University News

Alumni Get Charged Up at University’s Virtual Homecoming

The University’s Centennial Homecoming brought together members of Charger Nation from across the country and around the globe, enabling them to connect with each other and their alma mater from the comfort and safety of their homes.

December 11, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Virtual Homecoming
Homecoming brought members of Charger Nation together online.

Arnold Lane ’14 attends Homecoming as often as he can. He was especially looking forward to attending this year, as the University is celebrating its Centennial.

Held virtually amid the global coronavirus pandemic, Homecoming offered new and safe ways for Lane and his fellow Chargers to connect. For Lane, the virtual DJ party hosted by the Black Alumni Network was a highlight of the day, as it brought back fond memories of his time on campus.

“The nostalgia took a lot of us back to the nights when the Black Student Union and Caribbean Student Association hosted parties in the German Club,” explains Lane, now assistant director of multicultural affairs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “I also enjoyed attending the coffee hour with Dr. Lorenzo Boyd, vice president for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. It was exciting to hear about the progress the University has made in the areas of inclusion and equity, and I look forward to seeing how Dr. Boyd and President Kaplan continue to grow this new division and its programs and services.”

DJ battle
The virtual DJ battle was a popular event at Homecoming.
'I was able to attend from the comfort of home'

Although Lane and his fellow alumni could not return to campus, they received a warm welcome from current students, who gave them a virtual campus tour that included a peek at the University’s new Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Alumni connected with the University and with each other on social media throughout the day, which started with a welcome video from the University’s Dance Team. An online digital tool kit gave attendees everything they needed to get into the Charger spirit at home – from printable coloring pages perfect for future Chargers to social media graphics.

David Galla '99
David Galla ’99, President of Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, ran the virtual 5K with his dog, Norah.

Always a popular part of Homecoming, the University’s Marching Band got everyone charged up at home with their performance of the Fight Song. Although alumni couldn’t cheer for the Chargers football team at Ralph F. DellaCamera Stadium, they, instead, worked up a sweat running the Chargers virtual 5K at home and taking virtual fitness classes with Bella Miceli ’13, assistant director of fitness and wellness at ChargerREC.

Even with the event’s virtual format, Athletics was still a critical part of the Homecoming festivities. Chargers near and far could watch some of the most historic games in University history or join Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., for a “Coffee & Conversation” Zoom discussion.

For Mandi (McGuire) Donaldson '06, it was important to her to attend Homecoming, despite the pandemic. She and her husband, Keith Donaldson '06, who met at the University, look forward to attending every year.

“Life gets busy and our friends live all over the place, so Homecoming becomes our annual reunion,” said Mandi, a retail marketing manager for Sodexo at Clark University. “I was able to attend from the comfort of home, without having to find a sitter, and I was still able to connect with friends.”

'The start of a new tradition'
Bella Miceli '13
Bella Miceli ’13 leads a virtual yoga class.

As when it is held in-person, Homecoming held virtually offered the same wide variety of events and entertainment, including Charger Nation Trivia, a virtual beer tasting with Two Roads Brewing Company, an alumni happy hour, and a performance by comedian Jackie Fabulous of America’s Got Talent.

As the University commemorated its 100th anniversary in 2020, it also celebrated the milestones of two of its classes. Homecoming included special Zoom reunions for members of the University’s classes of 1970 and 1995, who celebrated their 50th and 25th reunions, respectively.

“My favorite part about Homecoming was hearing stories from alumni who graduated decades ago and learning what it was like to be on campus back then,” said Liana Stampalia ’18, a candidate in the Master of Arts in music theory program at the University of Connecticut. “It is fun to see how much the campus has changed since then. My time at the University of New Haven was the best four years of my life, and I like being able to stay involved with campus activities.”

Lane says one advantage of the virtual format was that it made it easier to experience everything Homecoming had to offer.

Liana Stampalia ’18
Liana Stampalia ’18.

“I think the virtual format provided the University the unique opportunity of reimagining how it engages alums around the world,” he said. “During a typical Homecoming, it is challenging to stop by all of the events you wish to attend and see all of the people you want to see.

“The virtual format provided the opportunity to jump into different meetings and social events without the travel,” he continued. “I hope these virtual events can potentially be the start of a new tradition for those alums and friends who cannot physically return to campus.”