Homecoming 2022 Set to Provide Return to Normal and Renewed Sense of Community

A pre-pandemic photo of the DAC Pack supporting Drexel Basketball. Photo courtesy of Emily McAndrews.
A pre-pandemic photo of the DAC Pack supporting Drexel Basketball. Photo courtesy of Emily McAndrews.

There’s a lot that Drexel University’s winter Homecoming tradition offers annually: engaging events, emotional basketball matches, and opportunities for student-athletes, scholars and organizations to shine. But after a fully virtual weeklong celebration in 2021 and even a remote start to this year’s winter term, there’s one thing that Homecoming participation provides Drexel students that’s needed now more than ever — a sense of Dragon community and pride.

Take it from Emily McAndrews, a fourth-year entertainment and arts management student who has been involved with Homecoming one way or another since freshman year. Back then, she joined a team comprised of her residence hall floor mates in participating in the various Student Competition events — from the Bonfire and Battleship to the Variety Show and Quizzo. When the results were handed down at that 2019 Homecoming game, the team of freshmen had secured second place, beat out only by the DAC Pack, a group which organizes the student section for home basketball games and other sports matches.

“That is how I got introduced to the DAC Pack,” McAndrews said. “They reached out to us [after Homecoming] and were like, ‘We love your spirit. Clearly, you guys have great energy and a lot of Drexel pride. We would love to have you. We think that if any of you love basketball, if that's your thing, you're always more than welcome. Even if you don't like basketball, if you just like to cheer, we're the people to join.’ And so a lot of us, that's what we did. We joined the DAC Pack right from there and then I haven't left since.”

Now, McAndrews is president of the DAC Pack, and she credits Homecoming with introducing her to this “crazy” group of students from all different backgrounds and majors that love to show their Drexel pride as much as she does.

“The two Homecomings I've participated in have certainly been the highlight of my time here at Drexel, so I'm happy and excited to do this next one to kind of finish it out,” McAndrews said.

A pre-pandemic photo of the winning teams in the 2020 Homecoming Student Competition. Photo courtesy of Emily McAndrews.
A pre-pandemic photo of the winning teams in the 2020 Homecoming Student Competition. Photo courtesy of Emily McAndrews.

Dragons who’ve not yet had the chance to participate in the full-on Drexel winter tradition should not let the chance pass them by this year, as despite current pandemic considerations, several activities are being restored to their in-person glory. This includes the Homecoming Bonfire on Jan. 18, the Variety Show on Jan. 20, Quizzo on Jan. 21, two home basketball games during the week, and finally, the Homecoming basketball game on Jan. 22, where both the winners of the Student Competition and Homecoming Court’s Royal Dragon will be announced.

Though some annual events were not able to be safely held, Ariel Basch, associate director of Student Centers & Engagement and homecoming chair for Student Life, said she’s glad this year’s celebration returns in person, as there are two classes of students who have not yet had the full experience.

“Especially after the first two weeks of the term being remote, we want to bring students back together and make sure that they feel that connection to campus, and they feel that connection to their peers and the community around them,” Basch said.

Katie Zamulinsky, associate vice president and dean of Student Life, said she is also grateful that Drexel was able to safely move forward with festivities, and that all Homecoming events were adjusted to meet the latest COVID-19 guidelines while remaining robust and varietal to student engagement needs and comfort levels.

“Homecoming gives all of us something fun and light-hearted to look forward to and provides us with the opportunity to connect around a shared experience,” she said. “The importance of bringing the campus community together has never been more apparent.”

She and other Homecoming organizers worked closely with the Return Oversight Committee to ensure students could safely participate in all programing, and event locations were also evaluated to ensure proper social distancing. Additionally, the kick-off Bonfire event will allow students to come and go with grab-and-go s’mores that can be toasted onsite or consumed elsewhere — perhaps on the way to the women’s basketball game at 7 p.m. which was rescheduled due to COVID.

“Having everyone outdoors, being able to still wear masks and really space themselves out, I think it's going to be a really nice feeling of, ‘We're all in this together, and we're all going to be able to show our support for our basketball team and our pride in Drexel,’” Basch said.

On Thursday, students can check out the Variety Show and/or support the men’s team with their own game at 7 p.m. McAndrews said the DAC Pack will be managing a “Bluau” at that game where all spectators are encouraged to where blue, and they’ll be giving away some Hawaiian-style shirts. For the Homecoming game at 2 p.m. on Saturday, the group will provide costume prop pieces for fans to dress up in and show their blue-and-gold spirit. For McAndrews, it’ll be a far cry from last season when, in lieu of attending games in person, she often had to stream games at home — a cardboard cutout of her instead taking her seat in the stands, along with those of other super fans.

“It's nice to see some fresh faces come and people get really into it. Even if that's their one game of the year, people really are enthusiastic and have a great time,” McAndrews said of the Homecoming game. “You can always tell the players have higher energy having the student body there. They're so much more excited and ready to play.”

Whether it’s attending a game or participating or spectating at the week’s Student Competition events, Basch hopes students will take advantage of this year’s Homecoming offerings and that engagement might climb back to pre-pandemic levels.

“I feel like students might not already have the community that they think they need to be able to participate, but they're realizing that they might be able to find that community through their participation in Homecoming, and that's ultimately the goal for all of us,” she said.

McAndrews concurred, adding that our winter tradition is one of the many things that make Drexel unique — and which can make it feel more like home.

“It's really just kind of everyone coming together,” she said. “I think you really find that sense of the Drexel community, and I think that everyone should participate.”