Profile: Homecoming 2007

Profile: Homecoming 2007 McGill University

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McGill Reporter
October 11, 2007 - Volume 40 Number 04
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 40: 2007-2008 > October 11, 2007 > Profile: Homecoming 2007


Homecoming 2007

The behind-the-scenes team of McGill's biggest weekend ever

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Now overseeing her 11th Homecoming Weekend, Maria Keenan has never wavered from her goal of making the annual event bigger and better every year.

In the 11 years that she's been organizing McGill's annual Homecoming Weekend, Maria Keenan has always kept the same goal in mind: make it a little bigger, a little better.

"I always tell people that this Homecoming is going to be the best ever, and we do make it better every year," she says, working behind the scenes almost year-round, thinking and rethinking how to achieve that lofty goal.

"The Leacock Luncheon is a tradition, as are the anniversary dinners, so we'll continue tradition but also see what else we can do, like the Classes Without Quizzes series, which we introduced in 2005."

This year, of course, the "bigger and better" moniker could not be more appropriate to describe what's planned for Oct. 18-21.

"It's not only Homecoming Weekend, it's also the first-ever Parents Weekend, the launch of Campaign McGill and the 150th anniversary of the McGill Alumni Association. Every aspect of community and campus life will come together over these few days," says Keenan, Associate Director of Homecoming.

She is one of a core team of about a dozen people in Development, Alumni and University Relations, including staff and student interns, working behind the scenes to ensure the success of this 86th edition of Homecoming.

"There have been a lot of long hours and weekends of work," she says. "I give up my family in the month of August and tell them I'll see them after Homecoming."

The biggest challenge, she says, is administrative–keeping up with registration requests that flow in on a regular basis–but making the event appear seamless once all of those graduates, parents and friends arrive on campus is no small feat either.

Donor Engagement and Stewardship Associate Ashleigh Manktelow, who has taken the lead on the weekend's behind-the-scenes organizing committee, says the biggest challenge for her team has been "balancing the work we do on a regular basis with the responsibilities that come with organizing such a huge event."

Despite the daunting logistics of putting together a successful Homecoming Weekend–a process that involves fire prevention, security, risk management, planning, buildings and grounds and just about every university service and department in between–Manktelow insists that it's pretty much been smooth sailing.

"There have been no crises," she says stoically. "There have been challenges, but good things have come out of them."

Leisha Lecouvie, Associate Director of Alumni Services and a key organizer of the inaugural Parents Weekend, concurs. "It's been a fun committee to work on because there are so many creative people. Every day there's a new idea," she says.

Not all ideas make the final cut, of course.

"A few years ago, we offered computer workshops, but then one year we reviewed it and realized that even the over-70-year-olds were pretty computer-savvy," recalls Keenan.

The same thought and care has gone into the programming for the Parents Weekend, which includes hikes and city tours that have already sold out, says Lecouvie.

"The university saw a need to develop programming for parents because there's been a real desire among parents to be more closely involved," she says. "We've seen that every year in the Parents Tent [where parents of new students get their first real taste of McGill]."

Like Keenan and Manktelow, Lecouvie is quick to point out that, despite the obvious hard work of key organizers, planning what will arguably be McGill's biggest weekend ever has been a community-wide endeavour.

"This event has brought out the best in people at McGill," Lecouvie says. "All across the university, people have given their all to make this work."

She adds: "Sometimes we've flown by the seat of our pants. We didn't always know what would work, but it's all worked out beautifully. The campus is going to be alive on Homecoming Weekend."

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