COVID-19 has forced many of Miami University’s events online this year, and Family Weekend and Homecoming haven’t been spared.
The two events will be combined into one 10-day celebration called “The Miami Community: Forever and a Day,” inspired by the line from Miami’s fight song. The event will run from Oct. 9 through Oct. 18 and feature different virtual events, with some occurring live or at a specific time and others serving as ongoing activities or competitions with specific deadlines.
Family Weekend and Homecoming are run by a joint committee, which includes members involved in parent and family programs and Homecoming, that met various times throughout the summer to discuss what this year’s plans would look like.
“It was not a hard conversation to say ‘If [Miami] is changing the academic calendar to limit the number of trips and visitors in and out of campus … there’s no way in good conscience we could invite 4,000 people to come to Oxford for Family Weekend,” said Mark Pontious, director of parent and family programs. “And so that made the decision very easy from a health and safety perspective.”
Some of this year’s events include a livestream of Trap and Paint hosted by the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, a virtual escape room hosted by Miami Activities and Programming (MAP), virtual yoga and a livestreamed wine tasting event, among others.
Ongoing events include Homecoming Court selections, with the winners being announced on Oct. 17, the Celebrate Your Space decorating contest and the Run for Love and Honor virtual 5k, which can be completed any day between Oct. 9-18.
Although everything will be moved online, the university wants to ensure that students and families get the most out of Family Weekend, which Pontious said usually serves two main purposes: to allow parents to check on their student's transition to college and to learn more about their student’s experiences on campus.
“Really, it’s a time for them to spend time together,” Pontious said. “And that’s what we always try to keep at the center of Family Weekend planning.”
He also said that the university is including events that allow alumni to reconnect to campus, which will bring elements of Homecoming to the celebration.
“We are just excited to engage families, students and alumni,” Pontious said. “That’s really what it all comes down to.”
Vanessa Wright, whose daughter is a sophomore at Miami, is disappointed that she won’t be able to have the same on-campus experience with her daughter as last year. As soon as the Family Weekend dates came out, she booked a hotel room, which she later had to cancel.
Although she’s sad that she won’t get to visit campus and see her daughter, she is happy that the university chose to make the celebration virtual in order to limit the number of people traveling to campus, which could cause COVID cases to rise.
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“I think that obviously we’re there for education, and so the more the kids can have in-person learning and have those opportunities without bringing additional people from different places to the campus, that makes me feel better,” Wright said.
Wright isn’t sure how much she and her daughter will participate in the virtual events (trying to plan during midterm week proved to be difficult), but she appreciates that she is still given the chance to bond with her daughter even after in-person events were canceled.
“I love that Miami is trying to make up for that and give different opportunities for parents to feel part of the experience,” Wright said.
Sophomore Gracie Irish thinks that many of the virtual programs are great ideas but also doesn’t think she or her parents will utilize them.
“I don’t think my parents are going to use the virtual aspect of [Family Weekend] to reconnect or get into contact with me,” Irish said. “I feel like if they did, they’d try to Facetime me personally or have, like, a family call.”
Irish said that because it’s her sophomore year, she’s not upset that her family can’t come to campus and is more than happy with just a phone call. She feels bad for first-years because they’re missing out on such a big experience with their families, like she had with her parents and sisters last year.
“I am sad that Family Weekend can’t happen for them, because it did really help me,” Irish said. “Because it’s like, ‘OK, you didn’t die … you made it through college, your family’s still there for you, and you get to reconnect.’”
A full list of scheduled activities can be found on the The Miami Community: Forever and a Day website.