As Drexel University continues to grow its robust Homecoming and Spirit Week traditions, it’s easy to look back on each weeklong extravaganza — which happened this year from Jan. 14–20 — and remember the outcomes.
A Spirit Week-winning team is named. A Royal Dragon is crowned. A basketball game is played and, hopefully, won.
But for the students who participate, it’s more about what happens throughout the course of the celebratory week that matters most — the opportunity to come together, take a break from the norm, compete, have fun, meet each other and show off their Dragon pride.
“It’s definitely really nice getting the first-place prize, but we don’t think about it during the events. It’s just for fun,” said Robert Bell, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student who was the captain of the DAC Pack spirit week team, which has won first prize in the competition the last two years running. “That’s what’s helped the past couple years: we’ve just gone into it with a let’s-have-the-most-fun-as-we-can mentality, and it really pays off in the end.
This was the second year in a row that the University has boasted a full week of Homecoming and Spirit Week events including the current-student-focused gatherings like the bonfire, battleship competition and team quizzo, as well as alumni-oriented events. Bryan Ford, assistant athletic director of recreation for Drexel Athletics, said there was much more student participation and awareness around the festivities this year, which had a large-scale benefit.
“It’s having that camaraderie with each other as well as having an outlet to show their school spirit and get involved,” he said. “… We had great student turnout at both the Thursday and Saturday basketball games. The student section was packed, and the students were so engaged and into the game. I think that atmosphere motivated the team to do well, too.”
Priyanka Shah, a third-year biological sciences student who was named the 2019 Royal Dragon following the Homecoming Court competition, said she enjoyed the atmosphere at the Homecoming game vs. James Madison despite the fact that she’s not usually in attendance.
“I plan on changing that now that I know how much fun it is,” she said.
Shah said she thought her friend was joking about nominating her to Homecoming Court back in November, but once she familiarized herself more with the events and the distinction of becoming the Royal Dragon, she quickly got on board to run.
“I thought, ‘This is something that I actually want to do and believe in as a Drexel student,’” she said.
During Homecoming week, Shah took to campus and to her contacts campaigning for votes. She says she contacted several people that she’s met at Drexel over the years about her Homecoming Court nomination, and also introduced herself to new people at Homecoming events.
“I was just really trying to establish a connection and meet new people, which is something I love doing,” she said. “I truly believe people can never have too many friends.”
Shah’s efforts paid off when she was crowned during halftime at the game, beating out first runner-up Simal Ali and second runner-up Isabella Mendoza. Shah said the whole experience was surreal, and that it felt really good to see so many of her peers supporting her.
“If you had told me in high school I would be on homecoming court in my senior year college, I probably would have laughed,” she said.
It was the participation from her first-year honors students in Millennium Hall during the Spirit Week Competition that seemed surreal for resident assistant Wiktoria Gocal, a fourth year biology student. Gocal put together a team for her 7th-floor residents at the suggestion of her director, but little did she know that the team would be so highly motivated and go on to place second in this year’s competition.
“I think they’re really excited in moving forward and continuing the tradition, which is the overall goal to begin with,” she said.
Memorable moments for her team included participating in the battleship competition and seeing their competitive sides come out, as well as winning the team quizzo competition.
“People’s different specialties and knowledge really came out,” she said of the quizzo event. “Everyone contributed a piece of information and we did end up winning second place.”
That win was made sweeter by the fact that the DAC Pack — with whom the Millennial Hall team had been competing closely and also hanging out with all week — didn’t even place. Although the DAC Pack did end up edging out her team for the victory following the window decorating competition votes tally, she said the competition made several of the Millennium Hall team students decide to join the DAC Pack after meeting its members.
“A lot of my residents are now a part of the DAC Pack for years to come,” she said. “It’s just an all-around win-win.”
Bell agreed that it’s these types of interactions that make events like Homecoming vital to the Drexel student body.
“To me it’s important because I think it gives students a sense of community and engagement with their peers,” Bell said. “Homecoming is really important at any school and I’m really happy that Drexel is putting the effort in to get students involved.”
“I think it’s important to be connected to your university and be a part of something bigger,” echoed Ford. “To have something that students and alumni can connect to and feel like they’re part of these traditions helps them feel more engaged and retain at a high rate.”
Check out a photo recap of Drexel Homecoming 2019 below!