Even though Case Western Reserve University’s Homecoming only lasts one week, the planning starts much earlier. This year, CWRU wanted Homecoming to focus more on school spirit and pride, requiring even more innovation and effort from the planners as they modified their approach.
Lou Stark, the vice president of Student Affairs, even went as far as making increasing school pride one of his division’s overarching goals. Crystal Sutton, assistant director of programs in the Office of Student Activities and Leadership, says Homecoming is a good kickoff point for this.
Sutton believes that an increase in school pride will lead to greater student satisfaction with the university, which should increase their happiness and overall performance.
Danielle Turner, a CWRU junior and director of the University Programming Board’s Traditions Committee, believes that there is a lot of individual spirit at CWRU, but students aren’t given any outlets to express it.
“By increasing school spirit as a whole, we hope to give people that outlet,” she said.
Turner notes that people often see school spirit as a result of having good sports teams, but she sees winning teams as a symptom of school spirit. Sutton thinks along the same lines, noting that sports can be a default way for students to identify how they show school pride. At schools where sports aren’t a big deal, most students don’t try to find other ways to express that pride.
But what exactly is school pride, if not associated with sports teams? According to Sutton, school pride is being excited that you go to the university and actually showing it.
As CWRU looked at ways to increase school spirit and pride, it became clear that whether students associate school pride with sports or their university is an issue at other schools, too. Sofia Alvarado, a senior working in the Office of First Year Experience, called other schools in CWRU’s athletic division to see how they approach school spirit.
According to Alvarado, officials from Washington University in St. Louis said that they don’t have much school spirit because they’re a Division III school, so students seem to identify with their major departments instead. Administrators from Carnegie Mellon University and Emory University, however, recognized that students can show pride in different ways. Representative from the universities told Alvarado that their students support each other by attending cultural shows and performances put on by campus groups.
During homecoming week, many student groups are trying to get their peers excited to support their friends. Rachel Sosnowchik, president of the Class Officer Collective for the Class of 2016, wants students to come out and show their support for students that are involved in the events, as well as the event planners.
Sosnowchik and fellow COC representative Claire Slusarz have been planning homecoming since the spring of last year, and spent a lot of time on the events over the summer.
While COC promoted many of the events through social media, information about the events mostly spread by word of mouth. One way of doing this was by encouraging students to wear homecoming apparel, which COC members hope will also improve school spirit.
Throughout the week, students were encouraged to post on social media the different things they liked about CWRU. For example, on Monday, students were supposed to post a Man Crush Monday about their favorite guy at CWRU, while on Tuesday, they were asked to celebrate Traditions Tuesday by posting about their favorite tradition using a hashtag.
This is part of a larger class competition that COC has been promoting in an effort to foster class pride. The class with the most participation in each event during the week will win a celebratory dinner.
School pride is easy to see as an alumnus. Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications for CWRU’s Alumni Association Jessica Tremayne-Farkas notes that homecoming is the one time during the year when there are guaranteed to be alumni on campus.
The fact that alumni come shows they are proud to have attended CWRU. Sutton says that students can see how their experiences at CWRU will affect them in the future by looking at alumni, and alumni can show their pride by identifying with CWRU graduates.
However, students are the ones in charge of fostering school spirit and pride among their fellow students at CWRU. As Turner says, the focus is more on making students lead each other in creating school pride, rather than having the university lead the charge.