended Homecoming as a student but that it was nice to come back as an alum. “I like that there’s alumni giveaways and I got to meet the new president - which was really great.”
Amanda Egan ’09 said coming back for Homecoming made her feel as if she had never left campus because she was still familiar with the locations of buildings on campus.
“I remember when I was a student participating in [Homecoming] as a club person and having to do activities. So to me then, it seemed more like a chore, but as an alum, it seems more like a planned fun outing.”
Kaitlin Bourassa ’08 said she also felt as if she had never left campus as she attended events with her former roommate. “I like to come back and see how it’s changed, reminisce, things like that.”
She said Homecoming was a time to “get back together with your family. I know we’re not related, but we’re still family.”