The 10th Annual Homecoming Unites the Global SNHU Community
Southern New Hampshire University's 10th annual Homecoming brought together alumni, current students, faculty, staff, family and friends from around the world to celebrate their collective Penmen pride in October. SNHU community members joined in from their individual spaces for festivities centered around the theme: “Home Sweet Home(coming).”
While the ongoing pandemic promoted the event’s entirely virtual nature, the format ensured the inclusion of the entire community – a point that was acknowledged and appreciated by many participants throughout Homecoming. The Office of Student Involvement and Office of Institutional Advancement’s Alumni Engagement Team organized more than 20 virtual live events and on-demand activities to take place over the course of four days.
Included in the on-demand activities were a scavenger hunt, photo contest and virtual 5K. The virtual live events featured country artist Angie K and magician Michael Kent, in addition to bingo, yoga, an esports tournament viewing party, opportunities for connection and more. The Alumni Board of Directors also held their annual meeting as a live-streamed event, during which five recipients of this year’s Alumni Awards were announced.
Building SNHU Community Connections
The Building Connections Within the SNHU Community live event offered two sessions to provide flexibility within participants’ schedules. Both sessions reached capacity with representation from states across the U.S. – from New Hampshire to California – and internationally from Malaysia and Antigua. It allowed participants the chance to connect, and they also learned about upcoming programs and regional event opportunities to remain engaged.
At the opening of each session, SNHU career advisors Christopher Dodds and Tom Patria spoke about the value of networking and provided tips participants could immediately put to use as they moved through topically-themed breakout rooms. Being encouraged to share a proudest or favorite SNHU moment prompted reflection on milestones throughout SNHU’s evolution – from the formerly named New Hampshire College to the SNHU campus known today, as well as the online student experience. Another breakout room theme focused on individual passions, revealing that community service, finance and pop culture are among the community’s interests.
The Building Connections sessions provided for many new connections – and some reconnections – to be made. “Conversation flowed really easily in both sessions and in all the different breakout rooms, with most people coming ready to participate and make connections. It was fun to ‘see’ people from so many areas of SNHU, even over a screen,” said Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement Rebecca Lazinsk ’17G, who was the event organizer.
Zaky Ahmady ’97, an alumnus in Malaysia, who graduated from New Hampshire College in the late 1990s, said he keeps in touch with many of his New Hampshire College friends online today. He also expressed excitement that virtual Homecoming programming allowed him to participate – something not easily achieved in years past because of the location barrier.
Creativity, Entertainment, Learning and Laughs
In addition to the two Building Connections sessions, the live virtual events schedule provided nine other opportunities for the SNHU community to connect, create, learn, laugh a little and be entertained.
The audience for BYOP (Bring Your Own Paint) Paint Night included a mix of families and individuals who were offered painting instruction accessible to all ages. The event enabled participants to learn while getting in touch with their creative side.
The instructor established a forgiving and encouraging atmosphere, exhibited when he provided one self-critical student with a different perspective. When the student remarked they “ruined (their) tree” because they painted their branches too wide, the instructor replied that it might be a good opportunity to make the trunk larger.
One family rolled straight from the painting event into Angie K’s country music performance – and was seen singing along from the start. Angie K stole the show, providing more than just music for her audience. In between fulfilling song requests, she shared stories, including memories of her time on “The Voice,” remarking that Blake Shelton is “much taller than you can imagine.”
With her welcoming personality and great sense of humor, Angie K easily connected with the participants of her event.
“Folks seemed to really enjoy the event,” said Senior Associate Director of Alumni Engagement and event organizer Sara Telfer.
Next to Building Connections Within the SNHU Community and BYOP Paint Night, Big Money BINGO saw the greatest participation. The game was projected onto a screen in SNHU’s Last Chapter Pub, where campus students played with handheld bingo cards while hundreds of virtual players generated their cards through an online link.
“Even though we didn’t win, we still enjoyed playing bingo with all of SNHU! #SNHUhomecoming #PenmenPride,” posted Monika Henderson in the Facebook Homecoming event discussion.
Multiple ties brought excitement to the game. Bingo host and former CAPE President Ashley Kaminski ’19 asked players to share their favorite part of Homecoming, who inspires them and more. The active chat box was proof that there was no shortage of engagement in this live virtual tradition.
Fun for the Whole Family
At SNHU, Penmen pride extends into personal networks. Homecoming’s on-demand activities schedule was packed with family-friendly fun for everyone. The SNHU alumni social media channels were alight with commentary from participants enjoying the “choose your adventure” and “do-from-anywhere” activities.
Another activity was an At-Home Family Scavenger Hunt, which invited participants to print out a checklist of items to search for around their homes. “The printer decided not to work today, but the little enjoyed the scavenger hunt,” said Tiffany Martin ’20G, who completed the activity with her son, Declan.
A long-standing favorite, the Virtual 5K, offered the opportunity for participants to share photos of their run, walk, roll or jog. Travis Coley ’18, who drove from New York to volunteer at Homecoming two years ago, participated in the Virtual 5K this year by running in a park near his home. You can see Coley and other familiar faces in these 5K photos.
Event organizers asked members of the SNHU community to show off how they display their Penmen pride by entering the “Eye Spy SNHU” in Your Home Sweet Home photo contest. The photo submission by Soulivanh Rattanavong '19MBA won the most votes, earning her a limited-edition SNHU Homecoming 2021 t-shirt.
And, to help SNHU community members display their Penmen pride, the Alumni Engagement Team mailed packages of SNHU swag to 200 randomly selected participants during the week of Homecoming.
Alumni Recognized for Outstanding Contributions
Five alumni who’ve displayed a commitment to the SNHU community were recognized during the virtual SNHU Alumni Board of Directors Annual Meeting. SNHU President Dr. Paul J. LeBlanc made opening remarks at the meeting, expressing appreciation for the dedication of these individuals to SNHU.
Emerging Leader Award
Aarron Dupuis '19MBA received the Emerging Leader Award for his active involvement as both an online student leader and engaged new alumni leader in the areas of Global Days of Service, the SNHULEADS conference and as a member of the SNHU Alumni Board of Directors.
Michael Williams '16 '18G received the Emerging Leader Award for his passion for mentoring and leading fellow online student leaders, commitment to building community and continued strong presence for how SNHU alumni add value to the worldwide communities in which they live and serve.
Distinguished Alumni Service Award
Polly St. Hilaire '76 '84MBA received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award for many decades of campus community involvement. Beginning as an active student leader at then-New Hampshire College and through the many leadership roles she held with residence life, she continues to cheer for the success of students and alumni in her more than 35 years of service and as a proud alum of SNHU.
Distinguished Service to Alumni Award
SNHU Director of Equity and Inclusion for Learner Success Helena Iaquinta received the Distinguished Service to Alumni Award. She was selected for her infectious enthusiasm in engaging and celebrating the diversity of the SNHU community and her volunteer leadership in events like Queen City Pride to ensure the SNHU community is represented, celebrated and affirmed.
Alumni Hall of Fame Award
Gary St. Hilaire '86 received the Alumni Hall of Fame Award for building a successful career and achieving key leadership roles in the healthcare industry, sustained community involvement and philanthropic support of the students of SNHU throughout many years as they work toward building purpose-driven careers and lives with a foundation of an SNHU degree.
Read more about the Alumni Awards for more information. An in-person event for the presentation of the awards is being planned for late spring 2022.
You can find more photos here from this year's Homecoming festivities.
Jessica Winter is the director of institutional advancement communications at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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About Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.
Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.