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The parents are coming: Family Weekend 2021

It’s finally that time of year again — Miami University will host an in-person Family Weekend for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The weekend’s expansive slate of events begins 711 days after Family Weekend was last held in-person, with a volleyball match against Akron on Thursday, Sept. 30. The weekend runs through Sunday, Oct. 3 and features a range of sports, dining events, open houses, info sessions and more.

Mark Pontious, Miami’s director of parent and family programs in the Division of Student Life, is happy to be working with departments across Miami to once again plan for the weekend after more than a year off.

“It’s such a fun weekend to put together,” Pontious said. “It’s been two years, and it’s a busy weekend, but it’s a really fun weekend, particularly for our students.”

Pontious said a main goal of Family Weekend is to engage parents and create an environment for them to check up with their students. COVID-19 added an extra challenge to that.

Most events will take place outside due to the lingering presence of COVID, a planning detail Pontious said is part of a central effort to help families feel comfortable during their visits.

“Any time you bring families and anyone to campus, it’s not without risk,” Pontious said. “But we’ve done, I think, what we can to minimize that risk … to where folks feel comfortable engaging.”

All Family Weekend events will have the same COVID-related rules as normal Miami operations: masks indoors and encouraged outside; vaccination is not mandated.

He lamented the inability to schedule a headline entertainer for an event in Millett Hall like past years have had. 

Nina Emlemdi, Miami Activities and Programming (MAP) president, said she’ll miss having a headliner, but it hasn’t deterred her from getting excited about the big weekend.

“Every time it comes around, it’s probably the busiest weekend in the year for MAP,” Emlemdi said. “We always want to beat what we did last year.”

MAP shoulders much of the responsibility for running events throughout the weekend. This year MAP is hosting the first Uptown Family Fest, featuring activities like a ferris wheel, an obstacle course and outdoor concert. 

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“This year for Family Fest, we’re bringing in a ferris wheel Uptown, which will be exciting to see,” Emlemdi said. “We always do the farmers market every year, so that’s a classic that I love because it really engages the community.”

All the behind-the-scenes work by Pontious, Emlemdi and many others will be experienced by thousands of families, like sophomore Brayden Beck’s parents from Youngstown, Ohio.

Beck, a mechanical engineering major, expects his parents to arrive in Oxford on Friday, and he’s looking forward to showing them around.

“I haven’t seen them in a while, it should be a good time,” Beck said. “They really haven’t been here a whole lot other than moving me in, moving me out, so they really haven’t had the full Miami experience.”

Though in-state, Youngstown is a four-and-a-half hour drive from Oxford, not exactly a day trip for his parents, Caroline and George. Last year, Caroline never met Brayden’s roommate.

“You can’t just hop in a car and go very often,” she said. “The last couple times on campus, when we went up to move him in, we couldn’t do too much.”

She said she’s glad that Family Weekend programming gives them options for activities on their visit. Meeting friends — and a roommate — will be squeezed into the schedule too.

“I just want to see my baby,” Caroline said. “You know how parents are — any opportunity to see your kid, we’re really looking forward to that.”