After months of preparation, Occidental hosted Homecoming Weekend for alumni, students and families

Student organizations tabled on the Academic Quad during Homecoming and Family Weekend at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Kendall Kitahara/The Occidental

Homecoming & Family Weekend welcomed alums and parents to Occidental Oct. 18–19. This year’s events included a keynote by Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde ’77, a tailgate before the Homecoming football game and the Student for a Day event, which allows visitors to sit in on classes. Staff from the Offices of Alumni and Parent Engagement, Cleaning Services and Dining Services started planning for the weekend months in advance in order to accommodate 900 visitors this fall, according to Assistant Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement Alisa Fishbach ’87.

“The idea of the weekend is really a spirit weekend. It’s an opportunity for all of us to celebrate what we love about Oxy,” Fishbach said.

According to Fishbach, since the start of the school year, bi-weekly and weekly meetings between several different Occidental departments, including the Office of Institutional Advancement, Cleaning Services and Dining Services, took place. Additionally, last spring, the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement met with student leaders from Programming Board, SLICE, the Athletic Council and Residential Education and Housing Services to brainstorm how to make events more appealing to the student body. Fishbach said she wants students to feel included in the Occidental family as much as parents and alumni.

As Cleaning Services Manager, Mario Bonilla oversees all the cleaning on campus. According to Bonilla, he and his staff worked to ensure that the areas that were most heavily visited during Homecoming weekend looked impeccable.

“[The weekend] requires a lot of preparation that parents and students don’t see and that you might not be aware of because we work behind the scenes,” Bonilla said. “At the end of the day, all you see is either a beautiful classroom, a clean restroom or a clean facility.”

Bonilla said he takes pride in what he and his staff do to make the campus an enjoyable place to live and visit.

“I myself am a parent. My son goes to college at Pomona and when I visit his campus, I want to see something that is really nice, clean and welcoming,” Bonilla said. “When parents come to Occidental, we want to welcome them.”

Students and family play basketball during Homecoming and Family Weekend at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Kendall Kitahara/The Occidental

According to Director of Operations for Hospitality Services Judy Runyon, the Campus Dining staff were extremely busy preparing for the many events that required catering. The same staff that prepares food in the Marketplace is also responsible for catering events, so almost everyone on staff had to work during Homecoming weekend to successfully make food for both.

“It is definitely an all hands on deck event,” Runyon said.

According to Runyon, the food that is served at the Marketplace during Homecoming is no different than the food served throughout the year. However, Hanna White (senior) recalls the Marketplace’s food selection is usually much better during Homecoming Weekend, as well as during Admitted Students Weekend.

“I don’t think it’s that they make new food exactly, but it’s just that all the best things that the MP [Marketplace] makes, they make during that time,” White said.

While the Homecoming football game is not the central event of the week, many students, parents and alumni enjoy attending, according to linebacker Billy Grossman (senior). This year’s homecoming game was against Chapman University 3 p.m. Oct. 19, and Occidental lost 56–23 despite playing well, according to Oxy Athletics.

“It’s very cool to bring alumni back to campus, especially people who were a part of the program but who haven’t been back to Oxy in 30–40 years,” Grossman said.

As a first year, Isabella Auffenorde (senior) did not enjoy Homecoming because seeing other students with their loved ones made her miss her parents, who could not visit. But as an upperclassman, she does not pay much attention to the weekend and said she thinks the events are mostly for first-year students and their families.

Homecoming will be the first time that Mahala Shulman (first year) sees her dad since her parents dropped her off at school.

“I definitely miss them. We have a very close relationship,” Shulman said.

According to Shulman, her parents signed up to attend the weekend’s events, but she did not think they went to many of them. She said she hoped they would spend most of their time walking around campus, going out to eat in Highland Park and sharing a sunset on top of Mount Fiji, one of her favorite spots.

According to Fishbach, the time spent enjoying Occidental together as a family makes the weekend special.

“Families want to understand their student’s experience and be a part of that experience, so we try to give them a peek inside [students’] lives,” Fishbach said. “It’s a chance for them to connect with [students] in their new home and in their own environment.”